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UPDATE: Calzavara attends public forum on controversial ethanol refinery in Oshawa

Council of Canadians Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara attended an open house in Oshawa last night on the controversial plan to build an ethanol refinery on Lake Ontario.

Durhamregion.com reports, “It was a full house at an information meeting Tuesday night held by the Oshawa Port Authority on the issue of an ethanol plant proposed by FarmTech Energy for the harbour. More than 300 people attended the meeting held at the Quality Inn Hotel and Conference Centre. …Even with the rules (people were asked to write their questions on white cards and submit them), members of the audience made their voices heard, by alternatively cheering or jeering the speakers depending on whether or not they supported the ethanol project.”

The article adds that FarmTech also presented polling data from Harris/Decima. “Doug Anderson, vice-president of polling company Harris/Decima, said a poll of 602 people was conducted from Sept. 11 to 14… When they were initially asked if they support ethanol production in Oshawa, 48 per cent of respondents said they supported it, 25 per cent said they were neutral, 24 per cent said they were opposed and 3 per cent said they didn’t know or had no opinion. After answering questions on seven arguments for the project and seven arguments against it, 56 per cent said they supported it, 15 per cent said they were neutral and 29 per cent of respondents said they were in opposition. Members of the audience immediately took issue with the fact that the survey included Oshawa Census Metropolitan Area, which includes Whitby and Clarington.”

Additionally, “Brian Brasier, executive director of the Second Marsh, called the evening an ‘exquisite farce’… In their presentation, Oshawa Port Authority chair Gary Valcour and FarmTech president Dan O’Connor pointed to existing environmental studies, reviewed by a third-party company, to show environmental concerns were addressed. Some of the documents have yet to be released by the federal government and Mr. Valcour said he expected them to be released in October or November. Mr. Brasier said the speakers left the impression that the plant had received environmental approvals, when that was not the case, outside of the port authority. ‘I would not consider the port authority a qualified entity to decide environmental impacts.'”

The controversial $200 million, 12-storey ethanol refinery is to be constructed in Oshawa on the Lake Ontario waterfront next to a ‘provincially significant’ 123-hectare coastal wetland. The refinery is opposed by Oshawa City Council, but has been approved by the Oshawa Port Authority. Five of the seven members of the Port Authority were appointed by the Harper government, including Valcour, the former president of the Conservative riding association in federal finance minister Jim Flaherty’s riding of Oshawa-Whitby. Flaherty’s riding association also includes Tim O’Connor – a director of FarmTech Energy Corporation and the brother of the company’s president Dan O’Connor.

Last summer, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “Several aspects of the proposed ethanol plant contradict the notion of the Great Lakes Commons including the importance of public participation and a program for wetlands protection. …I urge the Federal Government to withdraw any consent and withhold any further consideration to establish an ethanol plant on Crown land at the Oshawa Harbour until the concerns of the community are adequately considered.”

The Friends of Oshawa’s Waterfront website is http://oshawawaterfrontfriends.com.