Gordon McGuinty, the man who wants to dump Toronto's garbage in the Adams Mine, is suing the Ontario government for $301-million, claiming it has failed to complete a sale of land that the Progressive Conservative government quietly signed last February.
The land adjacent to the abandoned mine is owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and is essential for the proposal to use the massive open pit as a waste-disposal site.
The project has been promoted for 14 years by the North Bay businessman, who vows he will go ahead with the landfill project despite the various hurdles put in his way by governments and local residents.
"We've done everything absolutely the way every statute and piece of legislation indicates. We're going to move ahead, subject to all of our little roadblocks, and build that landfill," Mr. McGuinty said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
His statement of claim calls on the courts to force the government to give his consortium, now known as Adams Mine Rail Haul, the land it thought it had bought and to award damages.
Mr. McGuinty, who is a distant relative of Premier Dalton McGuinty, said part of his problems with the government arose after he had restructured his ownership group.
"I have a limited partnership now with 10 players in different companies involved and one of those happened to be the Cortellucci group." Mario Cortellucci has long been involved in fundraising for the Progressive Conservatives. His name has been linked to several land deals with the province that have been questioned in the legislature.
The dump project and the sale of the land have been vigorously opposed for more than a decade by area residents who fear residue flowing out of a dump would pollute their land and water supplies.
Terry Graves, of the anti-dump group Public Concern Timiskaming, said, "The lawsuit is sending a message to the government that if you are going to stop this project or slow down this project then you are going to suffer some consequences and I'm going to gain some compensation."
The dump is also opposed by the Timiskaming First Nation, which complains it has been excluded from the approvals process despite established government procedures and the band's claim to much of the land.
Mr. McGuinty's statement of claim, dated Oct. 9, seeks $250-million to cover expenses incurred to date in the attempt to turn the abandoned mine into a waste-disposal site as well as the loss of future profits.
The claim also seeks another $50-million in damages, which it argues would have been the commercial value of biogas produced from the proposed dump, located 600 kilometres north of Toronto near Kirkland Lake.
And it asks for punitive damages of $1-million.
Adams Mine Rail Haul filed the claim on Oct. 10 with the Ontario Superior Court.
According to the statement of claim, the Ministry of Natural Resources offered to sell land essential to the project to Adams Mine Rail Haul on Feb. 17.
Gerry Ouellette, the Conservative MPP for Oshawa who was minister of Natural Resources at the time, said the negotiations were conducted by the ministry's local offices and he was not involved.
"It's the local district offices that do the negotiations, not the ministry, not the minister."
On April 11, Adams Mine Rail Haul accepted the offer and paid for the land with a certified cheque of $51,360.
The statement adds, "The defendant [the Ontario government]confirmed on May 6, 2003, that all documents required to transfer good title in the lands to the plaintiff [Adams Mine Rail Haul]had been received and were satisfactory." The government promised it "would register the necessary documentation to complete the transaction."
That transfer has not been made, according to the statement of claim.
"[Adams Mine Rail Haul]contends that [the government's]failure to transfer the lands resulted from political interference in June of 2003 from opposition members of the legislature and that [the government]was influenced by such interference in not completing the transaction," it says.
The opposition's attack on the possible sale of the land last spring was led by David Ramsay, Liberal MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane, which includes the Adams Mine and the areas that fear toxic waste from a dump would pollute land and water supplies.
Mr. Ramsay was re-elected on Oct. 2 -- his sixth consecutive election victory --on a platform that promised the Adams Mine would never be used as a dump.
He is now Minister of Natural Resources in the Liberal cabinet. He refused to comment on the future of the proposal to turn it into a dump yesterday, citing the fact that the matter is now before the courts. On Wednesday, he promised he would resign from cabinet if it became a dump.
Mr. McGuinty blamed Mr. Ramsay and other politicians for blocking a project that he argues is essential to help cope with Ontario's garbage.
"We've got three million tons [of garbage]going to Michigan annually. We can only take about a million tons a year [at Adams Mine] We're doing this government and everybody a favour by putting our money up and building a landfill," he said.