NDP, Tories differ on ethanol plant
Sep 8, 2012 / 10:00 am
The federal New Democrats are raising fresh questions about Conservative ties at the newly created Oshawa Port Authority, the company building an ethanol plant on the waterfront and now the business that loads and unloads ships in the harbour.
The port authority's board of directors recently approved a proposal to build an ethanol refinery on Oshawa's harbour, despite opposition from the city's council.
Oshawa city council and NDP MP Olivia Chow have both asked federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to look into whether the Conservatives stacked the port authority's board with political allies to allow FarmTech Energy Corp., a company with Tory links, to build the plant.
"It is possible that such preferential treatment resulted in FarmTech Energy Corp. receiving the approval to build an ethanol refinery on the Oshawa waterfront against the wishes of the Oshawa City Council and the Durham Regional Council," Chow wrote in her Aug. 29 letter of complaint.
Dawson's office confirmed that they received Chow's request this week.
"She is reviewing the request and no investigation has been launched at this time," spokeswoman Jocelyne Brisebois said in an email. She refused to comment any further.
Five of the port authority's seven board members are appointed by the federal transport minister, four of them nominated by port users. The city and the province each have one appointee.
Chow is taking issue with the fact that four of the members have ties to local Conservatives, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and the Conservative riding association in his riding of Whitby-Oshawa.
Port authority chair Gary Valcour stepped down this year as president of the Conservative riding association in Whitby-Oshawa. Another port authority director, Chris Kluczewski, was a member of the association's executive.
Two more directors, Peter Singh and Norm Mackie, have donated money to the party or local Tory candidates in the past.
Valcour said the board would not comment on what he called "unfounded allegations, innuendo or politically motivated smears."
Singh, for his part, said he doesn't consider himself to be in a conflict of interest. The retired lawyer from Ajax, Ont., said he has supported the Liberals in the past and doesn't consider himself politically connected.
"The federal appointment came right from Ottawa, and I was surprised there was even a port in Oshawa," he said. "I had to read up on it after I got a call."
Neither Kluczewski nor Mackie responded to individual requests for an interview.
Flaherty spokesman Chisholm Pothier said all the board members are qualified for their jobs, regardless of their political pasts.
"In any community there will be overlapping relationships between local representatives of government, business and the community," Pothier said.
"Those relationships do not prevent qualified people from being appointed to government roles. All the people appointed to the Oshawa Port Authority are well qualified."
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