February 24, 2015

We’ll see SNC Lavalin Nuclear in court

In March 2011, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to obtain details of the contract between Aecon Construction, SNC Lavalin Nuclear and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) for the re-building of four reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station on Lake Ontario.

Aecon Construction and SNC Lavalin, not surprisingly, are not keen to reveal just how rich this mega contract is and refused to provide the information. However, the the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) ruled that the companies should provide relevant details, a decision Aecon and SNC then appealed to the Superior Court.

The companies are insisting that they were “confused” by the Freedom of Information request process, which the Privacy Commissioner’s counsel notes is rather odd, considering that these “are multi-billion dollar companies that have access to a wealth of internal and external legal resources [and] have a history of being involved in access to information requests in other Canadian jurisdictions.“

The companies are also trying to use another technicality to shield the details of the deal, including whether it allows cost overruns to be passed onto taxpayers and ratepayers. They are insisting that contracts are not covered by FOI legislation because they represent information provided by one party to another. The Commissioner’s counsel strongly disagrees in her response, citing an explanation from the Government of Canada:

“.. . The intention of Parliament in exempting financial and commercial information from disclosure applies to confidential information submitted to the government, not negotiated amounts for goods or services. Otherwise, every contract amount with the government would be exempt from disclosure, and the public would have no access to this important information …”

Given the long history of secret deals in Ontario’s nuclear power sector that have led to massive cost overruns – and massive debt for Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers – the OCAA believes the public has every right to know more about the deal struck between OPG and these two construction and engineering giants. We would like to thank the Information and Privacy Commissioner for robustly defending our right to see this information.

We’re hoping we won’t have to repeat this difficult and time consuming exercise with another secret nuclear deal – an agreement to rebuild reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Station. Instead of forcing public interest groups to file freedom of information requests after the fact, the government should walk its talk on openness and transparency by sending any proposed Bruce Deal to the Ontario Energy Board for a full public review.

Please join us to observe the proceedings as well as to show your support for greater transparency in government decision making this coming Monday :

  • Monday March 2, 10 a.m.(come at any time during the day)
  • Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen St. West (NE corner of Queen/University), in Courtroom # 3 (on 2ndfloor), entrance off Queen St., Toronto

A little sunshine can keep everyone healthier.

Hope to see you on Monday. Thanks.

Angela Bischoff

p.s. Our Ontario budget proposal to take a pass on rebuilding the Darlington Nuclear Plant in favour of importing lower-cost water power from Quebec has clearly made some vested interests in the Ontario nuclear industry very nervous. Our proposal on the government’s budget consultation website has suddenly been inundated with “thumbs down” votes. This orchestrated campaign to deep six our idea just shows how the nuclear industry really can’t compete with our highly sensible proposal. Don’t let them get away with it! Give our idea a thumbs up right now.