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Colacem plans to build a cement plant adjacent to its existing quarry on County Road 17 west of L’Orignal. Photo by Reid Masson

Colacem controversy becomes partisan political issue

The proposed Colacem cement plant near L’Orignal is shaping up to be a political issue among local federal and provincial politicians.

On June 30, Superior Court Justice Patrick Boucher rejected a motion by Action Champlain to have the decision by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal favoring Colacem Canada’s plans to build a cement plant adjacent to the quarry on Highway 17 appealed in Divisional Court. On July 4, Action Champlain suggested citizens use the only option left to stop the cement plant, which is for citizens to write to the provincial Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks, and to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and argue that the cement plant would have detrimental effects on local fish, wildlife, and plant habitats.

Glengarry-Prescott-Russell federal New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Konstantine Malakos has launched a petition to stop the cement plant, and as a sign of what could be an issue in the election campaign likely to take place this fall, Malakos is taking aim at incumbent Liberal Member of Parliament Francis Drouin.

The petition is accessible on the federal NDP website and a statement from Malakos alleges Drouin said nothing could be done to stop the project from the federal level and wrote a letter to the editor of The Review on December 4, 2017 stating the federal government has no role to play in the cement plant issue. In that letter, Drouin stated his personal opposition to the cement plant but said he had no authority to influence the decision and the matter was for the former Ontario Municipal Board–now the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, to decide.

“I understand certain politicians may be persuaded to weigh in on issues of other jurisdictions but as it stands today, a Federal Member of Parliament weighing in on municipal issues is all bark with no bite,” Drouin wrote.

However, in a letter Drouin co-wrote with Member of Provincial Parliament Amanda Simard to the editor of The Review on June 22, there is no mention of the federal government having no jurisdictional ability to stop the cement plant. The letter was initially sent to then Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks Jeff Yurek, asking him to revoke the provincial Environmental Certificate of Approval for the plant.

Drouin and Simard participated in the July 4 meeting and Drouin explained the federal government can halt the construction of the cement plant if there is scientific evidence to support concerns the facility could harm fish and other aquatic life in nearby waterways. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would use the evidence to issue an order to stop the project.

The Malakos petition asks the federal Attorney General to file an injunction against the cement plant project under the Fisheries Act, for a federal environmental assessment of the project, and that consultations be held with the Kanesatake (Oka) Mohawk First Nation to reach a ‘nation-to-nation’ agreement on the cement plant between the federal government and Kanesatake under the protocols of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Meanwhile, recently nominated Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate Stéphane Sarrazin has said he is working to learn about the cement plant issue before the 2022 provincial election. Sarrazin, who is Mayor of Alfred and Plantagenet Township and the 2021 Warden of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, said he was not involved in the regional government when it approved the Official Plan Amendment permitting the cement plant in 2017.

“I know it will become one of my problems if elected,” he said.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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