Winnipeg's trash contractor facing $400K in fines

The company contracted to pick up Winnipeg's residential trash and recycling is facing upwards of $400,000 in fines for poor service — in November alone.
The company that has Winnipeg's garbage and recycling collection contract is facing upwards of $400,000 in fines for poor service in the month of November alone. 1:55

The company contracted to pick up Winnipeg's residential trash and recycling is facing upwards of $400,000 in fines for poor service — in November alone.

St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, who chairs the city's infrastructure and public works committee, said he has finally received some rough numbers about the fines from city administration after requesting them for weeks.

Vandal said the estimated fine for the month ranges from $350,000 to $400,000, though "it could be higher, but it also could be lower. It's an approximate number."

Emterra started collecting most of the city's waste in October and there have been thousands of complaints of missed pickups.

The city had said Emterra would start facing stiff fines if it didn't catch up on missed service and eliminate the delays.

Earlier this month, city administrators came under fire for not disclosing how much the company had been penalized, claiming the information was confidential.

Prevented by law from releasing details

Councillors said they have a right to know those details, particularly if it brings in revenue that can impact budget consultations.

Michael Jack, the City of Winnipeg's head of legal services, said Manitoba's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) prevents city officials from disclosing the amount of the fines Emterra received.

Under the privacy rules, the city could not disclose such information without Emterra's permission, Jack said.

"An inquiry was made [as to] whether or not Emterra would consent to disclosure of that information, and they did not. So there was really no alternative," he said.

"There wasn't some discretion being exercised to be reluctant in providing information to councillors," he added. "The public service determined early on that in fact, they couldn't, pursuant to their duties under FIPPA."

Administrators were only able to release general information about the fines to Vandal after he submitted a formal request on behalf of the public works committee, Jack said.

Vandal said city administration needs to be more open when it comes to giving city councillors the numbers they request.

"We're going to be further discussing this at Friday's public works meeting," he said.

Councillors react

At least one other councillor believes Emterra is getting off easy with the fines it is facing.

Although service has improved, Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie says he doubts the company has been punished enough to get the message.

"I'm not sure that the fines were being carried out in a way that would have inspired Emterra to do a better job. Again, they are still missing garbage [but] it's nowhere near as bad as it was," he said.

Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith said he wants more information, and he wants to see the city's contract with Emterra.

"I think the contract should be made available to all councillors," he said.

"I'd like to know when did it start. When did they start assessing the penalties?"

Smith said Emterra officials have agreed to meet with him on Tuesday.