Coalition contre le mégadépotoir de Danford
Coalition Against Danford Mega-dump
57 Rte 301 Danford Lake (Québec) J0X 1P0
M. Jean Charest,
Ministère du Conseil exécutif
Édifice Honoré-Mercier, 3e étage
835, boul. René-Lévesque Est
Québec (Québec) G1A 1B4
Ministère du Conseil exécutif
770, rue Sherbrooke Ouest, 4e étage
Montréal (Montréal) H3A 1G1
Danford Lake, 20 January 2006
Subject: Poor governance, lack of transparency and violation of the democractic process in Danford Lake (Municipality of Alleyn-and-Cawood, MRC de Pontiac, Outaouais Region) concerning the Danford Lake engineered landfill site project (Innovation, Landfill and Valorization Centre of the Outaouais)
Dear Mr. Charest,
We are taking the liberty of writing you in order to expose the poor governance, the glaring lack of transparency, and the violation of the democratic process in regard to the proposed Danford Lake Landfill Project and to ask you to protect our rights as citizens.
As background, a newly created private company (LDC, Gestion et Services environnementaux) has obtained authorization from the Alleyn-and-Cawood Municipal Council to conduct an environmental impact study with a view to establishing a mega-dump in this municipality to serve the entire Outaouais Region. The project is massive. It could accept up to 240,000 tons of garbage per year and would ultimately form a 22 storey high mountain. Incredibly the site chosen is in the middle of a pristine part of the province, surrounded by beautiful lakes, rivers, and forests that have served for over a century as a haven for local residents, tourists, recreational property owners, hunters and fishermen, and nature lovers in general (including Pierre E. Trudeau and his family).
This project will change forever the nature and the image of this recreational area of Quebec, and the village of Danford Lake itself. While there may be some economic benefits to the village, the potential risks are enormous. Even if this mega-dump functions perfectly, the truck traffic and environmental impact upon the local tourism industry will be profound and very negative. If the dump malfunctions or is mismanaged, it could effectively destroy the village itself and ruin this area of Quebec for recreational and tourist usage for the next hundred years.
Despite the incredible significance of the decision to approve this project, the process followed by the municipal council has been characterized by secrecy, misinformation, and deliberate efforts to withhold information from the citizens to be affected. Reacting to this lack of transparency, the citizens of two local municipalities have formed the Coalition Against Danford Megadump on December 11, 2005. (An application has been filed to incorporate the Coalition as a Not-For-Profit Corporation)
The grounds for our complaints are:
- The mayor and some of the councellors behave as though they were representatives of the project's promotor rather than of their own constituents. Consequently, they are not adequately protecting the rights of local citizens. Indeed they appear to have done their best to minimize and distort the information available to their constituents (Nor are the rights of citizens any better protected by the so-called "independent" environmental impact study for this mega-dump. This study has been carried out by a company selected by the promoter himself. We now know that the same company which did the environmental impact study would be managing and operating the landfill site jointly with LDC. In other words, the company in charge of the environmental impact study is in a direct conflict of interest position when it comes to a fair assessment of the environmental impact.
- The letter (without letterhead or subject line) sent by the Mayor to the citizens of Alleyn-and-Cawood on October 5, 2004 informs them that, because of new regulations, the municipality will be obliged to close its trench landfill and that it would be best to replace it with a modern landfill. The letter did not contain a single word about the regional scope of the new site. It mislead citizens into believing that it was a simple matter of upgrading the existing trench landfill.
- Each of the "public informational sessions" organized by the promoter and the municipal council have been held at a time of year when public participation would be sure to be minimal: in the middle of February (at a time when the 500 or so seasonal residents are away from the municipality) and on the first day of hunting season (on October 29, a day when most of the men in the village have gone hunting to secure their meat reserve for the year).
- Residents of other municipalities (in the towns of Wakefield, Low, Kazabazua, among others) who live along the highways leading to the proposed site and will be profoundly affected by the traffic have never been informed of the project nor invited to any public meetings. It was only after intervening with the municipal council that the executive of an association of local residents (the Danford Lake and District Property Owners Association, Municipality of Kazabazua) was invited to the public meeting held on October 29, 2005.
- Information about the project can be very difficult to get, and even the limited information that is provided makes no pretense at being balanced. Only positive dimensions of the project are presented by the mayor and some councellors. Any questions about the risks and potential downsides of this project are dismissed as scare tactics.
- In October and November 2005, numerous questions were submitted in writing to the mayor about the project. While some answers were received mid-January 2006, the replies came from the promoter, not the mayor. Meanwhile, the project continued to proceed. And often the information provided contradicts data that we had been previously given.
