Change is the Political Normal

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THUNDER BAY – One of the most common themes in politics today is “Change”. It was the promise of change that swept U.S. President Obama into the White House. It was the desire for change that has seen the Labour Government in Britain loose so many seats. In Thunder Bay there is a growing desire for change that has continued since the 2008 federal election.

One constant is becoming increasingly apparent as Thunder Bay heads to the next civic election, there are many people in our city who are starting to express how they feel about what is happening in our region.

There are some in the community who are questioning the decisions that Council is making regarding some of the developments proposed in our city.

Some of the issues in Thunder Bay have the potential to make an impact in this October’s civic election. One is a proposed development in River Terrace.

The decision to strip away a buffer zone of trees and green space between the neighbourhood and the Thunder Bay District Health Sciences Centre has angered residents, and has engaged students from Lakehead University.

Marley Giunta states, “I’m back because we’re trying to stand up to City Council again with a unified voice from the like-minded and progressive community in Thunder Bay and we need your help! Here’s a brief synopsis of the issue if you haven’t already heard about it”

Giunta says, “Lakehead University and the River Terrace developers have agreed upon a deal wherein the developer will buy 13 acres of land between the hospital and the existing river terrace developments. To make a long story short, the university hid the issue from the community and the developer is buying the land on the condition that city amend a zoning by-law and waive the required 10 meter buffer zone between the proposed development and the ecologically sensitive corridor that exists within the plot of land.”

Guinta was one of the key players in the successful fight to keep fluoride out of Thunder Bay’s drinking water.

The energy of youth has melded with the people opposed to the development in River Terrace, for Councillors who have supported the proposed development. It likely means as many as 800 to 1000 votes which will be lost by the incumbents who have voted to support the measure.

The frustration of residents who are concerned that a needed sound buffer will be lost. For the students, the issue is that the property is used for research and for enjoyment.

“Besides the fact that it’s going to be an ecological disaster and an outfill that will continue to hollow out our city cores, this development is against the city’s own official plan and against provincial policy,” charges Giunta. “If we really need more houses and they have to be on this land, which is doubtful, the least the city could do is require the developer to play by rules and uphold the policy statements that already exist to protect our green spaces”.

Looking at the results of the last election, if some of the incumbent Councillors were to lose 1000 votes, their position on Council would not be secure.

When you add in the lost vote potential in Neebing, as residents vote against those who have supported a proposed wind farm, the election math starts to become increasingly worthy of note.

When you consider that there are people who are frustrated over the development of the Courthouse in downtown Fort William, and add in the people angry over the waterfront development, the recipe for change has lots of ingredients.

On May 10th, the ratification of the decision by Council is on the agenda. It will be interesting to see how Councillors decide.

The first vote was an 11-2 decision. That margin may suggest that it might be a done deal. However if some of the Councillors have been listening to voters, and to young people there is a solid chance for change.

If not, the bigger vote this October may see some members of City Council looking back at some of the decisions they made as the reasons they were defeated.

That of course is just my opinion, as always, your mileage may vary.

James Murray

News Director