(as published in the June 2021 edition of the Village Voice)
Since my first column in May, the response from my fellow Zorra residents has been overwhelmingly supportive. People are ordering signs, donating money, and the chorus on Facebook grows larger each day. Most of you were like me – you thought with the new law in place, that local municipalities and neighbouring municipalities within 3.5km of proposed landfills had the approval rights, Walker’s plan to build their 17 million tonne dump in Zorra was dead.
But then I found out Zorra Council had passed a motion to change those approval rights – so that it would have sole approval of Walker’s plan, and I got upset. Why would you want to make it easier for Walker to get their plan approved? Then I learned that Walker and the entire waste management industry are pushing all municipalities in Ontario to pass the same motion and get the government to change the law.
It wasn’t until after I brought this to everyone’s attention that Mayor Ryan admitted that our council knew all along that Walker was promoting this change, but that it was alright that Zorra wanted the changes as well because “they were for different reasons”. Well, those reasons are exactly the same reasons that Walker is using to get the law changed. Mayor Ryan, first you don’t tell us that the motion council passed is being promoted by Walker – and then you think residents will support your hair-splitting rationale. We’re smarter than that.
This issue to too important for the citizens of Zorra to not know every detail. Town council has never even held an open house about it. Nor have they ever asked Walker to hold one. Mayor Ryan keeps saying that the Environmental Assessment is driven by Walker, not the Town, and then he goes and passes a motion that supports Walker’s business strategy. Something is not right.
People also need to remember that Carmeuse has more than one quarry in Zorra. If Walker gets approval to put 17 million tonnes of industrial waste in one of them, you have to think they will convince Carmeuse that when its finished mining limestone, Walker will expand its operations and fill up another one. Zorra could become the landfill capital of Ontario. And all of it, right beside the Upper Thames River.
It’s up to us now. All of us who live and work in Zorra. We must let the Mayor and Council know we don’t want this dump in our town. If we keep quiet, Council might just pass another motion in favour of Walker, like it did this January.
Mayor Ryan, here’s what we want. Since you and your councillors are so focused on making sure Zorra has the sole right to approval this landfill, then you better make sure any decisions you make about it reflect what Zorra residents really want. We can’t have three of you getting together to pass an approval vote for Zorra just because you and you alone think it’s a good idea.
We want you to make a public statement that any decision that Zorra Council makes on Walker’s landfill plan will be based on the will of the people of Zorra, not the Walker’s sales pitch.
Once the pandemic passes, we want you to hold public open houses and mailout information to every home and business. Make everyone aware of what’s proposed and how it could affect them. Ask all of us if this 17 million tonne dump filled with industrial waste is something we really want in our community.
To my fellow residents, here’s what we have to do.
We have the get to word out … to each other. We need signs everywhere, and emails and telephone calls to all the councillors. If you can donate money to the campaign, that would be a great help. Signs, websites, mailings … they all cost money. We have a GoFundMe page (https://gofund.me/7385bd30) that makes it simple. The good news is people are already starting to donate.
My fear is if we keep quiet, Zorra Council will do something like this again – without telling us. Passing this Walker-promoted motion and not telling us where it truly came from, and why. That was a lie of omission and a breach of trust.
Mayor Ryan and Council are always talking about transparency. But on this, the most important issue in our community – an issue that will affect us for decades to come – their answers have been “talk to Walker, it’s not our proposal” or “we’ll follow the science”.
Well, it’s time for the Mayor and Council to follow the will of the people.