Summary of Xinyi Glass Factory Issue

Chapter 1 - December 15, 2020
 

At the core of this story is a proposed float glass factory by a Chinese company called Xinyi. It would be situated on the outskirts of the bucolic city of Stratford, Ontario, renowned for its famous Stratford Festival.

 

The scale of this plant is unlike anything Stratford’s manufacturing community has ever seen. There are many controversial aspects to this plan, including massive water consumption required to cool the glass, a 10-storey chimney which would emit gases for a long distance, and a possible live-in dormitory on site. It would entail the paving over of prime agricultural farmland and require the City of Stratford to agree to Xinyi’s proposed $5.8 million cost- sharing agreement. And then there are the thornier issues related to the decline of Canada -China relations.

 

Democracy

 

The other major issue inherent in this situation is the almost complete by-passing of citizen consultation in this complex and high-stakes project. This was achieved largely through the use of an MZO (Ministerial Zoning Order) which is an extreme and until recently a rare instrument issued at the discretion of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. A MZO does not require public consultation and can only be appealed at the pleasure of the minister.  The current Ontario government has issued more than 30 MZOs in Ontario in this pandemic year, more than in the previous 20 years combined. A careful examination of the nature of the requests for MZOs cast doubt on how many were relevant to the current COVID-19 situation.

 

Given that public consultation is essential to a well-designed democracy – and is in fact often the last check and balance – citizens see this absence of consultation as an egregiously undemocratic move by, not only by the Mayor and City Council, but also by the Province who are responsible for issuing the MZOs. And yet these are the very leaders with whom the people have placed their trust. This is why so many of the placards seen at our rallies bemoan the fact there can be no democracy without trust.

 

 

Duty to Consult – Indigenous People of Canada

 

In addition to all this, every community has a statutory, contractual and common law obligation that must be fulfilled, prior to taking actions or making decisions that may have consequences for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada as outlined in section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 – Duty to Consult.

 

These communities often conduct their own research, which could encompass archaeological digs, as well as address any water, watershed or air-related issues. It appears that the City of Stratford did not undertake this mandatory consultation with First Nations communities which live downstream from Stratford. This is viewed as another egregious oversight of consultation.

 

The beginnings of this initiative go back to a 2017 trade mission to China under former premier, Kathleen Wynne.

 

 

Chinese Aspect

 

It is important to make a distinction right at the onset. As the former solicitor for the City of Stratford Paul Parlee states in his Nov. 23, 2020 letter to City Council:

“I wish to start out by saying that we ought not to conflate the population and people of China with the Government of China or the Chinese communist party (CCP) and Government policies.” 

 

This is not a matter of racism, but one of national sovereignty. Mr. Parlee goes on to address various issues embedded in the situation:

 

“What is the connection between the Chinese company Xinyi –and the People’s Republic of China Government and the CCP?  The Chinese Government passed the National Intelligence Act which requires all Chinese organizations and companies to provide access, cooperation and support for Beijing’s intelligence – gathering activities. 

 

Moreover, the CCP has a Party committee which is involved in the management of China based and owned corporations with a view to ensuring that the activities of the corporation are consistent with and support the best interests of the Nation of China.” 

 

His letter goes on to state, “The Chinese Government is engaged in a large-scale systemic oppression of millions of people, in particular the Uyghurs, Tibetans and ethnic Muslim populations. 

 

The CCP has punished any opponents to its policies by hostage diplomacy, and has jailed for almost 2 years without any trial or hearing, (Canadians) Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. 

 

The House of Commons recently passed a motion requiring our Government to develop a plan to combat China’s surveillance and intimidation of Chinese Canadians in Canada and their families in China.

 

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warns that this Chinese state sponsored harassment in Canada in part, is part of a global campaign of intimidation and harassment which threatens Canada’s sovereignty and the safety of Canadians.”

 

And so, it is clear, that the tentacles of this issue reach far beyond the municipal level, into provincial, even federal jurisdiction. It is also clear that the situation continues to unfold with new information coming to light daily, sometimes hourly.

 

To this end, we are regularly updating the Wise Communities website with any new and relevant information, including the latest media coverage, information on MZOs, timelines, letters and events.

 

 

CURRENT STATUS

As of December 15, The City of Stratford, Special Council Meeting has been postponed to provide additional time to consider the details of a draft cost-sharing agreement with Xinyi.

We invite you to return frequently for up-to-date information on this critical issue and subscribe to email updates WiseCommunities.org.

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