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2017 Year in Review: A year of lengthy legal battles

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Legal battles are not uncommon for any municipality, and the details of some of Oshawa’s came to light in 2017, or in some cases, remained in the dark.

Transit

The city and the Region of Durham have been locked in litigation over the uploading of Oshawa’s transit services for almost a decade.

Following the signing of a transfer agreement for transit assets in 2004, the region launched an $8.9 million lawsuit in 2011 over a dispute about who is responsible for covering the pensions and liabilities involved in the transit transfer.

In March, the region announced it had spent $720,000 so far on the legal case, $623,000 on legal costs, with the remainder going to taxes ($81,000) and disbursements ($18,000).

However, the city has been tight-lipped on its legal spending so far.

Councillor John Neal has made several queries about the status of the case at regional council, but all that has been stated is a court date has been for the first half of 2018.

Oshawa Airport

Airport

In February, it was determined the city would be on the hook for $125,000 in legal fees after attempting to obtain a building permit at the Oshawa Executive Airport five years ago.

In a ruling handed down by Justice of the Peace Maxine Coopersmith on Feb. 16, she stated that the city’s legal tactics amounted to “coercion” and a “marked and unacceptable departure from the reasonable standards” when they attempted to order one hangar owner to obtain a building permit for an addition to his unit.

The case stems from a 2013 incident where the city ordered Philip Sciuk and his Ontario numbered company to obtain a building permit for an addition to his hangar, despite the fact that 27 of the hangar units as part of the Hangarminiums development were constructed without building permits. According to Justice Coopersmith, the request for the permit came at a time when the company would have a hard time saying no.

While the Justice said she was mindful of the fact the cost for the city would come from “the public purse” she felt it was important to send a message “to the prosecution that its conduct has exhibited a marked and unacceptable departure from the usual and reasonable standards of prosecution.”

However, upon the city’s appeal, the cost ruling would be set aside.

Ethanol

Although not directly involved, the arbitration settlement between FarmTech and the Oshawa Port Authority will no doubt have some impact on the city.

The port authority has been directed to pay FarmTech $4.1 million after the cancellation of an ethanol plant, approved in 2012. In financial statements released in the summer, the port authority’s auditor raised concerns about the future of the organization in light of the hefty payout owed to FarmTech, noting the settlement “casts significant doubt upon the Port Authority’s ability to continue as a going concern.” The final settlement was unwelcome and surprising news for the port’s board.

“We were really surprised at the decision that the arbitration came up with, surprised might be a mild word,” says Gary Valcour, chair of the Oshawa Port Authority board. Valcour said the board is looking at all of their options in order pay off the settlement. The payment terms of the settlement deal have not been made public.