Hamilton has an opportunity to present itself as Canada's newest green city, open to healthy, sustainable economic development.
By Jason Leach
Published November 28, 2005
Vastly different viewpoints have clashed over the proposed pork processing plant planned in Hamilton by Maple Leaf foods.
The debate has only grown more intense with the announcement that Maple Leaf is withdrawing its offer to buy land in Glanbrook Industrial Park and build the plant here.
It may be difficult to assess this process properly, since Maple Leaf pulled out of the equation so early.
Sure, our Councillors went on a field trip to the new plant in Manitoba, but they also have scary reminders in our own backyard of what sort of trouble this type of facility can bring.
It's no accident that the zoning for this industrial park is open to nearly any type of industry or manufacturing facility except "rendering facilities or slaughterhouses".
Why did council put that clause into their zoning files many years ago?
It wasn't because they were anti-business or ignorant of new building technologies, but because there are very serious concerns all throughout North America in regards to the slaughterhouse/meatpacking industry.
Allow me to throw in a different angle that you likely won't read on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator or see on CH news.
Perhaps Hamilton is turning a corner. "What!?" you may ask. "How is rejecting industrial tax dollars turning a corner?"
Consider an article I wrote several months ago about the possibility of Hamilton becoming a green city.
We aren't there today and if Council ever got serious about projecting that image it would take years of work and smart marketing to spread the word that Hamilton is open for business, but not just any old stinky, polluting business.
Why do we always seem to get the rendering plants, incinerators, and factories while Toronto, Kitchener and Ottawa get the head offices, high tech firms and eventually the sustainable-based industries?
Why in the world would a city so full of smokestacks, dangerous, polluting trucks, and ugly warehouses have the mainstream media crying foul because local citizens demanded clear answers, facts, and guarantees before allowing another parade of stinky trucks full of pigs to rumble down our main streets?
Do they really want Hamilton to remain a hotbed of environmental disaster and low quality of life?
I'm no fan of NIMBYism, as anyone who has read Raise the Hammer on a regular basis will know. I am, however, a big fan of holding these big multinational firms accountable for what they do and what they build in my city.
I'm not one of these 'business at any cost' types. Yes, Hamilton needs new jobs and more business tax assessment. But we don't need more environmental lawbreakers and pollution-filled skies.
Every city that has become a new economy city has had their major turning point.
In Portland, Oregon, it was in the 1970s when they shunned plans for half a dozen new L.A. style freeways roaring through town and instead opted for light rail.
In Vancouver, BC, it was the bold move to fix an urban boundary, say no to superhighways, and market the heck out of their natural surroundings.
Vancouver and New York City are two of the most livable and vibrant cities in the world and both have repeatedly said "no" to Wal-Mart and other unsustainable, irresponsible businesses.
The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has already bemoaned what a sad day this is for Hamilton and how citizens obviously don't mind paying high taxes due to a lack of industry.
The reality is, Hamilton is staring a great marketing opportunity right in the face. This news will spread across the country just like Vancouver's continual denial of a Wal-Mart store has.
Instead of furthering the image of a dirty steeltown, we should tell Canada that we will gladly accept honest, open and clean manufacturing projects in our city.
We aren't a dumping ground, so if you want to stroll into town and build a plant with no public input or appropriate regulations put on your facility this isn't the city for you.
Councillor Brian McHattie is putting forth a motion to create a task force dedicated to attracting new, sustainable companies to Hamilton.
This motion should be accepted by council and become a launching point for a new national ad campaign designed to get people and businesses to rethink their image of our city.
We are a city of waterfalls, parks, the RBG, escarpment and waterways. Let's show Canada that we are proud of our surroundings and openly invite them to come and join in the rebirth of Hamilton - Canada's green city.
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