Randle Reef delay seems shrouded in secrecy, MP says

Local MP David Christopherson says he’s not happy with the answers he’s getting about the Randle Reef delay.

Local MP David Christopherson says he’s not happy with the answers he’s getting about the Randle Reef delay.

Christopherson, who represents Hamilton Centre, used Question Period this week to ask why the long-awaited environmental project has stalled.

Environment Canada said earlier this week that all of the tenders in the $138.9-million project came in over budget. But it’s kept quiet on the details, such as how much over budget they are or the length of the delay.

Christopherson doesn’t know the answer to those questions, nor does Mayor Bob Bratina. And he’s not happy with the answer he got in his high-profile attempt to find out.

“What I got was a civics lesson on the process we’ve already been through and no commitment,” he said.

Randle Reef is located just offshore from U.S. Steel. It involves boxing off a large mass of coal tar contamination — the largest in Canada — with a steel containment facility. The federal and provincial governments, City of Hamilton, City of Burlington, Halton Region and U.S. Steel are all contributing.

Christopherson acknowledges that he’s not a member of the ruling party, therefore not in the loop. But all he knows so far is “what I’ve read in the media.”

He wants assurance that the project will be started this year, which is the priority, he said.

“I’m not happy with the way it’s being handled,” he said. “I’m not happy with the answers we’re getting from the government, and I know city council is very anxious to make sure this starts on time.”

Public Works and Government Services Canada told CBC Hamilton this week that it’s not releasing details to “protect the integrity of the tender process.” Releasing financial details could impact future tenders, spokesperson Annie Joannette said in an email.

The ministry will host an Industry Day to “engage potential suppliers and other industry representatives in a discussion on how to attain the environmental objectives of the project within the restrictions of the project budget envelope,” she said. The Industry Day will be in July.

Christopherson hopes to arrange a meeting with city hall to find out more about the delay.

"If work doesn’t happen this year, that’s a full year’s delay," he said. "We can’t afford to lose the season."

Transcript of the House of Commons exchange:

David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, once again, the people of Hamilton are left in limbo regarding the future of the Randle Reef cleanup . It has been six months to the day since the government announced that the funding was there and that the project was a go. Now, we learn from Environment Canada that the project will be put on hold yet again.

Hamiltonians are tired of delays and tired of false starts. Will the government commit today to take all steps necessary to ensure that the Randle Reef cleanup starts this year?

Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, our government has played a leadership role when it comes to protecting our environment. In budget 2012, we committed to spending a significant amount of money to help clean up the contaminated sediments at Randle Reef in Hamilton Harbour. In the main estimates this year, we are committing even more.

We will continue to work with Ontario municipalities and industry on this project, and we will keep the community informed as the project moves forward.

With files from Adam Carter


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