City’s statement lacked clarity
September 05, 2009
Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge’s assertion Thursday that: “a handful of protesters have held our city hostage and ignored democratic processes,” is a loaded political statement and it demands clarification.
It was offered in a public statement issued late Thursday by the City of Guelph. It was part of an announcement revealing the city’s decision to put off culvert construction work at the Hanlon Creek Business Park site until 2010 – a release that also offered commentary on that delay.
While there are many people who would share the hostage-taking point of view, it really must be tested – at least in light of the context by in which it was offered in the city’s release.
The release implies the protesters’ problematic action was their occupation of the site for weeks during July and August that saw the city lose a “critical” work period.
That was a political act. But was it hostage-taking and something that ignored the democratic process? That’s a live issue.
After all, the occupation led to court fights and court findings that revealed the city had ignored Ministry of Natural Resources counsel on the best recommended course for stewarding the site in terms of a concern raised under the Species at Risk Act. The City was obliged to alter its course because of an Aug. 13 Superior Court ruling. That ruling ordered the protesters off the land, but ordered the city off of it as well, until the natural resources minister asserted more control over how and whether the property could be developed in a way that didn’t threaten habitat of the threatened Jefferson salamander.
The city statement asserted that delaying work it wanted to do this summer until next year is “is the environmentally responsible and generally more prudent route.”
That’s at least in part because it would have struggled to have the work done this fall – while complying with a conditional work-order from by the ministry of natural resources.
The court found that not enough vigour was applied by the government stakeholders to test whether the work desired by the municipality might threaten the salamander’s habitat. That balances the city playing the “environmentally responsible” card on this file.
Certainly, criminal investigations launched this month related to the developments surrounding the business park are troubling, and seem undemocratic and ripe for denunciation by the mayor or others. But those matters weren’t itemized by Farbridge in her “hostage” salvo.
If it should have been, that should be clarified.