OLA Supports Small Recycling Business Under Attack By MOE by Beth Trudeau

When one is under attack by a government agency, it is sure wonderful to have Ontario Landowners and Canadians for Language Fairness on your side. A huge THANK YOU to all of our friends and family that froze their butts off on one of the blusteriest days of this winter, as they stood around on our private property while the Ministry of Environment struggled to justify their demand to see our facility; wait, no, our truck; wait, no, our site, as they attempted to be “proactive” with a company operating the same way for 18 years.

Branches Multi Waste Inc. (previously Branches Paper Recycling) were the pioneers of small business recycling paper programs since 1983 and for the past 18 years, our office has been in our house, and our truck sits in the yard. Our recycling is all delivered to a processing facility in Ottawa since 1999. We have not had “a relationship” with the MOE because we ONLY accept paper, cardboard, containerized plastics, glass jars, and tin and aluminum cans for recycling and all material from our ICI clients are source separated and any contamination found as the recycling containers are dumped into the back of our truck, are left at the consumers’ location for disposal in the garbage and reminders are sent about contamination and the need to clean up their act. Our loads would be downgraded and we would be punitively penalized if we brought in garbage with our loads, but, the MOE proved that cold, miserable day in February, that it is not about what we collect or even that it actually gets recycled, because the MOE in Cornwall didn’t even ask for a weigh bill until the day after the invasion, which would have proved that we actually do recycle our material instead of dumping it in our back yard, as they apparently seem to think we are doing.

Being that none of the material we transport falls under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) (no hazardous, no waste management system, no food, no garbage) we are outside of their purview, which we have been told time and again over the years, and should be already recorded in our file with the MOE. We have talked with MOE agents over the years, and it was they, not us, that verified we don’t have to be “compliant” with the MOE because we do not fall under their purview due to our restricted recycling collection system. We do not have a waste management system like our competitors have.

Think about it. If empty bottles and containers, be they plastic, aluminum, tin or glass, fall under the EPA, would not the full bottles and containers also fall under the EPA? If paper and cardboard falls under the EPA, then every newspaper delivery person, stationary delivery truck etc., would have to fall under MOE? If empty glass bottles fall under EPA, why are we expected to transport them ourselves back to the beer store for refund instead of putting them in the recycling bins? And wouldn’t full bottles fall under the EPA too? Wouldn’t those buying groceries need special permits to transport full containers of anything? Of course not!

After MOE’s refusal to answer 15 questions from our lawyer prior to their trespassing on private property, and with the legislative threat of charges of obstructing justice if we tried to impede them hanging over us with their letter dated January 23, 2017, we felt the need for support and boy, did we get it in spades and an impressive group we were.

After allowing MOE access to inspect our recycling truck (for what they couldn’t say), when they got to the back of our truck and spotted our unused recycling containers sitting along our garage and fence, the officer in charge went and, after struggling to clear away the snow and ice buildup (as they haven’t moved all winter), she managed to open one and saw that it was empty.
She asked why the containers were there and we said they used to be placed at clients but when they cancel programs, we have to store our containers somewhere, being they are $120 each. She asked what was in them, and we told her they were empty. She told John to open the lids of the containers, and he told her if she wanted them open, she would have to do it herself. So, she did and after opening the 3rd empty container, she opened one that had one single, small, plastic pop bottle lying way down in the bottom of the container.

She exclaimed that we lied to her about the containers being empty, and that one single pop bottle in a recycling container was reason enough for her to call the police.

We thought she was joking but no, they went to their car without finishing the inspection and fifteen minutes later, two police cruisers and one SUV pulled up. After speaking with our group for less than five minutes, the constables went to talk to the MOE officers. That conversation took over ½ hour, with much arm waving at our private property by the eldest constable. In the end, the MOE car pulled out and left and the police came back to our group in the laneway. The elder’s first comments were that so many people can be intimidating. He then told us they would be contacting us again, and that next time, maybe don’t have so many people and with those parting words, the police left.

We contacted the Embrun OPP that evening to get a copy of the report. We knew it would cost us, but apparently when government agencies are involved, the reports are treated differently and if we want to find out what was said between the police and MOE, we have to use Freedom of Information because some information might need to be “redacted” we were told.
To us it was a no brainer. The MOE was so desperate that they tried to use one single, empty pop bottle as an excuse to say we lied to them when we told them the containers were empty, and a reason to call the police to help them search our private property using that feeble excuse, which the police obviously didn’t fall for, because they were sent away. They were on a fishing trip and thought that if they could find some evidence that we were not compliant (although we don’t even fall under their purview) it might aid them when we launch a lawsuit against them and one of their Senior Environmental Officers out of Scarborough.

The MOE “inspection” was handled by the MOE out of Cornwall. On the same day our response to their first hand-delivered letter was due (January 30, 2017), we received a call from a friend in the waste consulting business who provides waste and recycling audits to property managements and businesses forced to comply with MOE regulations based on their size. She was visiting one of our largest clients and was shown an email from an MOE Senior Environmental Officer from Scarborough, telling our client that further to their conversation, they were NOT to renew a contract with Branches Multi Waste Inc. because we were not compliant with MOE. This email was dated mid-November, 2016.

The Senior Environmental Officer in Cornwall provided us confirmation in writing, that what that officer did was an error and mistake; that Branches was compliant pending…an “inspection”, but they were not allowed to contact our clients and say such things as was said to our clients. Who else has this officer told that we were not compliant? How many waste consultants that send out tenders were told not to include us on their tender list because we were not compliant? How many customers have we lost due to being told the same thing our client was told?

Was the fishing expedition by the MOE Cornwall, (but initiated by the same Scarborough officer who was lying and maligning us), set up for the sole purpose of attempting to find anything that would allow them to rule that we were not in compliance, in attempts to justify the illegal activities of one of their senior bureaucrats?

The MOE advised us the following day that they had not been able to complete their inspection to which we respond; Why not? They called the police for that reason, didn’t they? Think of the tax dollars wasted that day! They have now requested copies of our weigh bills dating back to January 1, 2015 to January 31, 2017, to be provided by February 10, 2017. They received them all by February 9, 2017.

Will that finally complete their inspection and will the MOE finally answer our 15 questions as well as sending a letter to our clients confessing their error in even thinking we fell under their purview at all, especially since it should already be in our file from years ago? Will they do that in time to save our two contracts scheduled for renewal at the end of February, for four year terms each? Two contracts under the same property management who was told by MOE Scarborough they were not allowed to renew with us over two months before the first MOE contact with our company about being “proactive” and demanding a facility inspection.

All we know is that the Ontario Landowners are a group that every property owner in Ontario should belong to so you can learn the real laws of the land, and, even better, OLA members rapidly become fast friends especially once it is discovered that we all want the same thing; BACK OFF GOVERNMENT!. When they come for you, the OLA and all of its branches will be there for you just like they were for us. But you have to get involved. Thank you all – our old and new OLA friends and may God bless you one and all.