TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2015
LETTERS SEEK ACTION ON REVIEW OF REGULATIONS, FUNDING FOR PROVINCIAL SALVAGE
The Main-à-Dieu Community Development Association is today writing to the leaders of all four national political parties, and all declared candidates in the two Cape Breton federal ridings, requesting policy responses to the case of the MV Miner, the mega bulk-carrier shipwrecked on Scatarie Island in September 2011 and recently salvaged at great expense by the Nova Scotia Government. Our Association is concerned about two issues above all: the lack of a federal financial contribution to the salvage, despite the clear negligence of Transport Canada is issuing a license for the vessel to be towed, during storm season, without securing adequate insurance or bond from the owners; and the lack of a plan to review federal regulations and avoid a repeat of the MV Miner experience elsewhere. (A sample letter is appended to this press release.)
The letter is being sent by Association President Amanda McDougall, a central figure in the long struggle to remove the wreck and clean up Scatarie. McDougall commented: “We don’t want any other coastal community to live under a similar cloud of stress and uncertainty. And there will surely be another ‘MV Miner’ somewhere, some day, unless prudent and responsible action is taken. The federal election campaign, we believe, is the perfect time to raise these issues, seek pledges of action, and to support the provincial government in its effort to secure federal support for a brilliantly successful but very expensive salvage operation.”
Note: leaders and candidates are requested to respond to the Association by September 20th, the fourth anniversary of the wrecking of the ship.
For more comment or information, please contact Amanda McDougall at 902 574-6442, firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of the Main-à-Dieu Community Development Association, I am writing to request a policy statement with regard to the case of the MV Miner, the 12,000 tonnes mega-freighter wrecked in heavy seas on the shoals of Scatarie Island, Cape Breton, in September 2011. Despite the undisputed fact that Transport Canada licensed the towing of the vessel, at the height of hurricane season, without securing adequate bond or insurance from the owners, the federal government has consistently refused to accept any responsibility for either the accident or its potentially devastating consequences on our fragile environment and fishing-dependent economy. Federal Ministers and officials have repeatedly claimed that the wreck posed no threat of pollution and did not constitute a hazard to navigation. Our view, all along, was that the wreck was not merely a blight but a menace: a real, present and growing danger to life, limb, and livelihood.
In October 2013, after tenacious campaigning by our small community, the incoming Liberal government in Nova Scotia agreed to commission and fund a full salvage of the vessel and remediation of the site. At the time of writing, the salvage has been successfully completed (by a Nova Scotia company), a clean-up is underway – and federal authorities have yet to contribute a cent to project costs of at least $12 million. Federal negligence is further compounded by the dramatic underestimation of asbestos, other contaminants, and diesel fuel contained in the federally-approved manifest provided to provincial authorities. Although our Association believes the province had an obligation to intervene in defence of Scatarie Island, a provincially-designated Protected Wilderness Area, we are adamant that prime responsibility for both the salvage and clean-up lies with the negligent licensing authority, the federal government, and that Nova Scotia taxpayers do not deserve to carry the financial burden alone. We are further convinced that a major review of federal licensing regulations with regard to the towing of disabled and retired vessels through Canadian waters is urgently required: we want no other coastal community in the country to suffer an ordeal, or be forced into a struggle, similar to ours.
In light of the broader implications and ramifications of the MV Miner case, in the current writ period we are writing to the leaders of all main political parties, and all candidates in both Cape Breton federal ridings, requesting a response to the following key questions:
Would you support a comprehensive review of Transport Canada’s handling of the MV Miner file, encompassing both the initial licensing decision and the subsequent Departmental response to provincial and community requests for assistance?
Would you support a comprehensive review of existing federal licensing regulations governing the towing of disabled and retired vessels through Canadian waters?
Do you agree that all such licenses should require insurance and/or bond from the vessel’s owners sufficient to cover comprehensive salvage and remediation costs?
Would you consider expanding the remit of the federal Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund (SSOP) to pay for similar salvage/remediation projects? (Note: at present, the purpose of the $400 million SSOP fund is limited to payment of compensation on claims arising from persistent and non-persistent oil spills. In December 2011, Cape Breton’s two MPs, Rodger Cuzner and Mark Eyking, suggested that the Fund be used to support the salvage of the MV Miner.)
Do you believe the federal government should enter into negotiations with the government of Nova Scotia to determine the most equitable arrangement for sharing the costs and burdens of salvaging the MV Miner and remediating the wreck-and-salvage site?
Please feel free to contact our Association with any questions, or for more information, regarding the shipwreck and salvage of the MV Miner. A comprehensive Timeline of the crisis, together with supporting documentation, can be found on the website of the Main-à-Dieu Coastal Discovery Centre (http://www.coastaldiscoverycentre.ca). Please note that Sunday, September 20 will mark the fourth anniversary of the shipwreck. Partial or complete responses to the questions set out in this letter are requested, if at all possible, by that date. This is not, however, a final deadline: responses will be gratefully received and shared with our community and the wider public up to Election Day.
With thanks in advance for your attention to this important matter.
President, Main-à-Dieu Community Development Association