In defence of our community

Response to Chris Pidgeon, GSP and Xinyi

January 15, 2021

The decision of Stratford’s City Council to put the Xinyi Canada Glass Limited factory proposal on hold, is wise and courageous, while such critical priorities as the pandemic are addressed.

But even though they will be putting the glass factory debate on pause, we will not be. There is still much work to be done. Some of that work includes defending our community against ill-conceived activities by Xinyi and Chris Pidgeon, president of GSP, the company responsible for advancing Xinyi's interests in this area.

It is deeply troubling to learn that Mr. Pidgeon has recently framed the citizens of this community as elitist and prejudiced. Clearly, he has not done his homework. The voices of concern which have risen up against this project range from 1,700 farmers from the Perth Federation of Agriculture to First Nations communities and local business owners.

They also include voices of labour who are concerned with working conditions which may be similar to a glass plant profiled in the award-winning documentary American Factory. And then there are the environmental groups and average citizens who are simply concerned about the future of the city's air quality and water supply.

Can all these people be labelled elitist and prejudiced? We think not.

These unfounded accusations perhaps illustrate how desperate Xinyi and Mr. Pidgeon must be as they now attempt to undermine our city council’s decision and our broader community as they advance their own private commercial interests.

Given Xinyi and Mr. Pidgeon’s first failed attempt to situate this plant in Guelph-Eramosa, one would encourage their time to be better spent completing required reports on such concerns as toxic emissions. These reports have been requested, yet are still outstanding. They are essential in determining whether or not Xinyi is suitable for Stratford.

Or, perhaps their time would be best spent restoring the question-and-answer sections of their three ‘public information sessions’, which they willfully omitted from their website following the presentations.

Be assured this community will not fall for the disinformation Xinyi and Mr. Pidgeon seem to be resorting to at this late hour. We will not be bamboozled by their ‘Made in Stratford' campaign, their telemarketing schemes, their new website, or their newly-launched social media efforts. These are particularly serious at a time when our elected officials are attempting to focus their attention to other critical civic matters during a worldwide pandemic.

And it is egregious to be propagating slurs and disinformation which can only be seen as denigrating the democratic process – a process which Canadians still cherish.

Given this inflammatory behaviour, perhaps the City of Stratford will need to have second thoughts before inviting Mr. Pidgeon and the GSP Group to work with them on any future projects as they have in the past.

We’re aware of the long-standing practice around the world of attacking and framing average citizens – people who are simply defending their democracy, community or the environment – as racist, radical and unreasonable activists or special interest groups.   

In fact, we at Wise Communities believe the reverse to be true. We see companies outside our communities seeking to establish here, as the real special interest groups, who must prove that they belong in our cities, by subjecting themselves to a robust, accountable and transparent process of approval. The same scrutinizing process should be equally applied to any manufacturer wanting to locate in Stratford. 

When any company attempts to subvert the process through a lack of due diligence, obfuscation, propaganda campaigns, backroom deals or undemocratic instruments such as Ministerial Zoning Orders, they should expect a backlash.  They make it difficult for other companies who are prepared to play by the rules.

Stratford belongs to the people who live here and it is Xinyi which is the special interest group asking to be invited. Their deliberate disinformation exercises are extremely unfortunate and will only further convince citizens they deserve no place in our city.

Make no mistake, we remain devoted to the interests of all citizens in this community, now and in the future. And we will always value democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Loreena McKennitt, CM, OM, CD

Founder, Wise Communities