Welcome to Glasstown

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.
Surprise them.
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.

Oh Stratford…

Never doubt that a small group of pyjama-clad citizens with
really terrible haircuts can triumph over the forces of evil
in a time of quarantine; indeed, it’s the only thing that
appears to be working.

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 – clerks@stratford.ca (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

A happy surprise from Randy Pettapiece

It’s always heartwarming to get a message from someone you haven’t heard from in a very long time.

I’ve been asking people I know around Stratford what our MPP thinks of the Xinyi Glass situation. There seems to be little indication of this in the news coverage. Apparently, many citizens have been writing letters, and some have sent me copies of his responses. I thought you might be interested, too. It’s fairly easy to post them here, because all of Randy’s replies seem to be the same.

It was a bit naughty of Randy to send identical replies to all the carefully-written letters he received, but remember that he is a very busy man. I thought I would save him a little time by reprinting his letter here.

Randy does write a good letter, though.

I chuckled over his witticism on City Council: “The City of Stratford was very persistent in their goal of attracting the Xinyi facility to our area.” The subtle irony of this statement is evident to anyone who has called or written a city councillor. Randy is winking at us, and reminding us that although some councillors were in favour of the acquisition of new industrial land, all councillors were unaware that the provincial government would invoke a Ministers’ Zoning Order requiring the land to be zoned for ONLY a glass manufacturer.

I roared over Randy’s comments on using the Minister’s Zoning Order in Ontario: “In fact, every single MZO the government has issued concerning non-provincially owned land has been at the request of the local municipalities.” Now, that one actually brought tears to my eyes. I imagined all those Ontario citizens, dusting off their pitchforks and lighting their torches as they face off against the grinning developers. There go the wetlands. Here come the cookie-cutter subdivisions.

But best of all is Randy’s statement on his duty as an MPP: “it is my role to bring (the City’s) requests to the provincial government—just as I have done on behalf of others who oppose the project.” Is this just another of Randy’s clever jibes? As if the provincial government hasn’t been watching over this whole thing like the Eye of Sauron.

People have had a lot to say about Randy lately. I think that the term “breach of trust” is too strong to describe his performance for the town of Stratford. I think the word “puppet” is impolite, and should not be used in our discussions. I certainly hope people aren’t accusing him of underhandedness. I would never believe that. He looks like such a nice man.

If you would like to renew your relationship with Randy Pettapiece, I’ve put his contact information below. Say hello for me.

Constituency Office
55 Lorne Avenue East, Unit 2
Stratford, ON N5A 6S4
Phone: 519-272-0660
Toll free: 1-800-461-9701 Fax: 519-272-1064Email: randy.pettapiececo@pc.ola.org

RANDY PETTAPIECE’S LETTER TO CITIZENS OF STRATFORD:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the proposed float glass manufacturing plant by Xinyi Canada Glass Limited.

At the end of October, the City of Stratford’s economic development corporation, investStratford, announced this proposal for the south end of Stratford. Since their announcement, many have written to me to express concerns.

Such concerns have included the limited time dedicated to public consultation; the potential environmental impacts, especially with respect to water usage; the need to maintain area farmland for agricultural production; the need for strong labour standards; the need to prioritize employment for local residents.

I understand these concerns. People are raising valid questions, and it is up to Xinyi Canada and supporters of the project to answer them to the community’s satisfaction. We should expect nothing less.

Since I first learned about this proposal, one thing has been clear: The City of Stratford, the County of Perth, and the Township of Perth South have been very strongly in favour of it. Understandably, they pointed to the significant tax revenues that such a project would produce. They also pointed to the prospect of creating hundreds of new local jobs and the resulting economic activity.

The City of Stratford was very persistent in their goal of attracting the Xinyi facility to our area. Given the company’s decision to locate in Stratford, their efforts have paid off.

Some have asked me about the role of the provincial government in this matter.

Through the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the province has long had the power to issue a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO). In effect, this allows the government to advance requests for rezoning in order to facilitate development.

In this case, the minister did grant an MZO—at the strong and repeated requests of the City of Stratford, supported by the County of Perth and the Township of Perth South.

In fact, every single MZO the government has issued concerning non-provincially owned land has been at the request of the local municipalities.

I respect the role of our democratically elected municipal councils. I will not second-guess their priorities. However, it is my role to bring their requests to the provincial government—just as I have done on behalf of others who oppose the project.

If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to write to your mayor and councillor to express your views on this project. I am hopeful that everyone will be heard and their concerns will be addressed.

Beginnings

Just as I came into the Stratford Goodwill last week, I saw a young woman buying a bridal dress. She was a pretty woman, with a nice smile, and seemed delighted to have found the right dress. It made me feel just extraordinarily happy to see a young person who understands what’s important in life. No hype—not the label, not the fancy store, just a nice dress to mark the beginning of a life together. I hope they have a great party. I hope she recycles the dress.

