Third party stalling release of Cornwall port deal

Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict and Cornwall Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy sign a co-ownership agreement Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at the Big Turtle Arena in Akwesasne, Ont. The agreement forms a 50-50 partnership between the First Nation and the city to manage and develop the 16 acres of land around the port of Cornwall. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Editor’s note: Story has been updated at 9:40 a.m. Aug. 23, 2016 with comments from CAO Maureen Adams.

CORNWALL – Despite assurances from Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy that details of a port deal would be released following the signing of an agreement in June, a backlog at Transport Canada appears to be stalling that process.

In an unusual step, the City of Cornwall issued a news release late Monday afternoon, responding to mounting pressure in the form multiple Freedom of Information requests regarding the Port of Cornwall divestiture agreement.

That’s the final agreement between Transport Canada, the Cornwall Harbour Development Corporation and the Akwesasne Harbour Development Corporation. It also involves the lease for Trillium Distribution for the calcium chloride storage tanks.

“The media release is to say, we’re not ignoring everybody. We’re not trying to play hardball. We’re trying to work through the process to provide the information, if we can,” CFO Maureen Adams told Cornwall Newswatch Tuesday.

The city confirmed there have been three FOI requests of various forms on the port land.

Cornwall Newswatch is one of the parties that has made a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request.

CNW appealed the city’s response to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and received confirmation Aug. 11, 2016 in a Notice of Appeal, that an analyst had been assigned to the case.

CAO Adams told Cornwall Newswatch Tuesday morning, Transport Canada is the party looking for more time after receiving the FOI request.

“That (request) immediately got forwarded on to an area within Transport Canada that deals with those matters. At the time, they told me that there in about a 60 day turnaround time to respond,” Adams said.

The CAO believes it’s not a unique situation for Cornwall but “a backlog of time” the government agency has for FOI requests.

As for the lease agreement with Trillium Distribution, Adams said the company has been notified and they will probably respond “sooner” than Transport Canada.

“They (Trillium Distribution) are formally going through that process. I would imagine that they’re going to take all the time they need to properly understand what they’re rights are…whether there are sections they want redacted out of that lease or whether or not the entire document should not be allowed (to be released),” Adams said.

She said the term of the lease, the termination clause and the financial components for rent in the lease could be sections that could be redacted based on legal advice.

Third parties can legally argue that the records are not released if it jeopardizes their competitive position or if it results in undue loss or gain for a person, group, committee, financial institution or agency.

During an interview with CNW on May 3, 2016, following the co-ownership signing with Akwesasne, Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy indicated that details of the final agreement would be promptly released, including the commitments for both parties on the contentious issue of the storage tanks.

“Just because the zoning is changed today doesn’t mean we’ll have to get rid of everything that’s there today. There will be a process. That will be released June 30th because there is a time frame that we made commitments to,” the mayor said.