Offshore wind developer Trillium Power Wind Corp. is claiming that Ontario officials knowingly destroyed and obfuscated evidence relating to its lawsuit against the provincial government. More damning: Trillium claims it has the documents to prove it.
As such, Trillium has amended its 2011 lawsuit shortly after the Ontario government placed a moratorium on all offshore wind activities. The C$2.25 billion lawsuit claimed the government cancelled and confiscated Trillium's proposed 600 MW TPW 1 offshore wind project and stripped the company of its applicant-of-record status. The developer says it was planning to install 120 wind turbines on a site that was 17 km to 28 km offshore in Lake Ontario. Trillium's planned offshore wind pipeline, all controlled by the province of Ontario, includes four projects totaling 3.5 GW on three different Great Lakes.
In a notice of motion filed with the Ontario Superior Court, Trillium Power Wind Corp. asserts that ‘documents have been destroyed and records of communications have been wiped clean or deleted from computers or assigned a code name to render their retrieval impossible.’
Although Trillium's lawsuit seeking C$2.25 billion in damages was thrown out of court, Trillium received a favorable ruling from the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2013 allowing the lawsuit to go forward based on evidence that the government's actions amounted to ‘malfeasance in public office.’
The revised suit reduced the claim for damages to C$500 million. As the court proceedings dragged on, the issue of missing documents came to light during a freedom-of-information (FOI) request issued by John Kourtoff, Trillium's president/CEO, who was informed that his FOI request filled with keywords, such as ‘offshore wind’ or ‘off-shore,’ did not yield a single document.
Fueled by the findings, Kourtoff began to dig some more. The smoking gun, Kourtoff claims, relates to a February 2011 email from Rosalyn Lawrence, assistant deputy minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources, directing her communications staff as follows: ‘When you Google 'offshore', 'Cansfield 2008 NR lifting offshore moratorium' pops up," she writes, followed by the directive, ‘Can we bury this please?’
Shortly thereafter, Trillium amended the lawsuit to includeÂ ‘deliberate destruction or elimination of incriminating evidence.’
Kourtoff claims the documents in question were part of a secretive culture that permeated the previous Dalton McGuinty government, which is now under investigation for deleting documents related to the now-infamous cancellation of two gas-fired power plants. Kourtoff asserts the documents relating to the offshore wind case were mysteriously swept away with 632,000 other documents relating to the gas plants. In fact, Kourtoff claims many of the same government officials were involved in both the gas and offshore wind cases.
When reached for comment, Jennifer Beaudry, spokesperson for Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy, would not comment on the ongoing litigation. In a statement, however, Beaudry writes the following:
‘We take our record-keeping obligations very seriously. We're committed to being open, accountable, and transparent,’ she writes. ‘Our government has implemented significant recordkeeping reforms including mandatory staff training and new legislation that implements key privacy commissioner recommendations that strengthen recordkeeping and freedom of information.’
For his part, Kourtoff vows to aggressively litigate the now four-year-old court case.
‘I will now be prosecuting in the court of law and the court of public opinion,’ he says. ‘This is going to make the gas plant (issue) look like kindergarten.’
The Ontario Superior Court is scheduled to hear Trillium's motion on June 18.