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Archive: Bridge permit denial affirmed

PBA complains about Lewis’s conflict of interest

Originally published Dec. 15, 2005
Transport Canada has formally notified in writing that it will not proceed with the application by the Ambassador group to build a bridge in Bridgeburg.

The letter dated Nov. 28 from Rob Sully, an assistant deputy minister, to Scott Korpi of American Consulting Engineers of Florida, confirms what the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency wrote in August.

It also confirms the story published in The Herald in September.

“The franchise granted in 1923 is still valid,” Sully wrote. “Transport Canada is not giving consideration to the issuance of a permit.”

The franchise is the exclusive right of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority to operate a bi-national bridge over the Niagara River within six miles of the Peace Bridge.

John-Claude Lapierre, the Minister of Transport, said as much a year ago, but the Ambassador group contends the franchise is not valid.

The Ambassador Niagara Signature Bridge Group continues to argue the point as it has protested the inclusion of Ron Rienas, PBA general manager, on the focus group for the Bridgeburg neighbourhood plan study.

Ridgeway lawyer Peter BonEnfant, who represents the Ambassador Group, wrote town council Nov. 28 that it would be “detrimental to the utility and integrity” of the study “to appoint partisans” from the PBA or the Ambassador group.

BonEnfant’s letter underscores the contention that councillor Tom Lewis has an undeclared conflict of interest in the Bridgeburg study since he is employed by a firm who counts the Ambassador group as a client.

Lewis has spoken a number of times in council meetings against moving forward with the study.

To which PBA lawyer Cameron Williams wrote council to protest Lewis’ participation in discussions about the study and Peace Bridge issues.

“Councillor Lewis is a first time Councillor and does not appear to be giving the conflict of interest issue the attention that it deserves given the rigors of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” Williams wrote.

“I trust that when this matter next comes before council councillor Lewis, acting in the interests of the taxpayers, will have reconsidered his position on this subject.”

Other letters which have been received include councillor Richard Berry’s lengthy and professionally-prepared petition in April 2004 to the Auditor-General of Canada to force an environmental assessment on the Peace Bridge’s Canadian plaza reconstruction project.

Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans replied in October last year that the project is unlikely to have any adverse environmental impacts.

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