Since 2009, the Ontario Tire Stewardship has collected millions of dollars in mandatory tire recycling fees from car and truck drivers in Ontario. The private agency, appointed by the Ontario government, collects roughly $80 million a year in recycling fees to recycle 12 million scrap tires in Ontario.
Consumers currently pay an “eco fee” of $4.25 per tire with each tire purchase, which funds the stewardship’s operations. But some reports say that the agency isn’t just using the fees to pay for tire recycling; Consumer money is buying a lot of fancy meals and gallons of fine wine.
After obtaining credit card statements under the name of tire stewardship executive director Andrew Horsman and restaurant receipts, the Toronto Star has reported the stewardship’s executives and board members have spent thousands of dollars on fine dining, luxury hotels and wine tastings, as well as donations to the Liberal Party of Ontario.
The breakdown of the credit card charges sorted out by the Toronto Star, from card statements for 16 individual months over a five-year period and various restaurant receipts, include:
- $1,329.12 for a private dining room dinner that included entrees, a dozen slices of chocolate cake and 37 glasses of beer and wine at Toronto’s BeerBistro in October 2014. According to Stewardship chair Glenn Maidment (president of the Tire & Rubber Association of Canada), the agency was the host of a rotating annual dinner for the Canadian Alliance of Tire Recycling Agencies (CATRA) for 2014.
- $16,104.94 for 11 executives and board members to stay three nights at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa for an annual board meeting in June 2013. Plus, Horsman’s final bill at $1,766.97 and Maidment’s at $1,510.74. Maidment told the Star they toured a new recycling facility in eastern Ontario, making Ottawa a good location to stay.
- $1,235.23 for a board meeting in June 2015 at The Rosseau Muskoka resort, considered one of Canada’s most luxurious resorts, and a $573 sunset boat cruise on Lake Rosseau. Plus, a charge for a $332 Buick rental car and $111 at the LCBO.
- $2,023.55 for a vineyard tour at Trius Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and a five-course tasting menu, with 10 bottles of wine, for 10 of the agency’s directors and executives, June 2014.
- $646.36 for eight people at Bistro 990, including oysters, crème brûlée, wine, spirits and beer, February 2012.
- $2,200 hotel stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel for the 10 agency directors and executives attending the vineyard tour.
- $288 for a dinner for two at the Via Allegro in Etobicoke.
- $600 in wine at a dinner in Collingwood.
- Four individual Booster Juice drink ranging from $7.18 to $9.72 a piece.
- $3,200 donation to the Liberal Party’s 2015 Summer Golf Classic.
- $1,000 donation to the Liberal Party’s May 2014 campaign fundraising event.
- $500 credit card payment through a telephone donation service to the New Democratic Party in 2013.
- $2,000 for a Christmas dinner celebrated at Le Germain Hotel in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square. This dinner is also an annual event for the tire stewardship.
In response to the Star’s findings, Maidment stood by the Stewardship’s spending habits. “I am not uncomfortable with the nature of the meetings, the nature of the meals, or the nature of the accommodations,” Maidment told the newspaper, “All of those things, I think, were fair and reasonable.”
When asked about political donations, Maidment said it was to support “the democratic process.”
To back up the spending further, Horsman said in an emailed statement to the Star that spending on board functions are “0.1% of our overall administration costs.” However, a statement sent to the Star said the stewardship board is made up of “highly skilled volunteers” who are not paid. Bringing up the question, where is the rest of the 99.9% going if not to recycling practices?
The stewardship decreased its passenger and light truck stewardship fees from $5.43 per tire to $4.75 per tire and medium truck tire stewardship fees from $14.65 to $12.95 for tires supplied on or after May 1, 2015. Under the Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act, the 2015 tire stewardship fees were calculated using the actual quantities of new tires supplied in 2014 and the actual costs to collect, transport and recycle tires through the UTP during the year. But currently, the stewardship has a $49.6-million surplus.
The Toronto Star also published an opinion piece calling for the end of the stewardship, which, come election day, could very well be a reality.
The Waste Free Ontario Act that was introduced in November 2015 plans to have consumers pay a fee within the price of the product they purchase, which would, in turn, phase out the tire stewardship program; however, it would take two to four years for that to happen, the Ontario government said.