What we know about the Xinyi glass plant

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

Crows and cats

In my last blog post I talked about finding employment for feral cats. I was kind of joking around, but I do think that we should be considering ALL living things when we think about how our community works.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 3.36.37 PMSo I was interested in this post, which describes a project in Amsterdam that trains crows to pick up and dispose of cigarette butts. At first reading, it sounded like a great idea — the crows learn fast, they pick up the trash, and they get paid a peanut. What’s not to like?

However, a commentator brought up a point I hadn’t thought about. John Marzluff, a professor of forest sciences at the University of Washington, argued that ” it is unethical to ask a wild animal to do our dirty work. Crows have other things to do, being highly social animals and intelligent, and it doesn’t seem right to me to enslave them to work for us. Why not just pay people a good wage to do the work?”

Now, you’re probably thinking that we are getting into Philosophy 101 territory when we start worrying about making wage slaves out of crows. But I don’t think this is a silly argument. It seems to me to be a highly moral argument that we should be applying to the wildlife that lives around us. Perhaps when we start seeing nature as valuable in itself, rather than something that has been set up for us to use, we will learn to inhabit our communities in a way that promotes a healthy environment for humans and animals.

So what’s the difference between crows and cats? Basically, cats aren’t part of the ecosystem. We domesticated them and brought them here. So I think we owe them a free lunch or two. Or maybe even a career in rodent removal.