Oshawa calls for ethics review of FarmTech ethanol refinery decision
Olivia Chow questions close ties between port authority, Conservative Party and FarmTech.
OSHAWA, Ont.—Oshawa City Council is asking the federal ethics commissioner to investigate the decision allowing FarmTech Energy Corp. to build and operate an ethanol refinery at the Oshawa Harbour along a 123-hectare coastal wetland. The Oshawa Port Authority (OPA) announced approval for the $200-million project on August 9.
“Given the unavailability of information and the community’s deep concern and objection to the OPA’s decision in approving an ethanol refinery at the Oshawa Harbour, Oshawa Council is pushing the OPA to halt construction and to listen and respond to resident concerns during a transparent and open meeting,” said John Henry, mayor of Oshawa.
He said the refinery was approved without public consultation and the land use plan wasn’t developed in compliance with the Canada Marine Act.
Oshawa City Council held a meeting August 23rd and passed a motion to contact the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner of Canada after noting recent appointees to the OPA’s board of directors have close ties with both FarmTech and Jim Flaherty, MP for Whitby-Oshawa and minister of finance.
Concerns have also been raised by Olivia Chow, NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina who on August 23 wrote an open letter noting the following ties between the following OPA board members and the Conservative Party:
• Gary Valcour, OPA board chairman, was president of the Conservative riding of Whitby-Oshawa and has been part of the Harbour Commission since 2007. He also donated to the Conservative party from 2009 to 2011.
• Chris Kluczewski was formerly a member of Minister Jim Flaherty’s riding association and was appointed to the Oshawa Harbour Commission in September 2010. He donated to both to both the federal Conservative party and the Ontario Conservatives.
• Ajax, Ont.-based lawyer, Peter Singh, donated one thousand dollars to Chris Alexander’s campaign. Alexander is the Conservative MP for Ajax-Pickering.
Chow says Norm Mackie donated to Oshawa Conservative MP, Collin Carrie’s campaign in 2011 and alleges Joe Allison has ties the farming business owned by the O’Connor family—the same family that controls FarmTech. He was Agrico Canada Ltd.’s account manager for Ontario until he retired at the end of 2011.
She also notes Tim O’Connor, former director of FarmTech and brother of Dan O’Connor, president of FarmTech, is also a former member of Flaherty’s riding association and that both brothers have donated to the Conservative party for a number of years.
David Suzuki has expressed concerns over the environmental effects of the ethanol plant on the Second Marsh, the largest remaining urban wetland in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The City says it would also affect the quality of the Waterfront Trail and Lakeview Park, “a 46-acre community hotspot with a sandy beach, boardwalk, playgrounds, picnic areas, sports fields and scenic trails.”
The refinery would include four grain silos, each standing 125 feet high, the equivalent to four 12-storey buildings. Trucks would be shuttling into the refinery hundreds of times a day to ship raw materials, according to the city. The 210 million litres of ethanol produced by the plant annually would use 10 per cent of Canada’s annual corn crop, and produce 168,000,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide, the city report added.
FarmTech announced plans to build the plant back in 2008, saying it would create about 700 jobs, add $60 million for the local economy, along with $1 million in tax revenue.