By Joel Wittnebel. Reprinted with permission, The Oshawa Express, (August 19, 2015)
August 20, 2015 – It’s a motion that carried unanimously at council, but the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce is questioning just how much foresight went into it. In a letter obtained by The Oshawa Express and addressed to Mayor John Henry and members of council, the chamber claims council’s decision on June 29 to voice its opposition to Ontario Power Generation’s nuclear repository was made spontaneously and was actually in violation of council’s procedural bylaw.
“What the chamber takes umbrage with, and finds most disturbing, is that this issue was not on the agenda and had no bearing to any agenda item or correspondence on the agenda and was presented as what appear to be – on a councillors whim – and in direct conflict to council procedural bylaw section 57,” the letter reads.
Section 57 states that any correspondence not directly related to an item on the agenda can be permitted for consideration or a decision at council or committee unless the item is time sensitive.
The letter further states because OPG’s proposal has been under scrutiny since 2012, the issue is not time sensitive and for that reason, council should have tabled it when it was brought forth by Councillor Amy England.
Engand denies that the motion was made on a whim, and labels the letter as “offensive.”
“This wasn’t done on a whim,” she says. “It’s really important that we protect our water sources for the future.”
However, the chamber’s letter questions just how important the city was taking the issue, citing that it took a little more than six minutes to read the motion itself and less than a minute for council to vote unanimously in favour of it with no questions being asked.
“The nuclear industry has been an important economic engine for the region for over 50 years with many residents of Oshawa working either at OPG or at tier two and three companies in the region…as the business community, we expect due diligence and adherence to proper processes in reviewing environmental, safety and other concerns,” the letter reads.
When asked for further comment on the letter, chamber CEO and general manager Bob Malcolmson said the letter is self-explanatory and that the chamber follows these items closely as they relate to its strategic plan.
“In the strategic plan, part of the thing is nuclear…we do have a stated position that we need to have more power plants for the economy and jobs and job creation,” he said.
For Mayor Henry, he says this isn’t the first time council and the chamber has disagreed on an issue, but the motion did not break any rules.
“Every member of council has the ability to bring a motion forward at any given time,” he says. “The storage of nuclear waste is important and I think there needs to be more of a discussion and ongoing discussions.”
Henry did not say one way or another if council would withdraw the motion, only stating each member of council is entitled to their opinion.
Henry also said discussions are still ongoing at the city surrounding this issue.
“It will be interesting to see where it goes,” he said.
The OPG’s current proposal would see nuclear waste buried nearly 700 meters below ground near the shores of Lake Huron.
The waste would be sealed in limestone caverns. While studies have found this to be safe, environmental activists worry what impacts a potential leak could have on the surrounding Great Lakes.