Dead ducks tar Canada's image, PM says
The Canadian Press
May 2, 2008
EDMONTON -- Alberta is under heavy pressure to strengthen its environmental
standards as the fallout from the death of 500 ducks in a toxic wastewater pond
gets stickier than the province's oil sands.
Images and stories of the dying waterfowl have been appearing on news outlets and
blogs around the world, prompting Prime Minister Stephen Harper to suggest that
the dead ducks have tarred Alberta's and Canada's international image.
"I'm not here to make any excuses for the particular event that occurred over the
last few days. It is a terrible event. It is not going to do anybody's image any
good," he said in Edmonton yesterday.
"And you know, I think [Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's] government and our
government are obviously prepared to work together to make sure that industry
fulfils both its existing obligations and any new obligations that we think are
Print Edition - Section Front Mr. Harper was in Edmonton visiting the
University of Alberta campus to inaugurate the $217-million Mazankowski Alberta
Heart Institute, named after Don Mazankowski, 72, a former federal Tory deputy
prime minister and health minister.
"While the Mazankowski Health Institute is located right here in the Alberta
capital, it will help save the lives of Canadians from coast to coast to coast,"
Mr. Harper said.
But it was the flock of ducks that landed this week on a Syncrude Canada Ltd.
tailings pond near Fort McMurray that dominated the news. Such ponds, which
contain billions of litres of water left tainted after being used to remove oil
from sand in the area, sit along the flyways birds use to migrate to and from
northern nesting grounds.
The Syncrude pond is usually ringed with noisemaking cannons that are supposed to
scare birds away, but the sonic scarecrows were not in place earlier this week.
Bruce March, the new CEO of Imperial Oil, which has a 25-per-cent stake in
Syncrude, called the death of the ducks a tragic event and suggested the
corporation will change its procedures to ensure it is not repeated.
"I'm deeply disappointed," Mr. March said in Calgary. "It's something that hasn't
happened in a very long time, but [there are] really no excuses for what happened.
It shouldn't have happened and we're deeply upset, doing all we can do to change
work processes and change procedures to prevent it from occurring in the future."
Chief Vern Janvier of the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation said his people are
alarmed at the federal and Alberta government's failure to protect the
He said Ottawa has legal and constitutional obligations to provide such
protection, based on treaties it has signed with aboriginal people.