Call it a new kind of road rage. It’s the feeling one gets on finding out that part of the “eco fees” consumers are required to cough up on all new vehicle tires to pay for recycling end up funding dinners of elk tenderloin, wild boar chops and cabernet sauvignon for executives and board members of the Ontario Tire Stewardship.
Angry? It gets worse.
As the Toronto Star’s Moira Welsh reported over the weekend, the stewardship, which rakes in about $5 per passenger vehicle tire from consumers, spent $16,104 hosting 13 board and staff members at the tony Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa — when the stewardship is based in Etobicoke.
Another meeting was held at the luxurious Rosseau Muskoka resort and included a sunset boat cruise.
All of this was paid for on the consumer’s dime under a provincially mandated program.
If you don’t think it passes the smell test, you’ll be interested to know that the chairman of the Ontario Tire Stewardship, Glenn Maidment, insists it does. “All those things, I think, were fair and reasonable,” he says.
With that kind of oversight, it’s good news, then, that under legislation introduced last fall the province will eventually dissolve recycling stewardships and replace them with a system that will make manufacturers pay directly for recycling.
If the Waste Free Ontario Act introduced in November passes, the cost of recycling will still be passed onto consumers through what they pay for a product. But competing companies, striving to offer lower prices, will have fresh incentives to reduce packaging and take other measures to trim recycling costs that they will eventually have to pay for.
This is a much “greener” option for the province, never mind one in which consumers’ money aimed at recycling isn’t being dropped on martinis or iPads as Christmas presents for board members, as it was under the tire stewardship.
Just as disconcerting is the stewardship’s practice of using recycling fees for political donations, something experts say is unusual for a government-created body.
For example, the stewardship spent $3,200 on the Ontario Liberal party’s 2015 Summer Golf Classic in order to rub shoulders with Premier Kathleen Wynne and other members of her caucus. Maidment said that was “absolutely” justified so the stewardship’s leaders could meet Wynne on the course to explain changes related to the program’s $49.6-million surplus.
One would think a meeting could have been held at government offices to explain why the program has such a sizable surplus but is still charging consumers fees on every tire, from $4.25 for passenger tires to $1,311.24 to recycle a large off-road tire.
And that doesn’t explain why the Ontario Tire Stewardship donated $1,000 to another Liberal fundraising effort or $500 to the New Democratic Party.
Maidment says it was all done to support “the democratic process.” Who knew that was the mandate of the tire stewardship? We thought it was about simply recycling tires. And it doesn’t take a sunset cruise to figure out how to do that.
In the end, the stewardship should remember whose money it is spending before it books another la-di-da dinner at consumers’ expense, and it should remember what its mandate is: recycling tires.
In November the government said it will take two to four years to phase out the tire stewardship and similar bodies set up to recycle electronics and other goods. The sooner, the better.