Andrew Cash - Intervention re: GE-Hitachi 1025 Lansdowne
November 15, 2013
Submission from Andrew Cash, Member of Parliament for Davenport
Last October, I, like many Davenport residents, was shocked to learn that a nuclear fuel
processing facility was operating in our community and had been for the last 50 years.
And since the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada facility at 1025 Lansdowne Ave at
Dupont Ave. is regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, an arms-length
body of the federal government, many residents came to me to share their concerns.
The facility is in the heart of one of the fastest growing residential neighbourhoods in
Toronto with condo towers being built presently right across the road from the plant.
However it isn't just new comers that didn't know or still don't know about this plant. I
have spoken directly to residents who have lived in the immediate vicinity of the plant for
forty years who had never heard about the plant or recall receiving any information ---in
forty years! As recently as six days ago I spoke to several long time residents within a
block of the facility who did not know what it manufactured.
Since last October, my provincial colleague MPP Jonah Schein and I have worked hard
to get answers and to respond to the concerns of our constituents so that they have all the
information they need to feel safe in their own homes. Residents have continued to ask us
'how could this kind of facility operate in a residential area for fifty years and none of us
When we began enquiring last fall about the facility, GE-Hitachi informed my office that
signs outside its building reading only “GE-Hitachi” were not required to have
explanatory signage. The company also told me that before November 2012, it had not
sent out flyers since 2007. Prior to its licence renewal hearings in 2010, the only process
of public information that occurred was the placing of small notices in the Toronto Star,
L’Express de Toronto, and on the Windspeaker’s page of the Aboriginal Multi-Media
Society Web site. No effort was made to communicate with residents in the languages
that are most common in the neighbourhoods surrounding the plant, namely Portuguese,
Italian, or Spanish, or in the media outlets most read by the community. I was advised
that at one time the company did carry on a dialogue with its direct neighbours through a
community consultation group, but admitted that the group was disbanded a number of
But wasn't it a condition of GE-Hitachi's licence that it was to engage in a fulsome public
information program? Community members began to wonder how the facility's licence
could be renewed if it had failed to fulfil the key function of its public information
program— informing the public. Indeed, during a public meeting hosted by myself and
MPP Jonah Schein last December about the facility, CNSC officials indicated that that
they had not been satisfied with the degree to which GE-Hitachi Canada had complied
with the licensing requirements pertaining to its Public Information Program. However,
this didn't stop the CNSC from rejecting our request that it reopen the licence on this
basis so that the public, and especially the residents living closest to the facility could
have an opportunity for meaningful input.
What the CNSC did do was issue new regulations around Public Information and
Disclosure. These state that:
The public information program and its disclosure protocol shall be commensurate with
the public’s perception of risk and the level of public interest in the licensed activities,
which may be influenced by the complexity of the nuclear facility’s life cycle and
activities, and the risks to public health and safety and the environment perceived to be
associated with the facility and activities… The public information program shall provide
open and transparent means and access for the public to obtain desired operational,
environmental and safety information about the licensed facility or activities.
Since the community made the initial discovery of the operations of this plant, there has
indeed been a high level of public interest in the GE-Hitachi facility at 1025 Lansdowne
Ave. As mentioned above, our community requested reopening the operating licence of
the facility, soil testing from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and further public
meetings and consultation.
However, we have seen very little improvement towards the goal of informing local
residents. GE-Hitachi’s own Public Information and Disclosure Program says that
content related to public information and disclosure must “provide an overview of the
plant including address, activities”; “provide a statement on environmental, health, and
safety programs”; “describe uranium and radiation”; and several other things. However
the company does provide a disclaimer that “all information products may not contain all
program content elements.” Examples from their own works show that they regularly
omit these important elements. On a feedback flyer (page 18 of the GE Hitachi Public
Information and Disclosure Program from May 16, 2013, see attached), there is no
description of the facilities operations other than people ‘work at the facility in high-tech
and administrative positions.’ There is no mention of uranium pellets and the company’s
name is shortened to ‘GE Hitachi Canada’ as opposed to ‘GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
Canada.’ How are people to provide feedback on the company and the facility if there is
no mention of what the company or facility does? Again, in its flyer for a November 19,
2013 open house (see attached), there is no indication of what the facility does or why
residents of the community should be interested in coming to the community open house.
Furthermore, their main sign at the corner of Lansdowne Ave and Brandon Ave continues
to only say ‘GE Hitachi’. No wonder for decades residents thought the company made air
conditioners or refrigerators.
Listed among the ‘primary target audiences’ in GE-Hitachi’s public information program
are local elected representatives. However, the information that has been shared with me
does not meet high standards of public information sharing, transparency and disclosure.
The first time my office had contact with the facility was in October 2012, over a year
after I was elected. Prior to that the facility had never contacted my office. We did have
several interactions with GE-Hitachi after news reports exposed the operations of the
facility in our community. However, since then, the majority of my office’s
correspondence with GE-Hitachi has been regarding initiatives that MPP Jonah Schein
and I have advocated for, including the Ontario Ministry of the Environment soil testing
and this CNSC meeting being held in Toronto. We did receive one two-page electronic
newsletter in April and notification of the November 19, 2013 open house, but overall,
the interaction has been disappointing and does not quell my concerns about the
effectiveness of the facility's public information program.
What is the purpose of a clause in GE Hitachi's licence to operate that requires it to
engage in a comprehensive public information program if it is not enforced? It is up to
the CNSC to ensure that the rules are followed and that residents are safe. However from
pipeline leaks in Kalamazoo to tainted meat to the Lac Megantic disaster people are no
longer willing to accept carte blanche that 'everything is safe'. Our community,
neighbours of the GE-Hitachi facility at 1025 Lansdowne Ave need to be aware of the
risks so they can decide whether or not they want to accept them. After 50 years of
silence our community deserves at least that.
Member of Parliament for Davenport