Warren Winkler has been tasked with what many across the city may have dismissed as a lost cause — mediating the issues between RendezVous LeBreton’s major players, whose behind-the-scenes disputes have been publicly laid bare in a series of legal filings.
Just who is Winkler, and what hope does he have in helping Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, Trinity Development founder John Ruddy and GBA president Graham Bird resolve their differences before the National Capital Commission’s Jan. 19 deadline, when their contract would dissolve?
According to Arbitration Place, an arbitration centre of which Winkler is a member, he’s known as “Canada’s mediator.”
In his time as a judge, including six years as Chief Justice of Ontario, Winkler presided over such infamous cases as Walkerton’s tainted water tragedy and the Bre-X mining scandal. He judicially mediated major disputes involving Air Canada’s restructuring and Ontario Hydro and Power workers, to name a few.
Locally, he also ruled on a legal effort to stop the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park and mediated Nortel’s bankruptcy fallout.
He hasn’t always been successful, of course: an attempt at mediation between the Ontario government and the province’s doctors in 2014 failed, and in the case of Nortel, Winkler had to conclude after three rounds of mediation that there was no sign of a resolution in sight.
But he has been feted with board appointments, honorary degrees and honours from across the country, including the Order of Canada in 2016.
Discussing life after retiring from the bench, Winkler told the Financial Post in 2014: “I don’t want to sit on the back porch and fall asleep every day. That’s not what I am all about.”
Since that time, Winkler has been a mediator and arbitrator at Arbitration Place, which has locations in Toronto and Ottawa’s World Exchange Plaza. Its roster includes such legal heavy hitters as former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin.
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