‘I did not know about the letter’

423

Enniskillen Mayor and Lambton County Warden was sent a letter about Cannim Canada’s plans to apply for a license to grow cannabis on Lasalle Line June 26, 2023.

But Kevin Marriott denies he ever saw it. And neither did members of council.

That letter – and dozens of emails and reports about the municipality’s bid to tighten regulations around the cannabis operations in the municipality specifically at the former High Park Farms greenhouse owned by Enniskillen Produce – was obtained by The Independent with a request through the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The letter came as the township was wrestling with the issue of how to mitigate the light and odour problems which had occurred at the greenhouse when Tilray’s High Park Farms produced cannabis from 2019 to 2021 when it closed.

Neighbours, primarily Cathy Brand and her son, Trevor, who own the homes and farm across the road from the greenhouse, pushed for the municipality to tighten up its bylaws regulating the industry after production stopped. Deputy Mayor Judy Krall and Councillor Mary Lynne McCallum asked for new regulations and in Jan. 2023, the township council considered the new rules at a public meeting.

It would take eight months for the council to deal with the cannabis bylaw and a request by Enniskillen Pepper to be exempt from the rules.

During the Sept. 18 meeting, with only four members of council present, they could not agree on whether to exempt the Lasalle Line property –owned by the Greydanus family – from the rules.
The Greydanus’ appealed the new rules and the decision – or lack there of – on the exemption to the Ontario Land Tribunal. It is still being considered.

In between the initial public meeting about the proposed cannabis bylaw and Sept. 18, the documents from the county and Enniskillen detail some of what was going on behind the scenes.

There were questions about whether, someone could apply for a license to grow cannabis there under the existing rules before a new bylaw was passed. Officials weren’t clear if that was possible, since a site plan agreement allowing Tilray to grow cannabis in 2019 had not been followed and had expired.

By June, representatives of Enniskillen Pepper sent a letter formally asking for the site plan agreement to be extended for a year – starting Oct. 1, 2022 when Tilray turned back the greenhouse.
The documents also show that there were questions whether Melanson would be able to approve the request on his own, since the province had changed the planning rules to allow municipal planning staff to make those decisions.

County’s Manager of Planning and Development Services, Ken Melanson met with the owners of the greenhouse in mid-June and “was surprised to learn that they were not sure what they wanted to do” and “were considering all options” including for non-cannabis use.

Then, on June 29, McTavish in an email to Melanson says “this arrived in the mail today. It would appear we need to have clarity regarding the next steps.” Attached to that email was the letter to Mayor Marriott.

In November, when The Independent found Cannim submitted an application for the federal license, Marriott said he didn’t know who Cannim was and was told the greenhouse was going to grown cucumbers.

The next week, a letter dated in August from Cannim Canada came to light. The company had already filed its paperwork to obtain a license to grow cannabis on Lasalle Line. By October, the federal government granted that license.

The information released thus far to The Independent from both the county and Enniskillen does not say whether or not Marriott had seen either of the Cannim letters which were both addressed to him.

The mayor, in a text message late Tuesday, said he had not.

“I said it before and I will say it again, I did not know about the letter until we went looking for confirmation that a (cannabis) license was given (by Health Canada to Cannim).
Marriott added the letter obtained through the Freedom of Information request “was NOT sent to an email address that I have access to. Period.” McTavish’s email references the document “arriving in the mail.”

Councillor Mary Lynne McCallum told The Independent Tuesday she thought it was unlikely McTavish, who opens the mail at the township office, would not have told Marriott. “He wouldn’t withhold anything from the mayor.”

McCallum says its “disappointing” the letter wasn’t shared with council. “I belong to a council who should make the decision as a group. That’s what we were elected to do.

Deputy Mayor Krall was “flabbergasted” the Cannim letter was sent in June to the mayor. Both

Councillors Wally Van Dun and Chad Burke said they had not seen the letter in June, nor since then. Burke was on a medical leave of absence at the time.

All members of council said it was difficult to tell if decisions would have been made differently if it had been given to councillors in June.

Meantime, Trevor Brand said it is “very disappointing” the letter was not shared with council. “The lack of disclosure certainly gives rise to bad appearances and the appearance of a lack of integrity. This information was highly relevant to council and would have better served council members in making informed decisions on a contentious issue for constituents.”

The Independent asked Marriott if McTavish failed to disclose the letter to him, whether he should be suspended from his position. “Duncan definitely should not face any type of consequences. Council probably would not have done anything different had we seen it. Whatever Health Canada was going to decide shouldn’t have any influence on council.”

McCallum says the incident may have an affect on council morale; “You’re supposed to be able to trust each other and make decisions for what’s best for the whole municipality and when things are withheld and you don’t have all the information then it kind of put strain on the work you do for the township.”