Judicial Inquiry Update

Preparations continue ahead of public hearings in the Town of Collingwood Judicial Inquiry into the sale of 50 percent of Collus to Power Stream in 2012.

The Honourable Frank N. Marrocco, Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice, has been appointed to serve as Commissioner to the Inquiry.

This inquiry was requested by the Town of Collingwood. The official letter from the Town of Collingwood dated March 6, 2018 and signed by Mayor Sandra Cooper was sent to The Honourable Chief Justice Heather J. Forster Smith – Superior Court of Justice with a true certified copy of Resolution 042-18, requesting that a judge be appointed pursuant to s. 274 of the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25 to conduct an inquiry.

Janet Leiper, Inquiry Counsel – Judicial Inquiry, appeared on Talk of the Town on 95.1 The Peak with John Eaton and Melanie Case.

“We are to look at the transaction, what happened with the proceeds, people and entities who may have benefited from that, was it properly conducted and what can be learned for the future to help with the good governance of the Town of Collingwood.”

Leiper says Judicial Inquiries don’t happen frequently in municipalities but said across Canada there have been hundreds of public inquiries at all levels.

In Ontario there was the City of Toronto Inquiry, the Town of Walkerton Inquiry, and more recently the Judicial Inquiry in Mississauga.

Leiper said a Judicial Inquiry can lead to very positive change in terms of public policy, examining what has happened and untangling complex transactions performed in a way that is neutral and independent to allow the public to see what has happened and how certain situations or procedures can be avoided in the future.

“In the city of Toronto Inquiry it dealt with big contracts, and that lead to all kinds of legislation that changed how municipal governments organized themselves. It created lobbyist registries, ombudsmen and integrity commissioners. And the City of Mississauga Inquiry led to changes in the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act which are still coming into effect.”

If people have any information or wish to become involved in the Judicial Inquiry, Leiper says there are a number of options available.

She said the first way to become involved is to attend is a community meeting on August 13th at the Collingwood library.

“We are holding what are called hearings to participate or standing hearings, where people who may be directly affected or have very particular, an ability to assist the inquiry can apply to participate.”

In addition, a person might be able to make submissions to the inquiry directly.

“You might be able to ask questions of witnesses and our web site has a form for people to fill in to say whether or not they feel that they have something extra to bring.”

A third way to become involved is to attend the public hearings or watch the webcasts.

Leiper says some transactions are more complex than others and will require some unravelling., adding that anything with any degree of complexity lends itself to extensive analysis.

“This is an event that happened over a period of time. There is some level of complexity because there are different corporate entities and that is the reason why you normally, when you make the decision to call for an inquiry, something that isn’t easily encapsulated by just putting out a few documents.”

Leiper said Judicial Inquiries are held under the Public Inquiries Act.

“The Public Inquiries Act has an array of abilities to summons people, documents, things, before the inquiry and the way that the terms of reference are worded as they have directed us to begin first by document collections. That makes sense. You try to get as many of the documents that you can ahead of time. You use them to prepare witnesses, prepare summaries, share them with the parties, and then commission counsel bring forward the relevant witnesses and documents before the judge who then hears it in open session. “

Leiper says these materials will be posted to the web site.

In terms of potential witnesses, some people have stepped forward but at this time it remains what Leiper called “an open call” for people who may wish to participate.

The Town of Collingwood will be a party itself for the inquiry.

“After that it’s an ongoing process of deciding whether or not people need to come forward and testify, or whether there may be other ways to get their information before the inquiry.”

Leiper pointed out that a public inquiry is not a police investigation.

“It’s not like a criminal trial, it’s not like a civil trial, no one is being sued. If there were police investigation or interest that would be separate to what our process is doing. In terms of inquiries sometimes they speak of misconduct and whether or not somebody has misconducted themselves. It maybe something that an inquiry considers but they don’t apply criminal code processes or offences to what it is that we’re looking at.”

On Tuesday March 6th, Staff Sergeant Carolle Dionne, Provincial Media Relations Coordinator with the Ontario Provincial Police confirmed to CollingwoodLiving.com that the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch Town of Collingwood investigation remains active.

While not able to comment on any details or the current status of the Collingwood OPP investigation, Dionne was able to tell us that the judicial inquiry launched by Collingwood Council would not in any way negatively impact the ongoing OPP investigation.

“I can provide some input on your comments about duplication involving the OPP investigation and the work of a pending judicial inquiry. Should a judicial inquiry commence in relation to the various aspects of the sale of Collus to PowerStream. The OPP investigation will not be negatively impacted in any way. There will be no duplication of efforts in work done by a judicial inquiry and investigative work being done by the OPP.”

Leiper said that she really couldn’t comment on whether or not the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry would ask the OPP for information.

“That’s something that’s a bit premature for me to speak to right now. I know in other inquiries, for example in the Ipperwash Inquiry, there was a sharing of information.”

Lieber says in the Ipperwash case there was a police investigation parallel at the same time.

Town of Collingwood CAO Fareed Amin said earlier that the Inquiry documentary review will be conducted through the summer, with public hearings expected to begin in early fall.

The Commission and staff are operating out of second floor office space in Town Hall.

William McDowell has been appointed as the Town of Collingwood Counsel for the Judicial Inquiry.

CLICK HERE to visit the Town of Collingwood Judicial Inquiry Website

CLICK HERE to listen to the Janet Leiper interview on 95.1 The Peak with John Eaton and Melanie Case

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