By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The news broke just in time for Oshawa city council to celebrate inside council chambers.
Released in a statement from the Oshawa Port Authority just after 5 p.m. on Monday, it was announced that a final decision in the arbitration case between the port authority and the FarmTech Energy Corporation had been reached and no ethanol plant would be built at the Oshawa waterfront.
In full, the statement reads:
“In accordance with the commitment made at its Annual General Meeting in June, 2016 the Oshawa Port Authority can advise that a decision has now been reached in its arbitration proceeding with FarmTech Energy Corporation. The OPA can further advise that the FarmTech Project will not be proceeding on Port Authority lands.”
The news was met with cheers and rounds of applause inside the council chambers, marking the end of a nearly five-year fight against the proposed development that received approval in 2012.
“I was extremely, extremely happy,” said Mayor John Henry. “I don’t know the details to it, but waterfronts are for people, they’re your connection, it’s your place to go to spend a day with your family and we have waterfront that we can really do right the first time.”
No further details were provided surrounding the final settlement of the arbitration and further requests for comment to the port authority were not returned as of press time.
Regardless, Henry says the decision is a good benchmark for any future development that may try to receive approvals on the site. The land remains a target for industrial development.
“I think we’ve shown a willingness to work together, but if we disagree with what they’re trying to do, then we’re prepared to make it public,” Mayor Henry says.
When the word that a proposed ethanol plant was moving forward was first made public in June 2011, the city launched a public campaign opposed to the project.
It was a stance that was reaffirmed inside the council chambers many times and actually got the attention of Justin Trudeau, who visited Oshawa in 2012 to meet with Henry. The Express reported at the time that the majority of the conversation dealt with the ethanol plant. Henry also said at the time Trudeau was on board with Oshawa’s dissent.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair were also on record as being against the plant.
The approval in 2012 was met with heavy skepticism from politicians, who claimed the project stunk of cronyism as Dan O’Connor, the president of FarmTech, was the brother of Tim O’Connor a member of the Conservative riding association, along with port authority board member Chris Kluczewski and Gary Valcour, the port authority’s chair who was previously the president of the Conservative Riding Association in Whitby-Oshawa.
With no plant moving forward, Henry says it is a testament to what the public and the city can do, taking the opportunity to thank waterfront activity Larry Ladd who played a big role in the campaign against the plant.
The news was also a welcome step for Bruce McArthur, who was faced with dissent on the board of the port authority as the city’s representative.
“I personally was overjoyed,” he says. “I was not the most popular person on the block and may not still be the most popular person on the block. However, I do bring a certain point of view to the board.”
Speaking to the media following the meeting, McArthur noted that he still cannot share any further information about the final arbitration report.
He expects that new plans for the land will move ahead very soon, and doesn’t expect the port to entertain a proposal that could put them in a similar situation.
“It’s my personal opinion that the port has been through a very arduous and lengthy process and I don’t think that we would want to engage ourselves once again in such a project,” he said.