I previously wrote to the City of Thunder Bay complaining about a situation that I thought was a conflict of interest. The situation that exists in the Waterfront Development where Man-Shield Construction is a Co-Developer of the project, the Project Manager as well as a constructor. I the situation was open to abuse but the Waterfront Development Manager believed otherwise. I remain unconvinced.
Another situation has arisen that I also think might qualify as a conflict of interest and that involves the new courthouse being constructed in the south core. The site was selected to help revitalize that area of the city. A new courthouse will likely increase demand for coffee shops, restaurants and office space within an easy walking distance. One of the properties that stand to gain a great deal from this courthouse location is Victoriaville mall. Victoriaville has two coffee shops, a food court and office space. The new court house will be located almost at its doorstep. The owner of this property is the City of Thunder Bay, the very same City of Thunder Bay that was given the task of providing the Ontario government with site options for the new courthouse. How suitable was this site for the construction of this huge building? The taxpayers of the City of Thunder Bay are saddled with paying the bill for the selection of this site. Property was purchased, buildings demolished, land for new parking lots procured, new parking lots needed to be constructed, transit studies were funded and a new temporary south core transit terminal site needed to be found. The cost to the taxpayer is in the millions. How many millions? Who knows? That information does not seem to be available. Is it possible that the City Council, as a property owner in the south core, did have a conflict of interest here? I think the whole thing should have been handled by an independent committee. It looks very bad.
Anyone who owns a building in the immediate vicinity of the new courthouse can be said to be in a conflict of interest if they were involved in the location process for the new courthouse. I understand that a sitting Councilor-at-Large is involved in the ownership of a building at the corner of Brodie Street and Victoria Avenue. An argument can be made that this Councilor will benefit financially from locating the courthouse in the south core of the city. If that possibility exists, then the Councilor should have been recused from any vote or meeting that involved the new courthouse as well as the relocation of the temporarily transit terminal. Did this happen? I suspect not.
This brings up the question of who owns property in this city and where? If a member of City Council or a member of the family of a member of City Council owns property in the vicinity of a city development, is that information not something that should be made available to the public? The same can be said for City Administration. The Waterfront Development is supposed to revitalize the north core. Does any member of Council/Administration or their families own land in the downtown core? The Arena/Multiplex is supposed to revitalize the area of the city it is going to be constructed. Does any member of Council/Administration or their families own land in vicinity of that building?
The private developers involved in the Waterfront Development are benefiting directly from taxpayers money. It seems that they may not be the only ones.