As we take time for family and the Holidays, we know we are under the shadow of something that could permanently change our town.
I hope this will not come to pass, and I think we need to consider the root cause of this threat. It’s not a mayor with political aspirations, and it’s not a weak and easily bullied council. It’s not even a predatory and reckless provincial government who will sell anything to be open for business.
No. The real cause, the root cause of the whole thing, is the lack of a local news infrastructure. No one saw this coming. No one understood the issues. No one was prepared.
How else could there be two years of negotiations on an environmentally dirty deal while Council watched our youth organize and ultimately succeed in their demand for a municipal declaration of climate emergency? Only when people are able to avoid uncomfortable questions can such a thing happen.
This is not new. We saw it when the RNG treatment plant was approved, despite the protests of hundreds of angry citizens, many of whom, I might add, were treated very poorly by the City. Here’s how it works:
Keep them in the dark.
Tell them it’s a “done deal.”
Shame them for not acting earlier.
Fair and functioning municipal government requires an informed citizenry. One local newspaper, owned by an American media conglomerate and with a skeleton staff stretched to cover a wide variety of issues, cannot provide this.
Democracy really begins here at the local level. Local passivity fuels provincial rapacity, and the double-dealing works its way up to the top. We need to be vigilant, proactive, and we need to be informed.
But for now, it’s the holidays, and I hope everyone has a peaceful and restful time. I hope everyone is near someone they love. Let’s forget about it for just a little while. In New Year, let’s work to find out everything we can about this “done deal,” and make sure that our information is correct and well resourced. Then, let’s share what we know as widely as we can, because it looks like we’re going to have to be our own news infrastructure.
Stratfordians may be isolated in this time of Covid, but we’re sure hearing from each other. If you don’t know about the protests over the Ford Government’s imposition of a Minister’s Zoning Order on our city, you must have superhuman social distancing powers.
Everyone I know has been writing letters and calling their councillors. If you’d like to join in, there’s a list of addresses and telephone numbers at the end of this post. There are lots of other ways to show your opposition, as well.
There is a socially-distanced rally set for Monday, November 30, at noon. This rally will precede a meeting at 3:45 between Mayor Dan Mathieson and representatives of the group Get Concerned Stratford, Melissa Verspeeten and Mike Sullivan. Only 100 may attend this socially-distanced rally , and to attend you must get tickets through Eventbrite. If you can’t get a ticket, you can listen from your car. More information at the Eventbrite link.
Get Concerned Stratford is also organizing an online meeting for December 8 at 7 pm. There will be speakers, and a chance to learn more about the issues. Find more information here.
I’m hearing that some people are holding protests in front of City Hall, from noon – 2pm, Monday to Friday. If this group has an organizer, please let me know, and I will post your information here.
There may be a socially-distanced march coming as well, I’m not sure. If you know more, please pass it on to me, and I will also post it here.
Dan Mathieson – DMathieson@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5234
Bonnie Henderson – BHenderson@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5420
Brad Beatty – BBeatty@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5425
Cody Sebben – CSebben@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5426
Danielle Ingram – DIngram@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5424
Dave Gaffney – DGaffney@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5427
Graham Bunting – GBunting@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5363
Jo-Dee Burbach – JBurbach@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5428
Kathy Vassilakos – KVassilakos@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5423
Martin Ritsma – MRitsma@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5422
Tom Clifford – TClifford@stratford.ca (519) 271-0250, ext. 5421
City Clerk’s Office – email@example.com (519) 271-0250, ext. 237
Mailing addresses for all councillors:
City Hall, P.O. Box 818, Stratford, On N5A 6W1
City Office fax: 519-271-2783
We’ve been hearing about this project for a while. The 100-metre smokestack, the 1.6 million litre per day water usage, the dormitory for foreign workers, the possible contamination of our air and water, the destruction of farmland. But it seemed to have gone away, and anyway, everyone is just trying to keep their heads above water with Covid.
The Xinyi project is the the same one that was successfully run out of town by a citizens’ coalition in Guelph-Eramosa. It was a pretty fierce battle, with both city officials and the multinational company facing accusations of deceit and manipulation.
In Stratford, we didn’t see any of this. In fact, most of us didn’t see anything at all, until the announcement hit us with all the subtlety of a speeding 18-wheeler. No Council hearings, no consultation with citizens. Nothing. There may be nothing we can do about it either, except attend an information meeting set up by the company.
How did this happen?
Well, we should have been watching when Council acquired that land to the south of the city. Perth County was keen to expand their tax base, and participated in the transfer of lands. This was approved by all members of Council except Ingram, Vassilakos and Sebben. That’s what opened the door for the project.
But that’s not why we’re stuck with Xinyi Glass. There were no public hearings on approving zoning for the project, because the Ford government have imposed a Ministerial Zoning Order, a mechanism by which the provincial government can override municipalities. There is no need for consultation with this mechanism, and there is no possibility of an appeal.
We’re not the only community to get a Ford surprise. There are people all over the province waking up to unpleasant realities. The town of Stoufville is getting a subdivision of 1,967 homes. Two highways through environmentally sensitive land are being fast-tracked. Pickering is losing a 54-acre wetland, which was supposedly protected by the Greenbelt.
There was a conversation to be had about whether the citizens of Stratford wanted this plant. It would have been good to see for ourselves whether this project could damage our air or water supply or cause damage to farmland. I think people would want to know if there are possible labour issues and transportation problems, and whether there are health concerns. It would have been good to really investigate how many jobs will actually be coming to Stratford, and how long they will stay, given the speed with which automation is taking over the industry. It would also be good to find out beforehand what commitments the company will make for cleaning up toxins on the site when it closes fifteen to thirty years from now.
Looks like we’re not going to have that conversation.
Ontario is open for business. Unfortunately, it seems to be closed for democracy. If you are concerned about this, you should let your local councillors know.
Here is the latest statement from the City regarding the Xinyi project.
Below are the e-mail addresses of City Council:
Mayor Dan Mathieson: DMathieson@stratford.ca
Councillor Bonnie Henderson: BHenderson@stratford.ca
Councillor Brad Beatty: BBeatty@stratford.ca
Councillor Cody Sebben: CSebben@stratford.ca
Councillor Danielle Ingram: DIngram@stratford.ca
Councillor Dave Gaffney: DGaffney@stratford.ca
Councillor Graham Bunting: GBunting@stratford.ca
Councillor Jo-Dee Burbach: JBurbach@stratford.ca
Councillor Kathy Vassilakos: KVassilakos@stratford.ca
Councillor Martin Ritsma: MRitsma@stratford.ca
Councillor Tom Clifford: TClifford@stratford.ca