The 11th-hour filibustering at City Hall has made the Adams Mine a bona fide election issue, but it couldn't stop the garbage train. NNow it's up to the federal Liberal GTA caucus and environment minister David Anderson to block the tracks.
The contract still hinges on the recommendation the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) makes to Anderson. If the the agency recommends an environmental assessment and Anderson goes along with it, the deal dies.
That's where those faceless Liberal backbenchers come in. They can give Anderson a nudge in the right direction.
While Mel told the feds to mind their own business, he also put forward a motion to kill the Rail Cycle North (RCN) contract if Anderson orders an environmental assessment before February 15.
RCN's Gordon McGuinty told reporters in council chambers last week, "If that's a motion that's passed, we don't have any choice on that." He added, "We're hoping the minister will be making a decision before that time. We... have maintained consistently that there will not be a federal environmental assessment."
Of course, RCN's got lobbyists working the Liberals. But with a federal election on the horizon, the Liberals have nothing to lose by sticking it to the Harris Tories and making Toronto's garbage deal an issue. They dealt with the Adams Mine at a recent caucus meeting and have closely followed the council debate.
NOW surveyed a number of Liberals on the issue. Of the 22 members' offices contacted, 15 are outright opposed to Toronto railroading its garbage north and 11 are also in favour of a federal EA.
Surprisingly, five MPs including Liberal ministers David Collenette, Allan Rock and former Toronto mayor Art Eggleton had no comment on the issue.
It's mind-boggling that the Toronto Liberal power trust doesn't have a position on this, exemplifying once again the Liberals' chronic absenteeism when it comes to sticking up for the city.
But those backbenchers, ever mindful of the political winds, are paying attention. Trinity-Spadina MP Tony Ianno and Broadview-Greenwood MP Dennis Mills were at the council debates last week. Both oppose the RCN deal.
"Because I've been very active on this file, asking for the federal environmental assessment, at least there is hope that it may take place," Ianno says.
The CEAA is currently looking at new information provided by the Timiskaming First Nations. The agency must determine first whether it has jurisdiction. If the Adams Mine dump could potentially have a negative effect on the neighbouring Quebecorthe native reserve, the feds would have grounds for getting involved.
"They are looking into the new data that was put forward and they will give a recommendation to the minister once that is done," says Anderson spokesperson Johanne Beaulieu.
That could take until the end of the year, which means there may not be a decision one way or another before the next federal election.
At the moment, the Quebec Ministry of the Environment, based on information it has received from Ontario, is saying that it doesn't believe there will be any harmful impacts from the mine on its water.
A recent Quebec ministry press release states, "The conclusion drawn is that Lake Témiscamingue is under no serious threat from the project provided the conditions in the (Ontario Ministry of the Environment) authorization are met."
However, that province's federal reps in the Bloc Quebecois aren't convinced the mine is safe and have called on the feds to do the EA.
Témiskamingue MP Pierre Brien opposes the mine and supports federal intervention.
"There are two ways they can use the law to intervene that seem to me very clear," says Brien, "- the fact that there's an interprovincial issue and that there are native issues."
The Bloc MP "strongly disagrees" with the Quebec MOE decision to accept Ontario's EA instead of conducting its own.
"It's my belief that they don't want to have a confrontation (with Ontario) on what seems to be a small issue for the Quebec government," Brien says, adding, "but here we feel concerned because we believe it's having an impact on us, and this is why we want our government to jump into the battle."