ARICHAT: Richmond County’s municipal councillors have signed a declaration to promote sound environmental practices but are stressing the need to balance green-friendly activities with economic development.
Councillors voted unanimously at their latest regular meeting in Arichat to back a draft declaration brought to the council table by Paul Strome, a representative of the Blue Dot movement launched by the David Suzuki Foundation. Strome, a resident of Cheticamp, told the meeting that he has also gained Inverness County’s support for the Blue Dot campaign, while Victoria County’s municipal officials are “working out the language” for their own declaration in the near future.
As he made his pitch to see each individual province launch its own “Environmental Bill of Rights” en route to entrenching tougher environmental standards within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Strome praised Richmond County for its own stand on climate change and green-friendly initiatives.
“I really have to pat you on the back,” Strome declared.
“You’ve really done some hard work in terms of environmental issues. When I was reading through [the county’s environmental action plan], I thought, ‘I think I’m talking to the converted.’ I know it cost a lot of money to do this, but it was worth it.”
Strome also praised Richmond County’s role in securing UNESCO Biosphere status for the Bras d’Or Lake, describing the initiative as a defining characteristic of the county and of Cape Breton in general.
“Sometimes we take it for granted, but when you drive by it, it’s so much of our everyday life, especially to First Nations people,” Strome enthused.
While Warden Brian Marchand led a reading of one of the draft Blue Dot declarations Strome brought to the meeting, he was one of several elected officials that warned of the difficult questions still to be answered in terms of setting clean-water and pollution-reduction targets that take economic factors into account.
“It’s like the oil sands in Alberta – one of the economic drivers of the country is oil and gas,” Marchand commented.
“How do you balance being in a tree-hugging happy world with people working? It sounds good, but it’s worth that balance, and I think it’s probably on the minds of everybody here.”
District 2 councillor Alvin Martell made a comparison between Port Hawkesbury Paper’s mill in Point Tupper and the recent difficulties faced by Pictou County’s Northern Pulp mill, which has struggled to meet provincial regulations with regards to the cleanup of its discharged effluent in recent years.
In response, Strome praised PHP for recognizing the potential for the millions of litres of drinkable excess water produced at the Point Tupper mill on a daily basis.
“It’s obvious that this is a process that they’re doing that other paper mills aren’t,” said Strome, who recently toured the PHP operations. “How can Port Hawkesbury Paper accomplish this and other paper mills can’t?”