PECFN lawyer accuses MNRF official of coaching developer, witholding documents
The optics have always been bad— provincial government officials aligned with a large wind developer in a no-holds-barred fight against the handful of volunteers who make up the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN).
It became much worse when, under crossexamination, a species at risk expert testified that he had warned senior officials in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) that the project posed a deadly risk to the Blanding’s turtle.
Now the Ostrander Tribunal has revealed a very close working relationship between MNRF officials and the developer. PECFN’s lawyer says the regulator, responsible for protecting species at risk, is withholding documents and emails the Tribunal ordered turned over.
All in all, it was another rough week for Ontario’s MNRF and Minstry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
The proceedings, now deep into extra innings, showed no sign of wrapping up soon. Despite the tedium, lawyers pulled at the tangled web strand by strand. The crowd following these proceedings remained vigilant throughout the week. By Friday afternoon, 30 people remained in the gallery at the town hall in Demorestville.
The Tribunal, now it’s second incarnation at reviewing Gilead Power Company’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for its Ostrander Point project, had stretched another full week after being postponed from September as the MNRF gathered data ordered by Tribunal adjudicators Robert Wright and Heather Gibbs. These documents include emails, memos and correspondence that might shed light onto the Ministry’s internal deliberation over the decision to grant the developer a “harm, harass and kill” permit—specifically how ministry officials arrived at the decision to overide their own species-at-risk expert’s opinion.
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