Open Letter: NDP Transport Critic Olivia Chow Supports Oshawa City Council in Fight Against Ethanol Plant
August 23, 2012
Dear Mayor and City Councillors,
Our municipalities know best how to make local communities more livable and local economies more sustainable and attractive. This is why the current federal government’s decision to shape the future of Oshawa’s waterfront against the will of the local citizens and municipal and regional levels of government is unacceptable.
In addition to the utter disregard for local priorities and planning that the Conservative government is showing, the approval process for the unwanted ethanol plant is tainted by cronyism and shady dealings.
As the Official Opposition Transport Critic, I deem it important to take a close look at federal appointees and based on my assessment, I have been criticizing Minister Lebel’s appointments to the Oshawa Port Authority since the early spring.
Except for the city’s representative, all current members serving on the Oshawa Port Authority Board of Directors seem to possess some kind of insider qualities instead of bringing the best possible professional credentials to the table:
Gary Valcour, Chair: Former President of the Whitby-Oshawa Conservative riding association (Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s riding). Part of the Oshawa Harbour Commission since 2007. Documented Conservative donations from 2009 to 2011.
Chris (Krzysztof) Kluczewski: Former member of Minister Jim Flaherty’s riding association; appointed to the Oshawa Harbour Commission 12/09/2010. Conservative donor to both the federal and provincial party.
Peter Singh: Lawyer from Ajax, donated to Conservative MP Chris Alexander’s campaign ($1,000 April 2011).
Norm Mackie: Part of the Mackie transportation group leadership. Connected to Conservative MP Colin Carrie, he is a Conservative donor (in 2004 and 2008 to riding association level; in 2011 to Colin Carrie’s campaign).
Joe Allison: Possibly connected to the farming business controlled by the O’Connor family. He worked for Agrico Canada as the Account Manager for Ontario; the fertilizer company has storage facilities at the Oshawa harbour.
As you are probably aware, another former member of MP Flaherty’s riding association executive is Tim O’Connor, one of the O’Connor brothers that control and own FarmTech – the company behind the waterfront ethanol plant.
It should be mentioned that all of the leading O’Connor brothers have also heavily contributed to the Conservative cause through substantial donations over a prolonged period of time.
Giving the current evidence and the secretive circumstances of the ethanol plant approval, one is left to wonder how it is possible not to assume some kind of favoritism in the way the federally-controlled Oshawa Port Authority has been set up, stacked with loyal allies and is being used to advance FarmTech’s business interests.
It is tragic that the City of Oshawa and its citizens have to sacrifice their vision of a mixed-used waterfront in favour of a 12-storey eyesore that comes with a myriad of problems (pollution, odour, increased truck traffic, etc.).
As the NDP Transport Critic, I am calling on the federal government to all cards on the table. As soon as the House of Commons reconvenes in September, I will demand that Minister Lebel tables the lease agreements for FarmTech and all other Oshawa Port Authority tenants in Parliament.
Looking beyond clearing up the circumstances of this damaging decision, I will continue to advocate for the most sensible solution: to give the Oshawa port back to the people of Oshawa. Back in City hands, the citizens will be able to determine the future of their waterfront unfettered by federal intervention and cronyism.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to contribute some thoughts and insights and I am looking forward to continuing the dialogue with you on this crucial issue.
Olivia Chow, MP (Trinity-Spadina)
Official Opposition Transport and Infrastructure Critic