Screen Shot 2019-12-18 at 12.12.14 PMWe are afraid of the future these days. At the mildest level, this shows up as a general crankiness, and a tendency to call people names on Facebook. As we become more aware, our fears manifest as anxiety and grief. At the most extreme level, there’s a large chunk of people actively planning for the collapse of society.

But here’s this young woman, cheerfully and resolutely buying her wedding dress. At Goodwill. Some people just won’t give up on life.

Here’s what I think:

Whatever your state of life, if you’re forming a couple, it’s important to have a ceremony. And a party. Because that’s the way we create social bonds, that’s how we cement our communities. It’s only through community that we’re going to find the will to get ourselves out of the mess we’re in. Be resolute. Be cheerful. Be together.

And keep building your community. If you live in Stratford, there’s a group that regularly meets to talk about climate change, ecological loss, and ways of dealing with it. The name of the group is Climate Momentum, and they have regular gatherings at The Parlour, downtown. It’s not exactly a party, but you can get a beer or a nice glass of wine, and the people are interesting. The next meeting will be January 26, a Saturday, from 2:30 – 4:30 pm (The Parlour is at 101 Wellington Street, Stratford).

Mazel tov.

What Maude Barlow Told Me

On Wednesday I drove into Guelph for the Maude Barlow talk, and it was certainly worth the trip. There were over 300 people there, and all of them were energized: they hooted, they stomped, and they sang encouraging songs. I felt like a real little country mouse in the middle of all that enthusiasm.

The reason they were all so happy is that Guelph just had a major battle over corporate control of local water this spring. With help from the Council of Canadians, citizens of Guelph Eramosa Township opposed a floating glass plant that would have used a minimum of 560 million litres of water each year from the aquifer. And in spite of the fact that citizens didn’t have adequate notice of the plan, in spite of the fact that, as they were told, it was already a “done deal,” they fought it and won.

Now, maybe you had heard about this, but I hadn’t, and it made me think about how important it is that we share the good news as well as the bad. Bad news can make people angry; unfortunately, most of the time it makes us want to curl up with a carton of Rocky Road ice cream until it all goes away. But it doesn’t go away. It won’t go away unless somebody does something about it.

Maude Barlow is the living definition of the term “small but mighty.” When she got up to talk, she did speak of many sad things that are happening to the Canadian environment. She talked about what we have lost, but she also talked about how to win. She said that the way you know you’re winning is that things look downright impossible. People are throwing bricks at you, and the road ahead looks too steep to climb. All you can do is just keep walking, she said, and that’s when you win.

One of the things I took away from this meeting was a new understanding of the word “aquifer.” If you’re like me, you probably learned in school that water is limitless: you use it up, or it goes through the rivers and oceans, it evaporates, and more rains down. The excess goes underground, to the aquifer, and it will never run out. As we’re now learning every day in the news, that’s wrong. Not only can an aquifer be drained (look at India for the most terrifying example) it can also be contaminated, as it has been in many places, due to fracking and other polluting activities. Politicians often try to scare us, telling is that if we want jobs we have to consent to this pollution. Don’t believe it.

I got to talk to Maude after the meeting. I wanted to thank her for all her hard work. She’s been at this for over thirty years, and that’s a long time to be walking up a road that’s too steep to climb. I was surprised when she thanked me instead. She said that it is sometimes very tempting to say that you’ve had enough, that you’d rather just sit and watch the grandchildren, but when you learn how much you’ve made a difference in people’s lives, you just can’t stop.

I guess that’s a good lesson about saying thank you.

If you want to learn more about Maude Barlow and Canada’s water crisis, I recommend her books. They are a plain-spoken explanation of the causes of the Canadian water crisis, and a roadmap on how to deal with it. Here are the two most recent:

Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis

In Boiling Point, bestselling author and activist Maude Barlow lays bare the issues facing Canada’s water reserves, including long-outdated water laws, unmapped and unprotected groundwater reserves, agricultural pollution, industrial-waste dumping, boil-water advisories, and the effects of deforestation and climate change

Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever

The final book in Maude Barlow’s Blue trilogy, Blue Future is a powerful, penetrating, and timely look at the global water crisis — and what we can do to prevent it.

Stratford Trashion Week, April 15 – 21

Jessika Guy, Owner of The Green Hair Spa launches the first annual week-long celebration of eco-friendly fashion events to celebrate Earth Week. It was a natural, although ambitious extension of Guy’s existing business model. Her salon in Downtown Stratford, promotes an environmentally friendly approach to beauty and haircare, Stratford Trashion Week brings together her commitment to the environment with her love of vintage and recycled fashion helping her draw attention to and celebrate Earth Week in a cool and creative way.

