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1986: CEO polluter gets jail time

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Toronto means business with businesses that pollute. Today, an Ontario Supreme Court judge slaps a one-year prison sentence on the millionaire CEO of a company repeatedly fined for flushing waste into city sewers. That gives Keith Alexander, head of Jetco Manufacturing Ltd., the dubious distinction of being the first CEO in Canada sent to the slammer for the environmental crimes of his company. But as we hear in this clip, his competitors support the ruling because paying fines shouldn't be just another way of doing business.
• A conviction for contempt of court put CEO Keith Alexander on track for a stint in the clink. His company had racked up more than $97,000 in fines for 69 convictions under Metro Toronto's anti-pollution bylaws. The North York plating company shut down within 24 hours of the ruling, and filed a notice of appeal immediately.

• In addition to the jail sentence, Justice John Montgomery fined the company $200,000 and sent a clear warning in his decision, writing "to this and other polluters: clean up or close up."

• On Jan. 20, 1987, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned both the prison sentence and the fine. The three-judge panel held that the hearing before Justice Montgomery had been procedurally unfair. Keith Alexander's lawyer Edward Greenspan hailed the decision and said Alexander had since put in place the best equipment he could. Greenspan told the Globe and Mail that Jetco had passed no waste into the sewer system since Justice Montgomery's ruling.

• Despite the appeal, lawyers for Metro Toronto reported that the threat of jail seemed to have gotten the attention of other CEOs, with companies finally ordering pollution abatement equipment that had been promised years earlier. Metro lawyer Harry Pock summed it up neatly, saying with "a few contempt orders the majority of corporate polluters may fast become the minority."
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 22, 1986
Guest(s): Bill DeAngelis, Rob Edwards, Colin Isaacs
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Eve Savory

Last updated: November 3, 2014

Page consulted on November 3, 2014

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