Highway environmental process slammed by Tories
P.E.I.'s Opposition Progressive Conservatives are questioning the integrity of the environmental review for a planned reroute of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Charlottetown.
Leader Olive Crane and her caucus went to Bonshaw Wednesday to call for a halt to the $20 million project.
In particular, Crane questioned the permits for a 30-hectare shale pit, saying they are invalid. The shale pit is owned by Lomer MacDonald, who has strong ties to the governing Liberals. He bought the land two years ago and it lies right in the path of proposed new route for the highway.
The Progressive Conservatives got a copy of the shale permit application through an Access to Information request. They say the application does not comply to the rules and regulations.
"There's no signature from the environmental office as to who looked at the permit. There's no work done in terms of the overview of the shale pit," said Crane.
"Again, the minister is not following her own regulations."
Crane said Environment Minister Janice Sherry can't be trusted to do a proper environmental assessment of the project..
But Greg Wilson, manager of environmental assessment for the province, said there is no problem with the permits for the shale pit.
"This particular pit was inspected this summer and the inspector has a list in the file about what he looked at," said Wilson.
"He met all the regulations that were there."
Bonshaw bridge inspected
There were also questions about activity at the bridge in Bonshaw, right next to where the Tories were holding their Wednesday news conference.
More than 20 engineers were busy inspecting the bridge. As part of the new highway project, the bridge would be widened to three lanes. The Tories said it is just another sign the project is being fast tracked, even though the environmental assessment process isn't finished.
"It seems odd that they are working on it now without any permits being issued," said Tory MLA Hal Perry.
Transportation officials told CBC News the engineers were there for a training course on bridge inspections, and that the instructor chose Bonshaw at random, but the Tories don't believe it was a coincidence.
That was not the only work being done along the route of the proposed highway. Shale pit owner Lomer MacDonald was clear cutting trees in the proposed highway's path as well.
Provincial director of infrastructure Kim Horrelt said the government is still in the process of expropriating MacDonald's land, and wasn't aware the trees were bring cut.
"We don't own that property yet, and we have not even been informed that he was cutting trees there," said Horrelt.
MacDonald said he's just cutting his wood for the winter and there are no environmental concerns.