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Transport Canada says Port Authority is independent on Ojibway Shores issue

Windsor Port Authority is making its own decisions and doing its own negotiating on the subject of Ojibway Shores, according to the federal transport minister.

a pile of rocks: Chunks of concrete and rebar on property for sale near Ojibway Shores. Photographed July 22, 2021. (C) Provided by Windsor Star Chunks of concrete and rebar on property for sale near Ojibway Shores.

Photographed July 22, 2021.

Transport Canada’s Omar Alghabra, who was in Windsor on Thursday, reiterated that the Port Authority “works independently from government.” “The law — the legislation that is approved by Parliament — sets boundaries as how the Port Authority needs to govern itself,” Alghabra told media. The ongoing issue of protecting Ojibway Shores has heated up in recent weeks with Parks Canada expressing support for the idea of all areas of the Ojibway Prairie Complex becoming a National Urban Park.

Ojibway Shores — 33 acres of environmentally significant green space — currently belongs to Windsor Port Authority, which has butted heads for years with the City of Windsor and Windsor West NPP MP Brian Masse on the subject of protecting the land from industrial use. While Canada’s Port Authorities are not Crown corporations — they are officially considered “other government business enterprises” — Masse has disputed the notion they are beyond the oversight of Transport Canada. Earlier this week, Transport Canada announced reappointments of four members of the Windsor Port Authority’s board of directors, including the chairperson.

Omar Alghabra wearing a suit and tie: Omar Alghabra, Canada's transport minister, speaking in Windsor on July 22, 2021. (C) Dan Janisse Omar Alghabra, Canada’s transport minister, speaking in Windsor on July 22, 2021.

“I am requesting that you (Alghabra) take action to protect Ojibway Shores and the surrounding property to ensure the ecological integrity of the future Ojibway National Urban Park,” Masse wrote in a public letter to the transport minister.

Masse said he finds it “disturbing” that the Windsor Port Authority is demanding “millions of dollars for Ojibway Shores.” “Canadians already own this property, as WPA is a public entity under Transport Canada’s jurisdiction and oversight,” Masse wrote to Alghabra. The genesis of the Ojibway National Urban Park concept was a campaign by Masse, which he presented to Windsor city council in June.

On Wednesday, Masse held a news conference to raise alarm that a large vacant property immediately north of Ojibway Shores has been put on the real estate market, with the seller advertising the land’s industrial potential.

a pile of rocks: Chunks of concrete and rebar on property for sale near Ojibway Shores. Photographed July 22, 2021. (C) Provided by Windsor Star Chunks of concrete and rebar on property for sale near Ojibway Shores.

Photographed July 22, 2021.

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But when Masse was mentioned to Alghabra in Windsor on Thursday, the transport minister instead highlighted Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk — a Liberal Party of Canada representative, who took federal office in 2019. “I want to give credit to Irek,” Alghabra said. “He has been a proponent and a champion for this issue, and I am confident we’re going to see a positive outcome for the ongoing discussion.” “If it’s going to happen, I want to say that Irek is the person who has been championing this…

It’s great to have someone from Windsor at the table, in government.” “As I said, I will let the Port Authority work with the City of Windsor to fully negotiate this. But I am personally committed to seeing it happen.”

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Potential sale of land adjacent to #OjibwayShores threatens the enviro and future #NationalUrbanPark.

Any industrial use/development would damage Ojibway Shores.

This land needs to be acquired by @ParksCanada tested, remediated if necessary & included as part of the ONUP #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/ZAFtmitBzl

— Brian Masse (@BrianMasseMP) July 21, 2021