By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
It’s been a longer wait than usual, but the Oshawa Port Authority’s financial statements for 2017 have been released.
According to the audit performed by DeLoitte LLP Charter Professional Accountants, the port authority incurred a net loss of $230,306 last year.
The audit also shows the port authority’s current liabilities exceeded its assets by $5,862,735 as of Dec. 31, 2017. In the financial statement, DeLoitte LLP stated these conditions, along with other factors, “indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the Port Authority’s ability to continue as an ongoing concern.”
These comments echoed those in the 2016 financial statements after the port authority was ordered to pay FarmTech energy a $4.19 million arbitration award after the cancellation of a planned ethanol plant.
At the port authority’s 2017 annual general meeting, some residents threw shade after seeing the numbers.
Oshawa resident and long-time waterfront user and activist Larry Ladd claimed the port’s progress under board chair Garry Valcour has been one of the “biggest financial failures on the public purse.”
When contacted about this year’s numbers, Valcour says they need to be scrutinized in a proper context.
“It has to be borne in mind like all financial statements, they are snapshots of a point in time,” Valcour says. “The reality is when you look at those numbers you are looking at numbers from essentially a year ago.”
Valcour says 2018 has been a rebound year for the port.
“We’ve had a good year this year. We’ve had some great tonnage,” he says, adding the financial position “is different if you took the snapshot now.”
“You’d see a difference in a lot of the lines.”
Valcour concedes the OPA has taken “a couple of heavy blows over the last number of years” with the FarmTech arbitration and the “significantly greater expense for our rail spur than we ever anticipated.”
Despite the ballooning costs, Valcour defended the rail spur project, stating it “needed to be done” and was “a signal to the industry that not only are we here, but we are also here to stay.”
Valcour says he’d like to see more positive numbers, but he is not concerned about the future of the port.
“Like any other business, you want as good a number as you can get. Sometimes things don’t work out quite like you hope they would.”
With the port authority’s AGM set for Dec. 11, Valcour says he expects criticism from some residents.
However, he points out that the port is an “arms-length organization” mandated by the federal government.
Meaning, at the end of the day to Valcour, the feds are the ones who hold the organization’s financial situation to account.
“We have to be guided by our sole shareholder,” he says.
Another issue on the horizon is the port authority triggering a 1976 agreement that binds the city to build a full-extension of Harbour Road.
The port had originally requested the city build a driveway, but council ultimately rejected that plan.
The contentious issue for several councillors was that the port would not convey a 120-metre strip of land to serve as a buffer for the Second Marsh.
After council rejected the driveway proposal, the port authority quickly triggered the agreement.
However, Valcour says he and the board are open to further discussions.
“We are hoping for calmer heads and we’ve got a chance to make it happen,” he says. “We felt we needed to [trigger the agreement] because we tried unsuccessfully twice to get something done. We are perfectly open to revisiting an alternative agreement.”