Open Letter regarding unfair ruling in Ontario Municipal Board hearing

For Immediate Release
January 24, 2014

Schreiner calls for fairness in OMB hearing

Cambridge – Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner is calling for fairness in the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing of the Concerned Residents’ Association of North Dumfries (CRAND) in their opposition to the proposed Preston Sand & Gravel Henning Pit.

CRAND is local residents’ group which is struggling to have its concerns about a proposed gravel pit heard by the OMB. The OMB is refusing to hear an expert witness that CRAND employed to testify about air quality issues. The OMB is breaking its own rules in this case.

The Green Party believes that the OMB must act according to principle and in the best interests of the people of Ontario. Cases such as this make people mistrust and resent the apparently arbitrary powers of this appointed board.

Schreiner sent the following letter on this matter to the Executive Chair of the OMB, Lynda Tanaka today:

Lynda Tanaka
Executive Chair
Ontario Municipal Board
655 Bay Street Suite 1500
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1E5

cc. The Hon. John Gerretsen, Attorney General, The Hon Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, T. Brown and D. Donnelly

Dear Chair,

I write to inform you of my support for the Concerned Residents’ Association of North Dumfries (CRAND) in their opposition to the proposed Preston Sand & Gravel Henning Pit near Cambridge, Ontario. Specifically, I am shocked to learn that CRAND is being deprived by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) of its right to call its expert witness Dr. Marie Odile-Fouchécourt.

The conclusions of the air quality and toxicological reviews prepared by CRAND’s expert witnesses are clear. The questions they raise of environmental and human health impacts are serious and must be heard by the OMB.

OMB Vice-Chair J. V. Zuidema’s decision on January 21, 2014 to dismiss Dr. Fouchécourt severely prejudices this case. CRAND’s first toxicologist unexpectedly quit the case through no fault of CRAND’s or its legal counsel, Mr. David Donnelly.

Preston had over one month’s notice of the change of witnesses. Furthermore, the Board routinely allows new witnesses, witness statements, and even new issues to be introduced at the commencement of hearings. Preston’s lawyer did not produce any evidence to support its claim for dismissal, but admitted Preston added two new witness and three new witness statements without seeking an amendment to the Board’s Procedural Order. This conduct has the approval of Vice-Chair Zuidema. Why the double standard?

To ignore these facts, past Board decisions, and the Board’s stated principle that its own rules should be interpreted liberally is egregious and a clear miscarriage of justice. It is an extraordinary example of irregular and irrational application of the Board’s Rules. The outcome of Vice-Chair Zuidema’s decision is the imposition of a blatant double-standard in favour of Preston (a corporate interest) versus CRAND (a public interest group).

On Tuesday January 28, 2014, the Board will force CRAND to argue for an adjournment to allow it to seek new legal counsel, when one should have been granted automatically in these extraordinary circumstances. Both Vice-Chair Zuidema and counsel for Preston have suggested the hearing could proceed with CRAND unrepresented, despite having lost its star witness and legal counsel through no fault of their own. This outcome would be absurd and another miscarriage of justice.

I am calling on the Attorney General of Ontario and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to send legal counsel to the adjournment hearing on Tuesday January 28, 2014, to put a stop to this out-of-control proceeding.

I will follow this case with great interest and will be commenting further to the media and Attorney General of Ontario.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario