Bartolucci should not review Stobie report: Steelworkers

Calling it a potential conflict of interest, Steelworkers Local 6500 has asked the premier to exclude Sudbury MPP and Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci from the province's review of the union's report on the deaths of two Vale workers.

The March 30 letter from the union's president, Rick Bertrand, to Premier Dalton McGuinty, said Bartolucci should not be involved because of a conflict of interest relating to his daughter's job at Vale.

Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram were killed at Vale's Stobie Mine June 8, 2011 after being buried by a run of muck from an ore pass.

In the wake of the report's release in late February, a report which blames the company for the incident, the union asked Ontario's deputy attorney general to investigate whether charges should be laid against Vale and its managers.

The union is also asking the province to launch a public inquiry into mine safety in Ontario, with regards to water management issues and the need for inspections by the presence of Ministry of Labour investigators in large mining operations.

“Shortly following the release of our report ... Rick Bartolucci issued a statement and/or made a public comment about our report, responding to media inquiries,” the March 30 letter from Bertrand to Premier Dalton McGuinty stated.

“While the Honourable Minister's comments were innocuous — he had just received the material — Mr. Bartolucci did suggest that he was or would be involved in some way in considering the USW report, the criminal investigation requested, the ongoing MOL investigation, etc., having regard to ministerial responsibilities.

“Under normal circumstances, where Vale was not the subject employer, we would take no issue. Fatalities at an Ontario mining facility are surely something within the concerns of the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, who is also the local MPP.

“However, where the employer is Vale Canada Limited, there are some other considerations affecting the incumbent minister that are cause for concern.”

The letter goes on to say that Bartolucci's daughter is Angie Robson, manager of corporate affairs for Vale's Ontario operations, who frequently appears as the company's “face” and “speaks” for the company.

“We are very concerned that the involvement of the Honourable Minister in any way in the ongoing investigation and considerations by your government, even making bland comments respecting the ongoing investigation that pertain to his daughter's employer, exposes the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

The letter asks that Bartolucci “have no involvement of any kind whatsoever in any consideration by any branch of the government of Ontario into and touching upon the June 8, 2011 events at Stobie Mine, including by your office and by the cabinet.”

Bartolucci's assistant, Adrian Kupusic, said in an email that the MPP would not be commenting on the issue.

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