city council to blame for odious Orgaworld contract
By Fred Sherwin
couldn't help but shake my head when I read the recently
released audit report on the city's source separated organics
contract with Orgaworld, better known as the green
in the report does the city's auditor general place any
of the blame for the 20-year contract, which has so far
cost taxpayers $7.7 million in just six years (and counting),
on city council.
fact, the report places all of the blame on senior staff
in the Environmental Services Department, most of whom
are no longer with the city. In his conclusion, Ken Hughes
writes, "Management failed to provide appropriate
information to Council, in order that Council could make
an informed decision on such an important contract."
convenient. The truth of the matter is that if council
was misled, it was only because they allowed themselves
to be misled.
you go back in the time machine, you will discover that
there were two key motivating factors behind the green
bin program. The first motivating factor was the Province
of Ontario's Waste Diversion Act which was passed in 2002
and gave municipalities six years to increase their waste
diversion rate to 60 per cent. At the time the green bin
program was approved Ottawa's waste diversion rate was
only 35 per cent.
other motivating factor, and one that was far less difficult
to understand, is that the councillors were informed the
green bin program would extend the estimated lifespan
of the existing landfill site by up to 30 years. This
was hugely important because the last thing any city council
wants to debate is where to put another landfill site.
They would have signed a contract with the devil himself
if it meant not having to discuss another landfill site
for the next 30 years. In fact, that little tidbit ofinformation
alone, was all they needed to approve the Orgaworld contract.
sure most of the councillors never even read the thing
even though people like myself were warning that the contract
was horrendous for the sole reason the 80,000 tonne minimum
threshold, on which the contract was based on, had absolutley
no basis in reality.
you had to do was pull out a calculator and multiply the
number of households in Ottawa by the capacity of each
green bin to realize the absolute maximum was in the range
of 45,000 to 50,000. But for some reason none of the councillors
bothered to do the math, except for Gord Hunter who consistently
argued against the program and the contract and was the
only councillor who voted against it. In hind sight he
was bang on, too bad his colleagues didn't listen to him,
and that's why they must shoulder the lion's share of
the blame for the mess we're currently in.
were warned, but they didn't listen. The last time I checked
the residents of Ottawa don't vote for the senior manager
of the Environmental Services Department, or the deputy
manager of waste diversion, they vote for their city council
who they assume will safeguard their interest in all matters,
including the provision of due dilligence in evaluating
and voting on major contracts that will tie our hands
for the next 20 years.
counillors who approved the Source Separated Organics
contract in 2008 did not due their due dilligence in assessing
the deal. They failed in protecting the public's interest
even when they were being warned by one of their colleagies
and others that it was a flawed agreement.
should have done their math. They should have gotten a
second opinion. There are a number of retired and semi-retired
civil engineers in Orléans who would have been
more than happy to offer their services to review the
contract. Their expertise was never solicited.
the former city council voted for a contract most of them
never read let alone submit for independent review, and
the taxpayers have been left on the hook for $7.7 million
solution is to start collecting organic waste from restaurants
and grocery stores. It was discussed in 2008 and again
in 2010, but nothing has been done about it. Believe it
or not, restaurant and grocery store organics is currently
going to our landfill sites, which the Source Separated
Organics program was supposed to prevent.
the restuarants and grocery stores are brought on board,
the city can start sending leaf and yard waste back to
the Trail Road composting site where it can be processed
at a fraction of the cost the city is currently paying
one thing, leftovers and food scraps weigh a lot more
than leaves and grass clippings, and for another there's
a lot more of it which means we might finally reach the
80,000 tonne threshold.
is not rocket science folks. The city is wasting close
to $1 million every year on the organics program and nothing
is being don about it. Even the auditor general's report,
with its 10 recommendations, fails to address how the
situation in terms of increasing the amount of organics
being processed at Orgawourld might be improved.
is no question that the green bin program was flawed from
the get go, for no other reason than it dissuades the
use of backyard composters because all the material that's
going into them needs to be put into the green bins in
order to meet the city's contractual obligation to Orgaworld.
better or worse, the green bins are here to stay. The
only issue that needs to be addressed is how can we as
a city maximize the source separated organics program
and the only way is through the collection of restaurant
and grocery store organics. So let's get on with it already,
and stop wasting taxpayers money.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support
of our local business partners.)
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