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Apr. 6, 2004. 01:00 AM
Liberals bury mine trash plan
New bill stops Adams project `once and for all' `A lot of hugging' as landfill foes

celebrate victory

RICHARD BRENNAN
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU

The Liberal government yesterday introduced legislation that will "once and for all" put an end to the highly controversial plan to ship Toronto's garbage to the Adams Mine.

Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky said the sweeping legislation will strip the owners of the former open pit iron ore mine near Kirkland Lake of any legal recourse, including an outstanding lawsuit against the province.

"If passed the act would stop the Adams Mine landfill proposal once and for all ... and prevent it from ever being used as a landfill site. It would revoke all existing approvals dealing with the Adams Mine site," she told a news conference.

"It would remove the ability for any party to take legal action against the government on these decisions."

The proposed legislation outlines a plan for "reasonable compensation" for the mine owners, Dombrowsky added.

A 20-year, $1 billion deal that would have sent Toronto's trash to the mine fell apart just before the November, 2000, municipal election. The city now trucks its waste to Michigan.

Adams Mine Rail Haul was still holding out hope the landfill project would be revived one day, but Liberal Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay has said he would quit cabinet if it went ahead. Ramsay, whose riding includes Kirkland Lake, has long opposed the project.

Former Conservative premier Mike Harris actively promoted the Adams Mine project, and critics blame his government for breathing life into it by allowing a quickie environmental assessment on the mine filled with pristine water.

Dombrowsky said the project has "created divisiveness" for too long in the local community.

"We have promised to address the situation and today we are keeping that promise and we are making sure that no other community gets put into a similar situation," she said.

"The key approvals for this proposal came before the Walkerton tragedy. That sad event raised our awareness of the need to safeguard our precious water resources," she told the Legislature, referring to the tainted water tragedy in May, 2000, that killed seven people and made more than 2,300 sick.

Ramsay held a concurrent news conference in New Liskeard attended by 150 people.

"It was very emotional. There were a lot of people with tears in their eyes, men and women. There was a lot of hugging," said Charlie Angus, who along with others has devoted much of the last 14 years to fighting the plan.

Toronto Mayor David Miller said he was pleased with the province's decision to pull the plug on Adams Mine.

"Aside from the environmental risks, I never believed that the Adams Mine was fiscally realistic for the city of Toronto. It obliged us to keep sending a million tonnes of garbage a year virtually forever."

When told of the government's plans, Sault Ste. Marie lawyer Gord Acton, who represents the owner Adams Mine Rail Haul, said they "took my breath away."

"It doesn't sound like we are in Canada. It's scary for all of us ... to think that a person's rights can be eliminated with a stroke of a pen," Acton said.

He added his client followed all the "appropriate rules and regulations."

The company is suing the Ontario government for more than $300 million, demanding that it hand over crown land surrounding the proposed mega-dump site — land it says it needs to get on with the project. But Dombrowsky said yesterday this suit would be declared "null and void" if the legislation is passed.

Conservative MPP Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant) called the proposed Adams Mine law "a power grab by this government, retroactively eliminating a person's right to legal action."

If passed, the proposed law would prohibit using any lake larger than one hectare for a landfill site.

"It would be totally inconsistent and unacceptable given our priorities to ever allow garbage to be dumped in a lake," Dombrowsky said.

MPP Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth) applauded the decision to end the Adams Mine debate, but added the minister is not proposing alternative sites for Toronto's garbage now being shipped to Michigan.

"We are going to be drowning in our own garbage" if the state lives up to its promise to turn back trucks that U.S. officials think may be carrying recyclables, she said.

The environment minister also announced the government's plan to recycle 60 per cent of Ontario's waste by 2008.

"We will release a discussion paper on waste diversion options this spring," Dombrowsky said.

with files from Vanessa Lu

and Kate Harries


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