A Brief Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted August 24rd, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – For those of you who have not yet heard, the much-anticipated August 23rd Public Meeting over a controversial plan to urbanize a tract of natural heritage known as the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario was over before it began.
After all of the weeks of foreplay over this most important opportunity for members of the public to comment on the strength and weaknesses of a provincially required Environmental Impact Statement for this development plan, there was no Public Meeting at all.
In the minutes before the Public Meeting was set to begin on this past Tuesday night in August, enough Niagara Falls city councillors had the good sense to pass a motion tabled by Councillor Kim Craitor to hold the Public Meeting in a larger venue at a later date – this while residents packed the council chambers until there wasn’t a square foot left for anyone to stand, and others were forced to remain outside, chanting ‘Let us in’ while watching the sorry proceedings on a video screen.
It is hard to believe that those who scheduled this meeting did not know that, generally speaking, scheduling a meeting like this in late August when many people are off somewhere, trying to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, usually means that hardly anyone shows up or is even around to read or hear about the meeting in the media.
If they don’t know that, then what else don’t they know? And I don’t think they are quite that stupid.
So I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that scheduling a meeting of this importance on an issue that has so obviously raised concerns among a great many residents for the dog days of summer – and holding it in council chambers that are hardly that spacious at the tail end of a council agenda already crammed with other issues and delegations – was a deliberate attempt to get this public input session out of the way when few people are around.
In other words, it is just one more expression of the contempt too many of our municipal leaders have shown for the better part of a year over the billion-dollar plan by a Chinese-government sponsored corporation to build what it is marketing as a “Paradise” complex of residential and commercial units on the Thundering Waters Forest site.
But the beauty of it all is that all the apparent efforts by the supporters of this development to wear concerned citizens down has only resulted in more and more residents joining the campaign to save this natural area from the buzz saws and bulldozers.
The turnout of people – young and old, and everyone in between, including members of Niagara’s indigenous community – was huge this August 23rd. So much so that the Niagara Falls council had no choice but to support the motion to reschedule the meeting for a later date in a larger venue.
On top of that, the council also agreed that they should schedule a walking tour of the Thundering Waters Forest to check out the richness of the biodiversity it supports for themselves.
It is well past time our municipal leaders give up on the idea that in one way or another they can run down the clock until people get tired and go home. It is not going to happen on this issue!
In fact, the determination of residents in this region to stop this development from ever happening at this location has been strengthening by the month.
And every time municipal councillors try to frustrate delegations with insults and bully tactics, or by making them wait through one closed session of council after another before giving them a chance to speak – as was witnessed at regional council this past spring – the determination to keep the Thundering Waters site natural grows stronger.
“This issue is about our children and our grandchildren … Enough is enough,” said St. Catharines, Niagara resident Jeff Strikefoot, to a large group of fellow residents in the courtyard of the Niagara Falls City Hall after the council backed away from holding the public meeting in its cramped chambers this August 23rd meeting.
“What is our aim,” he continued. “I can answer in one word – Victory! Without victory (for preserving what is left of Niagara’s green spaces) there is no survival.)
Stay tune for much more on this issue on Niagara At Large in the days and weeks ahead.
For a related story on the mess that was supposed to be a Public Meeting on the Thundering Waters Forest proposal click on – http://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/ .
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