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Business as usual is not a good thing

By Joel Wittnebel

I’ve seen this before.

I’ve sat in the same thinly padded chair, in a similarly dimly lit room, with a just-as angry mob of people lining up to the microphone. I’ve heard the same lines being spilled from the podium over and over.

In 2016, I sat with wide eyes and scribbled incessantly in my notebook. This year, I could only shake my head and laugh.

The Oshawa Port Authority’s annual general meeting on Sept. 14, could have been a carbon copy of the meeting that took place in 2016. There was the similar jargon from chair of the board Gary Valcour that it was “business as usual” at the port, despite a $4.1 million debt now owing to FarmTech, and there was the same “I’m not really at liberty to comment” answer when he was asked about the ethanol plant arbitration.

Honestly, I felt like Bill Murray. I was waiting to blink and wake up to “I Got You Babe”  blasting from my bedside radio.

It’s no secret that the port has gotten themselves into a bit of financial difficulty following the arbitration award to FarmTech Energy earlier this year. However, what does remain secret is just what was at issue and how we got here.

Valcour says that it was an issue in the lease. That when the port attempted to terminate the agreement, it immediately triggered an opportunity for FarmTech to initiate arbitration.

It’s interesting that the original lease agreement has never been made public, and it begs the question of who in their right minds would sign such an agreement in the first place. It only adds more sludge to the toxic rumours of political cronyism that already swirl around the entire ethanol plant debacle.

Now, the port is trying to assure residents that all is well, repeating the “business as usual” mantra.

Things can not be looked at with rose-colored glasses. The ethanol arbitration award was a one-time deal, sure, but the ramifications of that deal are going to ripple out into the years to come.

This is the point in reading this column when all residents of Oshawa should start to have a sinking feeling in their stomachs.

Let me assure you, with the same decision makers still at the helm, it’s going to be Groundhog Day all over again.

As the saying goes, any port in a storm, and right now, the port is weathering a particularly nasty one, and it’s the City of Oshawa and its residents that are going to feel the impacts of whatever direction they choose to escape from the waves.

This is ample opportunity for industry to come swooping in to get a particularly nice piece of business at the port. And right now, is the port in a position to turn anything down?

Studying news clippings from as far back as the late 80s, there are reports of the strained relationships, lack of communication and a myriad of other issues plaguing the relationship between the city and those operating our port.

With that said, it would seem Valcour may have been right. Perhaps all this mess is just business as usual.

It’s time for a change.