2020-11-25

Ottawa, Bridgewater port continue war of words, sparring in court

by KEITH CORCORAN

The Port of Bridgewater and the federal government are crafting contrasting messages when it comes to the future of the small submarine riding on the much-maligned former HMCS Cormorant vessel, which was deported November 18 under tugboat escort from the Main Street of the South Shore.

Rick Welsford is the president of the Port of Bridgewater, which encompasses the former government wharf off Bridgewater's LaHave Street. He told his social media followers the "submarine is still on board and destined for the ship breakers in Sheet Harbour."

The Cormorant, an unwelcome and derelict guest at the port for some 20 years, is headed to the Eastern Shore where it will be taken apart at a local shipyard.

Welsford's online comment - repeated in a LighthouseNOW news story - caught the attention of staff working for South Shore-St. Margaret's MP, Bernadette Jordan, the Fisheries and Oceans minister who's largely taking credit for Cormorant's permanent exile.

"The submarine will be removed in Sheet Harbour, and the plan is that, assuming it is salvageable, it will be donated," Jordan's press secretary Jane Deeks told LighthouseNOW in an email.

Welsford said the sub was on Cormorant, although it was on the contractor's removal list before the ship left.

If the federal government "negotiated for the contractor to remove it at Sheet Harbour and deliver it back to Bridgewater that's just fine," Welsford commented to LighthouseNOW in an email. He suggested the port perhaps should have been told that the submersible "was part of the federal court order of November 8 order from a year ago."

The most recent court action was filed by Welsford in the summer.

The lawsuit remains alive, however an aspect of the statement of claim seeking an injunction prohibiting the removal, selling, dismantling, destroying or disposing of the Cormorant or its contents failed.

The lawsuit, which names Jordan and the Canadian Coast Guard as defendants, alleges, among other things, unlawful interference in port operations and that Ottawa didn't have proper grounds to seize the Cormorant.

In previous comments to LighthouseNOW, Welsford contended that over the years the federal government created obstacles preventing port-orchestrated solutions that would have allowed the Cormorant to be sold.

The federal government responded with a motion to strike down the suit.

Ottawa recently filed documents to prevent an "arrest" of the ship. Welsford said there's another party threatening to arrest the Cormorant but it has nothing to do with him or the port.

In emailed comments to LighthouseNOW after the Cormorant's departure from Bridgewater, Welsford claimed the Coast Guard or its contractor offloaded items dockside, and he advised the Coast Guard's legal counsel about it.

"If there has been some donation agreement with parties unknown then we are not aware of that," Welsford told LighthouseNOW. "I am disturbed by this distribution of assets without consulting the Port of Bridgewater."

"This is all a political event," he said.

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