Stratford Trashion Week will feature design competitions, environmental awareness, industry experts, workshops and of course, fashion shows all of which focus on promoting the idea of eco-fashion as an alternative to the fast, throwaway fashion that has become the mainstay of the fashion industry.

Highlights of Stratford Trashion Week include:

Revival House (70 Brunswick)

 

Sunday, April 15, 2018 – Opening Night Party / Thrift and Vintage Fashion Show, Revival House (70 Brunswick Street) at 6:30. Featuring fashions from local thrift and vintage shops, art auction, expert talk on fast fashion, and retro dance party. Dress to impress in your vintage best. Tickets $50 or 4/$150 are also available through the website. Fundraiser for Canadian Freshwater Alliance.

 

 

Factory 163 (163 King)

 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 – Trashion Show featuring wearable creations from throw away items, Perth Pop-Up Eco Market, aerial performance artist, and presentation by Bee City Canada. No trash talking, just trash walking. Free event, 6:30 at Factory 163.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 – Beeswax wrap workshop with Upcycle Lifestyle, registration is required: email stratfordtrashionweek@gmail.com. Event starts 6:30 at Factory163 (163 King Street) Tickets $35, also available through the website.

Friday, April 20, 2018 – Community Clothing Swap and expert talk about sustainability in your wardrobe from Daniela Siggia (VP of Textile Waste Diversion) Free event, 6:30 at Factory163 (163 King Street)

Gallery Stratford (54 Romeo Street)


Saturday, April 21, 2018
– Re-Fashion Show and Design Competition. 12 designers transform new fashion from used clothing ready for the runway. Expert judges Kelly McIntosh (actor), Dana Ruby Martin (co-founder of Revival by Martin and co.), Carrie Wreford (co-owner of Bradhaws Canada), William Riquelme (photographer for Lada Magazine) & Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks (creator of Peggy Sue Collections). Gallery Stratford (54 Romeo Street) at 6:30. Tickets are $75, a fundraiser for Gallery Stratford. They can also be purchased through the website.

 

Stratford Trashion Week welcomes 2017 Canadian Sustainable Fashion award winner, Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks from Peggy Sue Collections as one of the Re-Fashion Show judges and guest speaker to discuss what makes her ‘farm-to- fashion’ approach to fashion design different and why it’s so important today. Daniela Siggia VP of Textile Waste Diversion, York Region says “I celebrate the organizers of Stratford Trashion Week, for dedicating an entire week to this subject!”

Raising awareness about the effects of fast fashion on the planet is just the beginning. Stratford Trashion Week is designed to encourage change in the way we look at our wardrobe AND give people the tools they need to succeed at making sustainable fashion choices for a healthier world. Contact Jessika Guy at 519-305-0941 for further information on this event.

Other Contacts:

stratfordtrashionweek@gmail.com
www.stratfordtrashionweek.ca
Facebook: @stratfordtrashionweek
Instagram: @stratfordtrashionweek
Twitter: @strattrashion

 

Keep Your Recycling Clean

Chief Security Officer and Assistant Recycling Inspector

There was interesting link posted in the Stratford Free Press Facebook Group today, leading to a CBC article about the dangers of sloppy recycling. In case you didn’t read it, here are the high points:

Problems:

  • contamination dramatically increases recycling costs
  • even a few spoonfuls of peanut butter or a gob of yogurt left in a jar can contaminate a tonne of paper
  • even a coffee stain can make a sheet of paper unrecyclable
  • many places can’t recycle black plastic
  • dirtiest cities are Toronto and Edmonton, where contamination rates can be up to 25%

 

Solutions:

  •  better sorting regulations. Clean cities like St. John’s and Vancouver sell their recyclables at a higher price, because they have stricter rules
  • change the list of accepted items
  • upgrade plants
  • educate residents

This all sounds good to me, but I notice the article didn’t say much about other ways of dealing with what we discard. Maybe we should tell our provincial and municipal representatives that we support them in their efforts to reduce waste. Maybe we should look for alternatives to disposables. And maybe we should stop meekly accepting purchases wrapped in toxic, non-recyclable plastic that cuts your fingers when you try to open them.

Or maybe we should do what these people did:

Coffee with a conscience

Every time I start getting depressed about the awful state of our environment, and the total jackass stupidity that contributes to it, something wonderful happens to me. It’s true.

2
https://www.facebook.com/CarlaColesArtist/

Yesterday I wandered into Revel for a coffee. Often when I go into coffee shops I start nagging the cashier about whether they use plastic straws and cups. I try to do it in a nice way, but I do find that many shops look really relieved when I leave. So imagine my surprise when the cashier brightly replied that Revel uses biodegradable straws. If you use one of their straws in a coffee, it will melt (I didn’t try this). In fact, all their disposables are biodegradable.

