Emterra fines for trash pickup delays not being disclosed
Privacy lawyer says councillors have the right to know about fines
City of Winnipeg administrators have come under fire for not disclosing how much Emterra has been penalized for being late with garbage pickup this past fall.
Some councillors say they have a right to know details of the fines and penalties levied against Emterra, which had a rough start when it took over garbage and recycling collection services citywide in October.
For weeks, the city's 311 telephone hotline was flooded with complaints by residents about garbage pickup delays.
Mayor Sam Katz has said Emterra would be fined for the pickup problems, but councillors say they have since learned the amount of those fines is confidential.
"City councillors should know what the terms of the contract are, and what fines have been billed for, and whether some fines have been billed for, and where the administration is with the collection of those," Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck told CBC News on Thursday.
Winnipeg privacy lawyer Brian Bowman said he was shocked to hear councillors would not have access to information about Emterra's penalties.
"It wouldn't amount to a disclosure of information to a third party. They are the city and they're the ones accountable to taxpayers," Bowman said.
"It would be very difficult to understand why they couldn't justify having a legitimate need to know in terms of some of the details about the contract and how it's being administered.
"A lot of Winnipeggers are asking themselves, reading the reports and seeing stories like this, they are asking themselves, 'Who's running the ship here? Who has access to that information? Who's making the decisions?'"
Havixbeck said the city is heading into budget consultations, so it would be important to know how much in fines has been paid.
"How do we make decisions that are before us about the budget when there is a potential receivable before us?" she said.
A city spokesperson told CBC News that lawyers are in the process of reviewing how much information can be provided to councillors.
Emterra holds the contract to pick up garbage, recycling and yard waste as part of a revamped collection system that launched across the city on Oct. 1.
But the company fell behind schedule soon after the new system began, resulting in many residents complaining that their garbage pickup had been delayed by days.