- Further examples of the difficulties in getting answers were evident in the October 2005 meeting mentioned above when many of the citizens attending expressed their surprise and alarm about the project. The mayor, the promoter, and the environmental experts doing the studies (all apparently acting as one team) made a number of promises. They committed to answering some of the citizens in writing, and they committed to supplying a transcript of the meeting. Neither of these things have happened.
- To clarify some of our concerns about the project and explore alternatives, our Coalition requested a meeting of a few of our members with the mayor and the council. This request was denied by the mayor.
- Even at the monthly Municipal council meetings the mayor does his best to prevent a full public discusion of the project. At the December meeting, and despite the number of people in attendance, he attempted to restrict the information session to one single question. At the January meeting he allowed more questions but refused to answer many of them, suggesting only that they be sent in writing.
- Indeed the council meetings themselves do not always follow the appropriate rules. A resolution put forward at the January meeting calling for a referendum on the project does not appear to have been voted upon. The mayor simply abandoned the table without even adjourning the meeting.
- Minutes of these meetings are not always easy to obtain. Prior to May of last year these minutes were posted on the municipal web site. As opposition to this project began to grow, the council discontinued that practice. Nor are we always confident that the minutes, when we do see them, include all the relevent details or reflect the proceedings with total accuracy.
- Besides our concerns regarding the environment and the loss of property values, we are also unable to establish the identity of the investors or the qualifications of the newly established LDC company for a project of this magnitude. The only known investor in this project other than the promoter himself is Cohen and Cohen, an Ontario scrap-metal and demolition company. We are concerned why a demolition company from Ontario would be interested in a landfill site in Quebec.
- We are not only worried by this obvious lack of information, but also by deliberate attempts on the part of the mayor, some councillors, and certain municipal employees to frighten and intimidate people. For example, the municipal council brandished the threat of a 30% to 40% tax increase if the project did not go through. At the last council meeting, when the council was asked the basis for these figures, the reply was that these figures had no real solid basis but were merely "a figure of speech". Yet subsequent to that meeting, the mayor was quoted in the press as threatening a 100% increase in taxes if his project was not implemented In addition to these public threats, certain municipal employees have exerted psychological pressure in favor of the project by privately intimidating citizens who ask too many questions.
When many of those present at the last council meeting asked the mayor to organize a referendum on the issue, the mayor’s confusing reply indicated that we had to wait for the BAPE public hearings. Subsequently he insisted that he had to consult his lawyer because it was too late to take a step back, given that the promoter had already invested too much in the project and could sue the municipality.
The mayor’s claim that it is too late to oppose the project is quite stupifying: it contradicts what he himself had said in December 2005 in an interview with CBC and what the promoter himself had stated publicly at the October meeting (namely that the project would not go ahead if the population did not support it). It also contradicts the government's policy according to which a final decision can only be taken after the results of the environmental impact studies have been judged satisfactory by the Ministry of Environment and if the project has been accepted by the residents after a fully democratic process.
Poor governance, secrecy, misinformation, an obvious bias, pressure and intimidation — all of these elements have convinced us and many of the citizens of the Municipality of Alleyn-and-Cawood that we can no longer have any trust in our elected local officials to make decisions for us.
Accordingly, we respectfully request you to investigate this abuse of democracy on this project with huge implications for the citizens of the Municipalty of Alleyn-and-Cawood and the neighbouring municipalities. We ask that your government remind the mayor and council of Alleyn-and-Cawood that their democratic duty is to listen to and to protect the interests of those who elected them.
We are also asking you to put an end to this project for the following reasons:
- The mayor and the municipal council of Alleyn-and-Cawood have mishandled the democratic process from the start by portraying the project as a simple upgrading of the current municipal landfill.
- The local elected officials continue to impose a potentially disastrous project on a population that is now clearly opposed to it.
- The local elected officials and the promoter have demonstrated an unacceptable disregard for the citizens of other municipalities potentially affected by this project, behaving as if these citizens have no voice in a matter that affects them so closely.
Andre Carriere, President
Mme Louise Harel,
Chef de l’opposition officielle
M. Mario Dumont,
Chef de l’Action démocratique du Québec
Mme Nathalie Normandeau,
ministre des Affaires municipales
Monsieur Thomas J. Mulcair,
ministre du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des parcs
M. Joe Squitti, Maire, Municipalité d’Alleyn-et-Cawood
Mme Charlotte L’Écuyer, députée de Pontiac
M. Réjean Lafrénière, député de la Gatineau
MRC de Pontiac
MRC de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau
M. Marc Bureau, maire de Gatineau