By Gordon Sanderson
Did somebody poison the contents of a water jug at an Ontario
labor relations board hearing at the Point Edward Holiday Inn
or was it simply "salted" as a prank without evil intent?
That's the mystery which police were called
to investigate Wednesday after a witness complained that a drink
he poured from a pitcher had burned his mouth.
"It was salty and burned my tongue and
lips," said Donato Marinaro, a friend and supporter of unionist
Joe Portiss of Sarnia whose complaints about discriminatory hiring
hall practices by Sarnia Local 1089 Laborers International Union
are subject of the inquiry.
Marinaro attached significance to the fact
the pitcher of bad tasting water was on a hearing table normally
occupied by Portiss and Portiss's lawyer, Brian Iler, and appeared
to be the only one in the room with contents that looked cloudy.
The incident happened during a mid-day recess
when the labor board tribunal had not returned and only a handful
of spectators were present.
A second man who started to take a drink
from the same jug also said it tasted salty. Jack Restivo of
Sarnia said he "spat it out" after being warned by Marinaro
not to drink.
Point Edward police were notified by Iler
and Const. Bill Baines took the pitcher and contents away for
analysis. "I can't cross out the possibility it was tampered
with during the lunch hour."
Later, Baines said a test on the water sample
had showed it contain "a mild form of acid"
However, Joseph Blair, chief technologist
at Sarnia General Hospital, denied telling police this. He said
he simply performed a basic litmus test and advised police to
send the water to the forensic sciences laboratory in Toronto
The water jug episode provided a bizarre
twist to the seventh day of the hearing into the laborers union
activities and brought a warning from the board chairman Michel
Picher that he will order the hearing room locked during adjournments
when the inquiry resumes March 22.
"It has come to our attention that during
the lunch break an incident occurred in which some substance was
put into a water jug." He reminded the hearing he had already
issued a warning he might close it to the public if such untoward
incidents continued but added "such stupidity would not appear
to warrant it at this point."