Commentary

Driving Blind into an Uncertain Future

Climate Change has finally won worldwide consensus, yet Hamilton still digs away at a destructive environmental hole.

By Paul Glendenning
Published February 09, 2007

Local media coverage has helped renew the debate over whether or not the City of Hamilton should continue pursuing the Federal Government over alleged losses.

These losses were to have stemmed from the delay caused by the Ministry of the Environment attempting to protect the Red Hill Creek from being destroyed before a valid environmental assessment could be completed.

The City disagreed with having an assessment and took the Federal Government to court in order to avoid it. Having won using questionable legal logic, the City Council under former Mayor Larry Di Ianni decided to sue the Federal Government for "damages".

Newly elected Mayor Fred Eisenberger has said he intends to end the suit.

Lawsuit Supporters

This did not stop Hamilton's local newspaper from issuing an editorial supporting the suit, which was swiftly endorsed by a letter from the president of the Chamber of Commerce.

The reason claimed is the apparent loss of "millions" if the suit is dropped. This, of course, depends on either a win in court or a capitulation from the Federal government, which the Spectator Editorial Board appears to favour.

These same anti-valley voices have long pushed for the expressway and say little about the ever-rising debt accumulated in actual construction costs.

Nor is any concern shown toward the environmental damage. Climate Change has finally won worldwide consensus, yet Hamilton still digs away at a destructive environmental hole when the rest of the world is slowly startint to fill in such backward and regressive obstacles to sustainable progress.

Few voices were printed in the paper supporting the end to the lawsuit other than a letter by Friends of Red Hill Valley's Don McLean. McLean raised many valid points, including questioning the Editorial Board's suggestion that the current Conservative Government use a cash settlement to score political points with Hamilton citizens.

Robbing Peter to Pay Peter

Just as important was a question brought up by McLean that is rarely asked in this debate: Whose money will be used to pay the millions the city is seeking?

The answer - ours.

We are paying for the suit, we are paying for the defence, we are paying any penalties, we are paying for the judge to preside over the case, and we are paying for all the legal fees - just like we pay and pay for the expressway.

Whatever government body transfers the money into Municipal coffers will inevitably cost us in another program we pay for. Vital services are already hemmoraging from lack of support and/or clawbacks that we cannot afford further reductions.

It may be an expensive "band-aid", as referred to by the newspaper editorial, but it is worth it to stem the flow of money from our wallets.

Red Hill Politics

One letter writer admonished McLean for being a well-known opponent of the Expressway. This is a somewhat insincere attack as the Chamber of Commerce is a well-known advocate.

Is it not worse, given the power and influence they exert on our community, for the Chamber of Commerce to be telling politicians that we should sue ourselves to transfer money from one government account to another?

What about suing your own citizens? This, too, happened to seven Hamilton citizens with no results except greater divisiveness. Hamilton also set a new low for future underhanded politicians to slither under, should they be faced with public opposition.

Time to Move Forward

We need to quit bleeding money and move forward with real plans other than switching which shoulder will carry the burden.

We need sustainable plans like Vision 20/20, an award winning plan that already exists but is woefully underused and abused.

As it is, Hamilton has been driving blind.

Paul Glendenning is a Hamilton writer and activist.

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