Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand and bring forward once again on the floor of the House the situation with the Sydney Harbour dredging project.
To recount, this question was asked back in May when there was an opportunity that presented itself to realize something for which the people in the broader Cape Breton area had been advocating for a number of years, and that was the dredging of the mouth of Sydney Harbour.
At that time, a contractor was in a position where he was able to book time and schedule the dredging. Hence, missing that window of opportunity would further drive up the cost of this project. The attributes of this project are well-documented and have been discussed in the House before.
I think the project will get done, but the cost will rise if the government continues to drag its feet on this. With the municipality on board and the province now committed to this project, I hope this project will get done.
More specific, what concerns the people in Cape Breton is this. We worked for a great number of years to have the tar ponds cleaned up. We had a legacy of steelmaking in Sydney, which had an incredibly negative impact on the environment. Therefore, we worked hard to get the money set aside so we could get the tar ponds cleaned up. That project is moving along, but still there are a number of years left.
The talk now is that the government might look at taking money out of that project and putting it into the dredging project, which would be a terrible mistake. We are this close to cleaning up the tar ponds. It would be terrible to mess with that money now. I ask the government today to make that commitment not to dip into the tar ponds fund for the cleanup, because the cleanup will happen.
The second issue is this. I recognize my hon. colleague from Restigouche and the great work he did as the ACOA critic. I would like the government respond as well to a piece of information he received under an ATIP, which indicated that the government had made $174 million in announcements through the Atlantic Gateway program. To date $788,000 have been spent, a fairly significant discrepancy.
Could the government explain the commitment to the dredging, without dipping into the tar ponds fund, and could it explain the discrepancy between the $174 million announced and the $788,000 spent?