It looks like recently hired CAO Robert Long brought some fresh ideas to this dispute which has dogged the City for several years and seemed destined for further costly litigation.
The media release says “Although the settlement is confidential the City of Prince Rupert will not pay Sun Wave Forest Products Ltd. any City money and will work to decommission the mill over the next 24 to 30 months.”
In an out of court settlement both parties usually get something. What’s in this for Sun Wave?
Sun Wave has had a string of losses over its’ claim to title to Watson Island, but as the court plainly put it in its’ December 14, 2012 ruling, “Damages are sought, however, and could be awarded in this action,” < thenorthernview.com/news/184119751.html >.
Did Sun Wave walk away from its’ damages claims?
The City has also acknowledged that apart from the dispute over land title Sun Wave owns chattels on the site. The Mayor said that part of a best case scenario would be for Sun Wave to “remove its chattel in a timely manner” < thenorthernview.com/news/200724531.html >.
Sun Wave purchased chattels from New Skeena’s liquidator apart from the purchase of the land and mill from the receiver. Sun Wave had claimed in court that the City prevented it from removing its’ chattels by imposing unreasonable conditions, including that the City should have final say over who owns what.
Did Sun Wave walk away from chattels that the City has acknowledged that it owns and ideally would remove?
Sun Wave has also had a significant bargaining chip in its uncontested ownership of Lot 4. Watco has reportedly said that acquiring Lot 4 would be a pre-condition for purchasing the rest of Watson Island < thenorthernview.com/news/182208261.html >. Was ownership of Lot 4 used to good advantage in the settlement negotiations?
Perhaps an answer to some of these questions can be found near the end of the City’s media release:
“The City will, in conjunction with other parties, make arrangements to decommission the pulp mill and sell the equipment and scrap metal on site.”
It looks like there is money to be made from selling the equipment and scrap, which will be done “in conjunction with other parties”. As the prospective buyer Watco would no doubt be one, but who else is among the "other parties”?
Sun Wave will not be getting “City money” we are told, but will they get money from the sale of the “equipment and scrap metal”, particularly for the chattels that the City has acknowledged that Sun Wave owns?
Perhaps we will never know because the settlement is described as “confidential”. But is it really?
Parties to settlement agreements often agree to keep the terms confidential, but public bodies and those who deal with them cannot contract out of transparency obligations.
The Freedom of Information & Protection of Property Act sets out narrow conditions under which a public body can withhold information because disclosure would be “harmful to the financial and business interests” of the public body (section 17) or “harmful to the business interests of a third party” (section 21). < bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws … #section17 >
Perhaps the City should explain on what legal grounds it will withhold further information about the terms of the Sun Wave settlement.
Rather than write a long explanation of how I feel about this kind of secrecy, I’ll just say this: The level of secrecy in which Prince Rupert’s government is run, is solely responsible for my personal disconnect with it. I don’t feel connected to any member of our government or the government itself. That, in my opinion, is a complete failure on thier part.