Re: “Blatantly False.”
Wow! We must have struck a nerve.
“Outrageous and blatantly false” claims about the project, and “mistruths and innuendos” by the undersigned and Get Concerned Stratford. So say Xinyi and their former consultant in a letter to this paper. But a read of our letter and theirs only finds one error – sleeping facilities on the site. For the very first time, in a letter to the editor of the Beacon Herald, Xinyi advises the community that it will not be building the “Emergency Preparedness Centre dormitory.” We could not have known this.
The City of Stratford asked Xinyi directly how much greenhouse gas the plant would emit. Xinyi’s answer is on the city website. Nowhere in that answer does the amount of greenhouse gas emissions appear. They ducked the question.
We point out Chinese laws that, so far, Xinyi has refused to say anything about. Their letter erroneously claims that we are blaming a potential security risk “simply because it is a company with roots in Asia,” which was never said by us. But it is convenient to play the racist card when you don’t want to answer the questions.
The suggestion that our polling was misleading is completely without merit. Our data indicates that the 18-34 age group was actually more opposed to the Xinyi factory than those more senior.
“Xenophobic insinuations” about foreign workers was never part of our response, and it is insulting to suggest it was. We have been very, very careful NOT to go down that road, and had Xinyi reps attended our first public meeting, they would have heard respected activist Winnie Ng point out many of this project’s problems that have nothing to do with the race or national origin of temporary workers. As a labour activist, I have spent much of my adult life fighting against tendencies by corporations to use insecure temporary workers as a way to secure loyalty despite mistreatment. And I will continue to object to the use of temporary foreign workers as a way to keep wages down when there are labour shortages. Xinyi has still not indicated how long the “initial stage” will last when almost all of the workforce will not be local.
Finally, a word about smokestacks. Stratford has no tall buildings. The water towers are the tallest local edifices at 46 metres. And they are clearly visible from the entryways to the city, as the land around Stratford is so flat. A pair of 100-metre smokestacks with flashing aircraft warning lights will certainly be a visible defining feature of Stratford. And yes, Stratford quite proudly hosts many much smaller manufacturing facilities, which diversify and complement the economy of the Festival and ancillary tourist businesses. But I would argue with Xinyi’s assertion that manufacturing is equal to culture in defining Stratford’s identity. In the rest of Canada and, to a great extent, the world, Stratford is a word that evokes thoughts of a world-class Shakespearean festival, not an industrial city.
By accepting to host a pair of giant glass factories, Stratford risks losing the small-town charm that surrounds the Festival. It is a decision that should be taken after lengthy and vigorous public debate. Normally, that debate would happen in the course of a planning process, with statutory public meetings and decisions and studies based on the Provincial Planning Statement and Planning Act principles. Those discussions and principles were removed when Xinyi lobbied for, and the government acquiesced to, a Ministerial Zoning Order. Xinyi’s suggestion that Stratford does not have the expertise to conduct such a planning process is somewhat insulting, and belies a failure to understand the difference between planning and permitting. Yes, permits are required, needing scientific advice and guidance from the province. But deciding how to zone land is completely within the capabilities and expertise of the city, and provides for citizen input and debate. Perhaps in China it is accepted that the state makes such decisions for municipalities. That is not the norm here.
Mike Sullivan, Get Concerned Stratford