Con­cerns dog re­cy­cling con­tract

En­vi­ron­ment com­mit­tee against Toronto com­pany’s bid

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - ALDO SANTIN aldo.santin@freep­ress.mb.ca

ONCERNS about the rep­u­ta­tion of a Toronto-based re­cy­cling com­pany and world mar­ket fluc­tu­a­tions for re­cy­cled prod­ucts prompted a civic com­mit­tee to turn down an ad­min­is­tra­tive rec­om­men­da­tion on a 10-year, $112.6-mil­lion con­tract to process and mar­ket ma­te­rial col­lected from Win­nipeg’s curb­side pro­gram.

Coun­cil­lors voted 2-1 Mon­day af­ter­noon against award­ing the con­tract to Canada Fibers Ltd., which op­er­ates 14 sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try, most of them in On­tario.

“That’s democ­racy in ac­tion,” said Coun. Brian Mayes, chair­man of the en­vi­ron­ment com­mit­tee, fol­low­ing the 31/2-hour meet­ing. “To the com­mit­tee’s credit, there were a lot of good ques­tions asked.”

Mayes (St. Vi­tal) was the mem­ber of the com­mit­tee who voted to award the con­tract; Couns. Jan­ice Lukes and Ja­son Schreyer were op­posed.

Schreyer (Elm­wood-East Kil­do­nan) said he re­mains con­cerned the pro­posed con­tract doesn’t pro­tect Win­nipeg prop­erty tax­pay­ers against un­ex­pected cost in­creases.

Lukes (South Win­nipeg-St. Nor­bert) said she’s trou­bled by pub­lished ac­counts of Canada Fibers’ deal­ings with the City of Toronto: the firm signed two nine-year con­tracts in 2014 for a com­bined $352.67 mil­lion, then rene­go­ti­ated for more money three years later.

The two con­tracts were rene­go­ti­ated in March 2017, and the firm was awarded an ad­di­tional $97.78 mil­lion —

Cbut the rea­sons be­hind the de­ci­sion are con­fi­den­tial and tied to what a re­port stated is “lit­i­ga­tion or po­ten­tial lit­i­ga­tion” over the con­tracts. There was also a con­fi­den­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Toronto’s au­di­tor gen­eral into op­er­a­tions at a lo­cal pro­cess­ing plant. An Oc­to­ber 2017 re­port to Toronto city coun­cil’s au­dit com­mit­tee made sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing hir­ing an in­de­pen­dent au­di­tor to mon­i­tor op­er­a­tions at the pro­cess­ing plant and for the city to reg­u­larly ro­tate its staff who deal with Canada Fibers.

Canada Fibers was also cited in 2015 for breach­ing the City of Toronto’s fair wage poli­cies. While the com­pany ad­mit­ted no wrong­do­ing, it agreed to a $1.2-mil­lion set­tle­ment with em­ploy­ees at its north Toronto plant.

De­spite the Win­nipeg civic com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion Mon­day, award­ing of the con­tract will be con­sid­ered to­day by Mayor Brian Bow­man and mem­bers of his ex­ec­u­tive pol­icy com­mit­tee.

A fi­nal de­ci­sion is ex­pected to go to coun­cil at its April 26 meet­ing.

The three coun­cil­lors did agree Mon­day to re­quest ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­vide a re­port de­tail­ing which Cana­dian mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have fair wage pro­vi­sions in agree­ments with con­trac­tors and de­tails of those pro­vi­sions.

An ad­min­is­tra­tive re­port said five firms bid on the 10-year con­tract, but Canada Fibers was rated the high­est and put in the low­est bid.

The re­quest for pro­pos­als re­quires the win­ning bid­der to con­struct a sta­teof-the-art pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity and have it op­er­a­tional by Oct. 1, 2019, and re­quires

ef­fi­ciency and ser­vice de­liv­ery but don’t have the pri­or­ity to be in­cluded in the an­nual depart­ment bud­gets. the win­ner to find mar­kets for the pro­cessed re­cy­clables.

The city col­lects about 56,000 tonnes of re­cy­cled ma­te­rial in its blue carts pro­gram and earns about $3.3 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue from the sale of the pro­cessed ma­te­rial.

A de­ci­sion on the con­tract was put on hold April 5, when coun­cil­lors re­quested more time and in­for­ma­tion.

Lukes said she was con­cerned the city’s wa­ter and waste depart­ment had strongly rec­om­mended Canada Fibers and said Toronto of­fi­cials it dealt with had re­ported a good re­la­tion­ship with the com­pany, but had failed to men­tion to the com­mit­tee the out­come of the rene­go­ti­ated con­tracts and the au­di­tor gen­eral’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Kinew later told me­dia that Go­ertzen not answering ques­tions about the li­cens­ing is­sue in the house shows there’s a prob­lem.

“I want to hear more from the pub­lic ser­vice on these is­sues,” Lukes said. “I haven’t made up my mind on how I’m go­ing to vote when this mat­ter goes to coun­cil, but I do want to know more about this com­pany that we might be en­ter­ing into a 10-year re­la­tion­ship (with).”

The com­mit­tee de­bate was pre­ceded by two hours of pre­sen­ta­tions by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Emterra En­vi­ron­men­tal, which cur­rently does the pro­cess­ing, and Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Lo­cal 500. Both groups want the com­mit­tee to reis­sue the re­quest for pro­pos­als for the 10-year con­tract.

Emterra and the union said the ad­min­is­tra­tion had changed the qual­ity stan­dards for the new 10-year con­tract, which didn’t re­flect cur­rent mar­ket con­di­tions and could mean a loss of rev­enue for city hall and in­creased costs.

The union also ques­tioned award­ing the con­tract to Canada Fibers af­ter its con­tro­ver­sial his­tory with Toronto.

Mark Badger, Canada Fibers ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent, told the com­mit­tee the firm be­lieves in hav­ing a good re­la­tion­ship with its mu­nic­i­pal clients.

Badger said he didn’t want to get into de­tails into what led to the $97.78-mil­lion renegotiation in Toronto, ex­plain­ing, “Some­times there are things that hap­pen that could not have been en­vi­sioned by ei­ther party.”

Badger said Canada Fibers is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing a wages and ben­e­fits pack­age com­pa­ra­ble to that cur­rently of­fered by Emterra.

Coun. Brian Mayes voted for the con­tract.

Janette Sadik-Khan

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