Not only that, but they source their disposables from a Canadian company, Green Shift in Toronto. It’s a great company. Certification from all kinds of environmental associations, including the European Union Eco-Label, no animal testing, and fair trade products. I like this company’s holistic attitude to sourcing products, too:

Green Shift™ carefully sources and investigates products, factoring in the entire lifecycle of the product and the companies behind the products, because not only is green washing in individual products rampant, a key aspect that many people sadly overlook is that it is not just what you buy but where you buy it that counts. In other words, while a product itself may be “green” one should always consider the companies they are supporting in each purchase and whether helping that company to thrive will help or hinder environmental progress.

 

Greenwashing is a pet peeve of mine. It’s so good to find a company that understands that you can’t just look at the surface of things. You have to really dig, and use your brain. If you’re interested in ordering from Green Shift, you can have a look at their catalogue here: http://greenshift.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Green-Shift-Catalogue-2017v3.pdf

 

I’m so glad I wandered in yesterday. Now I’m wondering how many other coffee shops in town are getting the message about disposables. I’ll have to check them out. Maybe you could, too. But if you’re getting a little discouraged about pollution, drop by Revel for a coffee and give them a cheery wave.

There are microfibres in your beer

You need more than “the touch test” to find ethical clothing

This week I attended a workshop on microfibre pollution hosted by The Bus Store Bookshop at  LifeSpin in London. The workshop was designed by the Synthetic Collective, a group from Western University, and presented by Kristy Robertson, who teaches there. I hadn’t planned to do another post on clothing for a while, as there are other subjects I want to cover. I’m really encouraged, though, by the amount of interest there is in this topic. It just keeps coming up, wherever I turn.

When I first got the notice I thought, “A workshop? Really? Can’t they just e-mail me the info?” But I made the trip anyway, and I’m glad I did, because you really did need to be there, to touch and see the fabrics. We started off by trying to find an article of clothing we could be sure wasn’t harmful to the environment. Predictably, we failed. The most common reason was the presence of microfibres, tiny synthetic particles found in most clothing that we buy. When clothing is washed, these particles are shed, and they are everywhere; in water, in the air, in the food chain, and yes, even in Black Swan Porter (my personal favourite). You can’t see them, but they’re there.

The bad news:

  • Damage to environment: Microplastics are everywhere, making up 85% of manmade debris found on shorelines worldwide (I’m pretty sure you know this already). Microfibres are the smallest microplastic particles, and ride on the ocean, just under the surface, as floating goo.
  • Remediation is difficult: Most sewage treatment plants can capture microplastics, but microfibres are too small. There are filters that can be added to a washload, but again, microfibres are too small for them.
  • Harm for humans: We have no idea what this means for our health. The studies just aren’t there. This means that we can’t legislate against them.

The good news:

  • Front-loading washers shed fewer microfibres
  • Wool, silk and flax are best clothing choices, but watch out for dyes. Support knowledgeable clothing stores.
  • Used clothing has already had many of the microfibres washed out, so if you must buy a synthetic, try a consignment store.

Future actions:

  • Advocate for wastewater treatment reform
  • Support regulation for washing machine retrofits
  • Alter our washing machine use. No unnecessary washing, seek out better filters.
  • Look for biodegradables when shopping (not just clothing: linens, curtains, mops, cleaning accessories)

All in all, it was a great trip, and I’m really impressed with the Synthetic Collective. They have this great idea of putting their materials together in a slideshow that will be made available for community groups to use on their own. Anybody interested in doing one here in Stratford?

 

 

My New Year’s Resolution

Twenty seven pelicans saved from impalement

Sometimes the most effective change starts really small.

Today I went through the entire house and collected all the pens that no longer work. Twenty seven of them, in fact. These have been accumulating because of my fear that any pen I throw out will eventually wind up skewering some innocent pelican somewhere. So I have been keeping them in odd places around the house. This has been going on too long, and I am worried about becoming one of those hoarder ladies you read about in the paper.

I took all the dry Sharpies, and promised myself never to buy another one. I took all those nice pens I got from the bank. I took all the pens I get in the mail from charities (shame on you, charities!). I even took that really cool chunky silver pen I got at a conference years ago, and had been keeping in case I could figure out how to refill it. I put them all in a nice recyclable can, and when the can is full I will put them in a paper bag, write “recycle” on it, and take it to Staples on Ontario Street, which has an excellent writing tools recycling programme.

I cannot tell you how much better I feel after this 15-minute activity. I don’t know if it’s my feng shui, my chi, or my karma, but it feels very good.

I did keep the mechanical pencils, though. I know it’s unrealistic, but I do believe that someday, somehow, I will learn how to make them work.

Happy New Year, everybody!