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O'Brien declares 'war' on landfills
Mayor rejects Waste Management claim he must support expansion
by Jake Rupert and Suzanne Ma, The Ottawa Citizen, Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien says if Waste Management wants to pick a fight over expansion of the Carp Road landfill, he is ready to go.

Yesterday, after reading about Mr. O'Brien's opposition to the expansion, the company sent a letter to city officials saying if they didn't support the expansion, they would be in breach of a 2001 legal agreement between the company and the city.

But the letter does not appear to have had the desired effect.

"What the letter accomplished was to motivate the mayor more to make his remarks clearer and reaffirm that he is working for the interests of the citizens of this city, not Waste Management," Mr. O'Brien's spokesman Mike Patton said yesterday.

"Technology is the answer, not finding holes to throw garbage in. This letter was the wrong approach. If you want to see the best side of Larry O'Brien, this is not the way to do it. It's unfortunate that they took this approach because, ideally, for the city and mayor, Waste Management would be part of a new solution, and we don't want to pick a fight with them."

Last night, at a Stittsville rally to protest landfill expansion, the mayor did not appear much of a pacifist.

"I'm Scottish and I'm Irish, which means I'm cheap and I like a good fight," he said.

When he was asked by one resident if he was declaring war on Waste Management, the mayor replied: "I'm declaring war on landfills."

The letter, addressed to city lawyer Tim Marc, came from Waste Management's vice-president and general counsel, Don Wright, who read a newspaper story yesterday saying the mayor was planning to support residents who oppose tripling the dump's size. The mayor has often said he intends to embrace new technologies that convert garbage to electricity, which would eliminate the need for landfill expansion.

"We are troubled by the mayor's intended message," the letter says.

According to Mr. Wright, the city is legally committed to expanding landfills under a 2001 agreement it signed to end a prolonged legal dispute over fees the city pays to dump garbage in various landfills.

"The article suggests that there is a serious risk that this undertaking will not be complied with," Mr. Wright wrote.

He says that maybe the new mayor did not know about the agreement, and Mr. Marc should tell him about it.

"Otherwise, we are concerned that our interests will be compromised in contravention of the agreement," the letter states.

Last year, when the agreement's existence was revealed, city solicitor Rick O'Connor told council that contrary to the company's claims, council isn't legally obliged to support expansion.

Mr. Patton says Mr. O'Brien sees things the same way.

"He's seen enough contracts and legal settlements to know that they don't have the right to tell him to shut up about what he thinks is right," Mr. Patton said.

Mr. O'Brien, who read the letter to a crowd of 300 at last night's meeting, said he is his "own person."

"I didn't appreciate that letter being sent to the city. We're asking Waste Management to respect the wishes of council, and respect the wishes of the people of this city, by looking at alternative ways of disposing of that waste.

"If they aren't willing, then we'll find other ways to do it."

He received a standing ovation.

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