Company behind controversial float glass plant enlists ex-PC staffer to lobby province

By Sabrina Nanji January 18, 2021

Xinyi — the Chinese-based company behind a proposed float glass facility in Stratford — has hired ex-PC staffer Brayden Akers of Navigator to lobby the Ford government.

The controversial project has come under fire from environmental advocates who say it could quadruple Stratford’s GHG emissions, as well as the NDP, which has raised concerns about transparency during the process.

Last week, the local city council announced it was delaying decisions related to the proposed $400-million project, which was granted a Minister’s Zoning Order by Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark last July.

NDP Energy critic Peter Tabuns contends this is another worrying case of a PC-connected lobbyist trying to influence the Ford government on a project that could hurt the environment.

“We have someone who seems to be deeply involved in the conservative party who’s been hired by Xinyi to advance their interests in the Stratford area, and it just seems to us like again, a Tory insider being seen as key to actually getting anything done by any company,” Tabuns told Queen’s Park Today.

Last month, the NDP questioned why Xinyi wasn’t formally registered to lobby the province despite its project being the subject of an MZO.

“It seems this MZO was the culmination of nearly two years of backroom discussions between this government and Xinyi,” Environment critic Ian Arthur charged at the time. He said a consultant for the company had reportedly described “extensive discussions” with the province concerning the MZO.

In response, Parm Gill, parliamentary assistant to the housing minister, produced letters from the mayor of Stratford asking for the MZO.

But Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson recently told the CBC he regretted asking for the MZO after “seeing the challenge it has brought to the community.”

Xinyi’s facility was one of the commitments sparked by former premier Kathleen Wynne’s 2017 trade mission to China.

According to the registration, Xinyi is lobbying to “educate public office holders on the economic benefits of Xinyi’s proposed float glass facility in Stratford.” The company, which aims to manufacture glass for windshields, residential windows and electronics, has said the facility would bring more than 300 jobs to the city.

The glass-maker says it will “keep an open dialogue with local and provincial officials regarding the future of the project, and with the community at large.”

“While we are disappointed that Stratford City Council decided not to move forward at this time, we remain confident in the merits of this proposal and the economic benefits for Stratford and the broader region.”

The PCs have come under fire for their heavy-handed use of MZOs, which bypass public consultation and local planning mechanisms to spur development. The NDP has pointed out that 19 of 38 MZOs are tied to PC Party connections; the official Opposition also asked the integrity commissioner to investigate, but hasn’t heard back yet.