NDP candidate challenges Tory about coal mine

Federal NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard is backing community calls for a stronger environmental assessment into the proposed coal mine in Comox Valley.

JOHN SNYDER and others protest outside John Duncan's new election campaign office in Courtenay.

Federal NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard is backing community calls for a stronger environmental assessment into the proposed coal mine in Comox Valley. And she’s challenging Conservative MP John Duncan to finally speak out on behalf of the community.“The proposal for a massive underground coal mine in the heart of the Baynes Sound watershed puts hundreds of jobs in the shellfish industry at risk,” Leonard said this week in a news release. “Drinking water, air quality and traffic safety are all issues that need to be addressed.“That`s why we need to a have a full independent expert panel review — we need the strongest form of environmental assessment when so much is at stake.”Members of CoalWatch Comox Valley were unable to get the same kind of commitment from Duncan when they met him Saturday at his new Comox Valley election campaign office in Courtenay.“This is a defining moment in the Valley’s history,” said Leonard. “I know where I stand on this issue. But where’s John Duncan? He just isn’t stepping up to the plate.”In the 10-minute meeting Saturday, CoalWatch president John Snyder told Duncan that the group, along with many other people on the Island, want to see the federal environmental assessment on the mine referred to a more rigorous Independent Review Panel, with public hearings.“Unfortunately, he was non-committal on that issue,” Snyder said.Leonard said Duncan’s response is a failure to show strong leadership for the people he represents.“The Raven mine would be massive, roughly the size of Hornby Island. And it would be directly above Fanny Bay, Union Bay, Denman Island and Baynes Sound, some of the most beautiful places in our country,” she said.Research done by the CoalWatch group shows mining jobs created would be far fewer than those currently existing in the shellfish industry and would mostly go to outside, experienced miners, hired from other international mines.— Vancouver Island North NDP

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