Windsor

CPP might be 'buying into a lawsuit' through Pattern Energy acquisition, says lawyer

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) might be "buying into a lawsuit" by acquiring U.S.-based renewable energy company Pattern Energy, according to a lawyer representing Chatham-Kent residents whose lawsuit against the Ontario government — as well as three wind turbine companies, including Pattern Energy — was dismissed earlier this year.

Ontario government, three wind turbine companies including Pattern Energy, were sued earlier this year

Eric Gillespie is a Toronto-based lawyer representing Chatham-Kent residents whose lawsuit against the Ontario government — as well as three wind turbine companies, including Pattern Energy — was dismissed earlier this year. 2:11

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) might be "buying into a lawsuit" by acquiring U.S.-based renewable energy company Pattern Energy, according to a lawyer representing Chatham-Kent residents whose lawsuit against the Ontario government — as well as three wind turbine companies, including Pattern Energy — was dismissed earlier this year.

Pattern Energy announced in early November that it had entered into a $6.1 billion agreement with the CPPIB that would see the federal pension plan's investment arm acquire the renewable energy company. 

Earlier this year, the Ontario Court of Justice determined there were "reasonable and probable grounds" to believe environmental offences had been committed in Chatham-Kent by the province's Minister of the Environment, as well as ministry staff, Engie Canada, Pattern Energy and Samsung Renewable Energy. 

Residents' primary concerns stemmed from the effects of wind turbine construction on local well water quality.

The charges were ultimately withdrawn by a Blenheim justice in late October. 

Though the withdrawn charges and the CPPIB's pending acquisition of Pattern Energy aren't related, lawyer Eric Gillespie said he's continuing to hold "active discussions with residents … about next steps," even though it's not clear yet what those next steps will be. 

"There are obvious avenues that remain available," said Gillespie. "One is to consider laying further charges, because new information has become available since the time the original charge was laid."

Toronto-based lawyer Eric Gillespie represents Chatham-Kent residents who unsuccessfully tried to sue the Ontario government — as well as three wind turbine companies — earlier this year. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Gillespie added that there are other options available through the civil court system, rather than through the province's criminal courts. 

Additionally, Gillespie said there may be options for recourse "depending on exactly how the agreement is structured and who will actually be controlling things."

"As well, it is possible that the Charter will come into play," he said.

"The Charter of Rights and Freedoms … does not apply to private corporations, but now there's government ownership. So putting it simply, what the pension play may have done is just bought itself a very large lawsuit."

Listen to Eric Gillespie speak with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre:

The Canada Pension Plan may soon own Pattern Energy, one of the companies behind some controversial wind turbine projects in Chatham-Kent. We spoke to lawyer Eric Gillespie. 7:03

Aside from potential legal troubles, Gillespie said he was confused as to why the CPPIB had chosen to invest in a renewable energy company

CBC News reached out to the CPPIB for comment. A spokesperson said the organization will decline to comment "noting the deal hasn't closed."

With files from Afternoon Drive, CBC Windsor News at 6

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