Orica I

I’ve never met a man that I didn’t try to learn to like, but there are times when pity, and feeling sorry for, push the learning process to the very limit, as the agenda for life seems to be bypassing this person completely.

It happened to me on the night of April 14 in The Grand River Room of The Grand Valley and District Community Centre. Through the magic of email and Graham Bell’s long ago invention, because of my environmental concerns, more than a half-dozen concerned citizens repeatedly requested that I come to the meeting. My first comment to this request was, “I have no wheels,” to which a designated driver was immediately promised.

The hall was packed, and those standing, shoulder to shoulder, horseshoed the hall. I would guesstimate the attendance far beyond 200. Obviously, with reason, all were concerned. The application of Orica was to permit the continued operation of the existing temporary explosive storage and distribution facility and to further develop the site.  As water runs downhill, and this area, being the highest point in all of Southern Ontario, the extensively tiled fields and drainage ditches of the area have no choice but to drain in the direction of Luther Marsh, a magnificent major water retention area, as well as to other tributaries of the headwaters of the Grand River.

I’d never met John Oosterhoft, the mayor, by acclamation, of East Luther Grand Valley, nor did the opportunity to shake his hand present itself. Perhaps this is for the best, because he raised my redheaded hackles with the first three sentences that flowed from his obviously petty, power-tripping, peacock-among-penguin attitude when he called the meeting to order.

Accenting, strongly, that the long list of delegates (ten) will each be limited to ten minutes, no more, ultimately growling, “I don’t want to be here all night.” Then he went on to reiterate, with a sarcastic, downgrading voice, that two of the delegates, Adrian Halucha and George Lifchits (16-year-old high school students) were ganging together, so he’d be moving them up to the head of the list to get on with their “pony show.”

Pony show? Right then and there, the hair on the back of my neck prickled. No longer having my Little Lady sitting beside me with restraining hand on my knee taxed my ability to remain on my butt right to the very limits. An apology, right then and there, should have been demanded. Why should, could, or would, anyone treat teenagers, before an audience, or not so, in such a belligerent, indignant manner without first listening to what they had to offer?

What they had to offer was an excellent, well-put-together video, cut to 20 minutes to fit the double time slot, that told the whole story. Highlighting the beauty of the Luther Marsh, they showed photos of the resident wildlife, muskrat, and beaver, including white egrets, blue heron, ducks, and geese, to say nothing of the hoards of migratory birds that stop to rest and feed there while passing through each spring and fall. And I personally know that both the osprey and the bald eagle nested and raised young there last year. On the other hand, they showed the uncontrollable dust and debris and destruction that a huge explosion, whether controlled or accident-waiting-to-happen, is capable of doing. There was no better way to, directly or collectively, clarify the thoughts, real or imaginary, of so many in the audience.

 If logistics were possible of working in favour of teenagers running for mayor, I can assure you, should an election be called now, or any time in the future, stirred by the mingled emotions of anger throughout the crowd, there would be one existing mayor by acclamation placed out on his butt, flat on the grass, in front of the election hall, before half the ballots were counted. And rightly so should be – in a land governed, not by scare tactics, not by browbeating, not by suspicions of monetary undercurrents, but by open, transparent democracy.

Take care, ’cause we care.




Barrie Hopkins