Jan 31 2005

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper   January 31/2005

The City of Kingston guilty

The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday that it will not hear the City of Kingston’s last-ditch effort to avoid convictions under the Fisheries Act.

The city was convicted in 1998 for allowing toxic liquids to leak into the Kingston Inner Harbour from an old hazardous waste site. The City of Kingston has been appealing those convictions ever since.

Now that the Supreme Court has confirmed the city’s guilt, Kingston Mayor Harvey Rosen vows to challenge the 1999 sentence:

“We want the court to become completely aware of the implications of the original sentence, which we will submit, I believe, is entirely inappropriate,” Mayor Rosen told the Kingston Whig-Standard.

The sentence orders the city to pay a fine of $30,000, create a long-term monitoring program, and provide “a plan” for capping the site to keep rainwater from mixing with the waste underground. The order is similar to other cases where municipalities have been found/pled guilty for allowing old landfill sites to pollute local waterways.

The wording of the court order is intentionally vague, in order to allow the city and the Ministry of Environment to sit down and develop the most appropriate clean up plan for the site.

Mayor Rosen’s vow to challenge the sentence suggests that the city and the province will not be sitting down to create this clean up plan any time soon. He defends the challenge, telling the Kingston Whig-Standard that the City, “doesn’t have a choice,” about whether or not to appeal the sentence.

The mayor’s position is bad news for the residents of Kingston and of Lake Ontario. The sentence is not unreasonable. The Kingston Inner Harbour is in dire need of the city’s care.

The good news is that civic leaders do, indeed, have “a choice.” City councillors, including the mayor, can choose to stop acting like defendants and start acting like leaders. They can choose to deny and avoid the issues or they can accept the verdict and win back their Harbour.