Sandy Shaw, social justice advocate, appointed to port authority board

Sandy Shaw says she wants to try to balance all interests in her new role as city representative on the Port Authority Board and is ready for the pressure that will come with representing city interests at the port.
The proposed garbage plant would be on a site of leased land on Pier 15 on the Hamilton waterfront. The Hamilton Port Authority board will approve the lease. (Courtesy of Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.)

The city's new representative on the Hamilton Port Authority board pledges to balance everyone's interests, from the community to the economy, when she takes on the new role that puts her in the centre of the debate over the port's gasification plant proposal.

The city appointed Sandy Shaw, a social justice advocate and corporate strategist, on Wednesday night to serve as a director on the port authority. The authority oversees operation of Hamilton Harbour and its industrial lands around the waterfront.

Shaw will vote on the Port Fuels and Materials Services lease, which will likely be the city's only say in the possible energy-from-waste plant on Pier 15. She'll also handle Randle Reef and the potential purchase of U.S. Steel lands during her four-year term.

I'm hoping to bring a balance to this discussion.- Sandy Shaw

"I'm hoping to bring a balance to this discussion," she said of the Port Fuels issue.

"I know with my background in governance and corporate social responsibility, you really do need to balance all interests to come up with a good decision."

Without proper consideration, she said, the plant "could be a corporate risk as well."

The city interviewed more than a dozen candidates for the role. It's particularly concerned about the future gasification plant, which several councillors have vocally opposed.

City council initially thought it would have a chance to vote on whether to rezone the land for the Port Fuels project, but city staff have determined that it won't. Next, the province will rule on an environmental review of the project.

Sandy Shaw.

Shaw said she plans to be responsive to council, and is ready for the pressure.

"I understand what a huge job this is that I signed up for, and I understand what a big responsibility this is," she said. "I wouldn't have put my name forward if I didn't think I was up for it."

Coun. Matthew Green of Ward 3 opposes the gas plant and sits on the committee that chose Shaw.

He liked Shaw's experience on boards and thinks she'll "put Hamilton first." 

"I trust that Sandy will bring with her the best interests of the city and the neighbourhoods," he said.

Shaw is a corporate strategist who ran for Ward 1 councillor in October, coming second to Aidan Johnson. She once served as director of corporate social responsibility at FirstOntario Credit Union, and was the first female chair of its board. She will also be the sole female on the port authority board.

Shaw has also worked for the Social Planning and Research Council and the United Way. She also serves as a director of the Hamilton Arts Council.

'Conflicting mandates'

The port authority appointment is a highly political role on a board that hasn't always seen eye to eye with the city. While the port's interest is more economic, Coun. Sam Merulla says, the city is more concerned with emissions and image.

"We have conflicting mandates," he said recently. "They work in a silo, so their primary objective is to increase business activity on the port lands in essence to profit from that activity. Sometimes that activity doesn't fly or isn't consistent with what our city's objective is with respect to the revitalization and the renaissance and the refocusing of where we want to be not only today but tomorrow."

The board is comprised of federal, provincial and federal appointees, and four members representing the users of the harbour, including ArcelorMittal Dofasco.