Company that lobbied for a tax on its competitors says Toronto council pushed it out, and the city’s not talking
A controversial tax used to pay for the removal of uncollected residential trash failed to solve the city’s waste management problems.
Instead, one company profited from another by hiring certain illegally parked vehicles while increasing its rent to have cleaner trucks.
“It’s looking like it’s a complete wash,” said city council commissioner Gord Perks, who brokered the deal with a group of private waste haulers.
Toronto City Hall’s auditor general is now challenging Perks’ view. She has found the city’s executive committee “repeatedly” failed to explain the rationale behind awarding tax benefits to private waste haulers and failed to consider the impact on other taxpayers.
The company behind the latest probe into city waste management, Huisman, has found that if no other incentives were offered, it would have saved $69m over a 10-year period.
Not only that, the company’s chief financial officer claims a new report from its own management shows that the tax created in 2014 saved Toronto taxpayers $115m – but never saw the light of day.
Richard Hennessey, the company’s chief financial officer, claims in documents obtained through an access to information request that a 2012 report that worked out the tax’s financial impact was largely shelved by Toronto’s corporate services department.
“After an internal review, it appears that by the summer of 2013, some informal conversations about the tax changed to a dialogue about a tax credit, but it appears that later that year, nothing official or written was circulated and no formal conversations took place with any of the other collection groups,” said Hennessey.
Toronto collects millions in tax breaks for waste companies, says report Read more
“As a result, we have not been able to examine the estimate of savings in detail or reliably identify any gains,” he added.
Former executive committee chair Matt Brown did not respond to a request for comment.
But Perks, who is on the executive committee with Brown, suggested the audit is a “witch hunt” conducted by his old nemesis at the City of Toronto clerk’s office, Marg Leclerc.
Perks’ council runs afoul of many other parts of the bureaucracy when it comes to waste management, he said.
Besides private waste haulers, there is the more than 50-year-old private contract to deliver solid waste to city-owned landfills which Perks says works against citizens.
Only last month, after a citizen complaint, Toronto council once again dumped the waste transfer station on the Cherry Street Flats, an area “occupied by mostly senior citizens and the homeless, who in addition to many of the discarded electronics littering the streets can’t afford to pay to have their waste delivered to a landfill”, Perks said.
“And, the nature of the abuse is not that it is lucrative for the hauler or the individual but the taxpayer.”
Leclerc, however, isn’t on the firing line. The report won’t be released until sometime in 2019, and she declined to comment.
But Toronto council has already slammed the auditors’ recommendations. “Private waste management companies are operating within the terms of their contract,” said a spokesperson for city hall’s budget chief.
The city’s service manager, Mike Aspel, did not respond to a request for comment.
• This article was amended on 22 October 2018. It originally referred to Hennessey as vice-president. That title has been removed.