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Manitoba Liberal MP, MLA call for plan to address lead contamination

Manitoba Liberal Party leader and St. Boniface MLA Dougald Lamont (left) and Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette.
Manitoba Liberal Party leader and St. Boniface MLA Dougald Lamont (left) and Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette. Kevin Hirschfield/Global News

Two Manitoba politicians are asking the province to come up with a plan to address lead contamination concerns in several communities.

On Saturday, Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont and Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre, gathered outside Weston School sports field, which has been closed for more than six weeks after worries about lead contamination in the soil.

A study dating back to 2007 showed 19 samples at the school were above accepted lead levels.

READ MORE: Kids, staff banned from Weston School sports field

Documents show the former NDP government drafted a news release in 2008 to make those results public but it never happened.

The study also found samples from Point Douglas and other Winnipeg neighbourhoods were also above lead contamination guidelines.

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Similar concerns have been raised in St. Boniface where, this summer, test results showed the soil on 24 properties exceeded the recommended levels of metal contaminants.

Lamont, the MLA in St. Boniface, is accusing the provincial government of withholding those results due to the St. Boniface byelection and called for Minister of Sustainable Development Rochelle Squires to step down.

“We want the provincial government to stand up and actually inform people, to let them know how to keep their families safe, and that hasn’t happened,” Lamont said.

“We need a plan and a commitment behind it with dollars to say: ‘What are we actually going to do to reduce lead levels and make neighbourhoods safe?'”

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READ MORE: No reason for concern after St. Boniface soil testing: province

Radean Carter of the Winnipeg School Division said testing on the field finished up last week, and results are expected in the next two to three weeks.

The Weston School field.
The Weston School field. File

Ouellette said he will bring up the issue with the federal health and environment ministers.

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“It’s simply unacceptable that previous governments at the provincial level would play with the health of our citizens in such a way,” he said.

“It is really concerning that we haven’t informed the citizens about what they should be doing. Can their dogs play on the grass? Can their children be outside? If we’ve closed off this school, what about a playground in my backyard? We don’t know.”

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the Liberals are spreading misinformation and he said the province has been doing work on the issue.

“It was our government that proactively ordered retesting at various locations. It was our government that sent provincial staff to meet with concerned residents.”

“And it was our government that asked the chief provincial public health officer to review and make recommendations on how to improve the handling and communication of public health issues,” Friesen said.

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Lamont also said the red tape reduction bill, which is in the process of going through the Manitoba legislature, will make it easier for companies to set up hazardous waste disposal sites without a new licence.

WATCH: Manitoba’s Health Minister says soil results are a top priority

Manitoba health minister says soil tests are a priority
Manitoba health minister says soil tests are a priority
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