Nova Scotia

Liberal promise to clean contaminated site overstates city's support

A Liberal candidate is being accused of putting the cart before the horse by saying Halifax has committed to work with the next provincial government to clean up the former Harrietsfield salvage yard.

Candidate says Halifax on board with cleanup partnership but mayor's office says there's been no discussion

Halifax Atlantic Liberal candidate Brendan Maguire took to Facebook earlier this week to announce a Liberal government would clean up a contaminated site in Harrietsfield.

A Halifax-area Liberal candidate might have overstated a campaign promise this week.

Brendan Maguire posted a video on Facebook saying he had a commitment from the premier's office that a Liberal government would work with the city to clean up a former salvage yard in Harrietsfield that has polluted area groundwater.

"What that plan looks like right now, I don't know. But I can tell you that this is huge news for the community," Maguire, who is running for re-election in Halifax Atlantic, said in the video.

"This is huge news. This is 20 years in the making."

Maguire goes on to say the city has also committed to work with the province to clean up the area, known as the RDM Recycling site.

Problem is, there doesn't appear to be any such commitment from the city.

'No formal discussion'

A spokesperson for Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told CBC News the Liberals contacted the mayor's office earlier this week about the subject, but there is no formal arrangement.

"They made a quick call to the mayor's office Wednesday looking to see if we were interested," said Shaune MacKinlay.

"There has been no formal discussion."

A statement to CBC News from the Liberals said they would seek further meetings with the city following the election.

'It will be gone'

"The people of Harrietsfield have been dealing with this contamination for too long. Our government was the first government to take action in addressing this issue by moving to install water-filtration systems for the homes most directly impacted by contamination from the former RDM site," the statement said.

In his video, Maguire notes that he made good on his last round of campaign commitments, including a new school for the area and active transportation trails. He goes on to say if he's re-elected, the cleanup would be the first thing he works on.

"It will be gone. That is a commitment."

Blurring the lines

Maguire's political opponents were critical of the way he presented the plan, suggesting he was blurring the lines between a government and campaign-style announcement.

"People are now wondering whether Maguire was playing games with the residents of Harrietsfield and tried to use this emotional issue to his political advantage," said a statement from the Tories.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said his party, if elected, would find a solution to the problem that's been plaguing the rural Halifax-area community.

"The people of Harrietsfield need action, not some more rhetoric," he said in an email.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

With files from Tom Murphy

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