There was no mistaking the concern etched on the faces of Havelock residents and those from neighbouring municipalities who crowded into the Havelock town hall on May 16, following news the Quebec Superior Court had ruled in favour of the installation of an asphalt factory on Covey Hill.
Concern was quickly replaced with defiance, however, as those in attendance demanded the municipal council vote on the spot to appeal the court’s decision – which was based on a technicality, and not the potential impacts caused by such a factory on the environment, property values, and local road networks.
There was a discussion about the costs involved in going to appeal for a relatively small municipality that has already absorbed the added expense of two byelections over the last year. The possibility the municipality could lose the appeal is real, and, along with lawyers’ fees, the municipality could be liable to pay compensation should a second ruling fall in favour Groupe Chenail Inc. and its proposed asphalt plant.
Councillors also discussed alternative actions such as requesting an audience before the Commission de protection du territoire Agricole du Québec (CPTAQ) and designating someone to represent Havelock at the Ministry of the Environment. Appealing to Huntingdon MNA Carole Mallette for help was also suggested. The crowd, while receptive to these ideas, was also clearly prepared to accept the risks involved with an appeal.
What is not clear is whether public opinion, and the apparent lack of social acceptability for this project, will be voiced as part of the appeal process which will, again, focus on technicalities and precedent over the environment and the will of the affected population. It will not be an easy battle, but it’s certainly one worth fighting.