Gorillas in our midst

Speech by Campbell Stuart at the Annual General Meeting of the Green Coalition, May 6, 2010


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Green Coalition and distinguished guests: good evening.

This talk is entitled “Gorillas in our Midst” and is intended to be first and foremost a call to the awareness of our true strength; and second to the deployment of that strength. It will reveal some facts about the scandal that is the plan to develop Meadowbrook. And it will conclude with this open question: “Who really is the 800-pound gorilla today?”

First: the awareness of our strength. It is my conviction, as a community activist and politician, that there is a fundamental shift happening in the hearts and minds of ordinary people everywhere. I believe that we are crossing a divide right now in the politics of environmental change. It is partly a generational shift in values, and partly fear. Environmental change is a fact and everyone knows it. The only open question is just how bad we will allow our children’s future to be.  We know, in our heart of hearts, that someday our children will ask the equivalent of “What did you do during the war Daddy?”

I am certain that everyone in this room, and beyond, has begun seriously to worry that all the pious talk never will stop, that action never will actually be taken, and that “business as usual”  will always have its way with our oceans, our forests, our air and our planet.

That we will continue to see 5,000 barrels a day blowing out of a borehole a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. That we will continue to see the oceans turning to Alka-Seltzer. That, unbelievably, we will continue to permit the tar sands projects to exist.

Hold onto that fear.  It just needs a bit of work.

I had a transformative experience last March 24, when I heard David Suzuki speak in Montreal. What struck me – no, what inspired me – was just how pissed off he was. I thought to myself: How appropriate that is! How rational that is!  This is no time for politeness.  I thought to myself: I can really work with someone like that!

So, I think, we should all be getting a bit angrier. Not crazy angry. Angry in a reasonable sort of way. Just angry enough to overcome our isolation and unite in a common cause. A Canadian sort of angry.

The fact is, this coalescence is already happening, and in working to conserve Meadowbrook, I have seen this first hand. The environmental movement has, in fact, become a mass movement.  It’s just waiting for its leaders to recognize it for what it is. This is our biggest challenge. How do we, after all these years, shift gears so that we can deploy this strength? How do we change our own attitudes and learn to speak with the assurance of a majority?

It is a truism that all revolutions are borne of shifting values, shifts that go on quietly for a long time until they seem, suddenly, to come out of nowhere.  In fact they just accumulate until they reach a tipping point when everyone realizes their common values and common strength.  I repeat: it is the main challenge of the environmental movement to learn how to speak with the assurance of the majority that it actually is.

Now, about Meadowbrook.  I won’t go on about the reasons for conserving it.  If you need convincing, please go to our blog and read the oceans of logic, history, recommendations, promises broken, and faith kept – for 20 years and more – by individuals and organizations determined to see the right thing done.  No, now I will speak as a lawyer.

Before coming here tonight, I filed a complaint with the Quebec Lobbyists Commissioner against the Vice-President of the developer Groupe Pacific Inc., Suzanne Deschamps, and its consultant Jean-François Thibault, for lobbying all three levels of government without registering as required under the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act.  The complaint against Ms Deschamps is also for breaches of the Code of Conduct for Lobbying under that Act, because she has improperly used her influence as a former Director General of the Société de développement de Montréal in her lobbying with the City administration.  This was filed by me personally and not in the name of any organization.

The City of Montreal and the Borough of Lachine, in the persons of Mr. Alan DeSousa and Mr. Claude Dauphin respectively, have repeatedly stated that neither City nor Borough have had any dealings with the developer since well before June, 2009, which is when the Labrecque Commission recommended the conservation of Meadowbrook.  This is untrue.  This is an obvious untruth when you think about it but, for the record, it is now also a demonstrable untruth.  In fact, last fall an official from Montreal’s Urban Planning Department was dispatched to negotiate with CP Rail for possible routes that the developer might use for road access across the tracks to the west of Meadowbrook.

So it’s business as usual – sleazy, backroom business with the City and Developer in bed together plotting how to get around the inconvenient truth that the residents of the Island want Meadowbrook to be a park open and accessible to all, which is just what the elected officials on the  Labrecque Commission had the guts to recommend.

And I had hoped that Mayor Tremblay would learn from his mistakes!

Please note that just about every environmentalist and environmental group around is clamoring for conservation of the green space along with Les Amis de Meadowbrook, including Héritage Laurentien, The Suzuki Foundation, the Sierra Club, Equiterre’s Steven Guilbeault, Bird Conservation Quebec, the Green Coalition, The Climate Project Canada, and so on.

So who, besides the City honchos and the developer, want to build condos on Meadowbrook?  A bunch of builders and their architects and planners, that’s who, because they also stand to make big bucks by its destruction.  In particular, they include LEED – accredited architects who are ignoring the requirement of their own Canadian Green Building Council not to destroy viable green spaces when they build their beautiful “green” buildings.  I am certain their plans for Meadowbrook are lovely, even cutting-edge with their green roofs and biogas energy and their geothermal heating.  But to build this on Meadowbrook is unethical and stupid, and their attempts to sell it as “green” are actually “greenwashing” – another activity prohibited by their own Council.

Who else?  One Planet Living, including in particular its North American partner, BioRegional and its director, Greg Searle.  While posing as somehow impartial, Mr. Searle has been promoting this development for years.  This is in violation of a number of One Planet Living’s fundamental principles, including in particular number seven which reads as follows:

OPL Principle:  Natural habitats and wildlife

Global Challenge: Loss of biodiversity and habitats due to development in natural areas and overexploitation of natural resources

OPL Goal and Strategy: Regenerate degraded environments and halt biodiversity loss, protect or regenerate existing natural environments and the habitats they provide to fauna and flora; create new habitats.

So what do we do in the face of the forces arrayed against us?  What indeed.  I say we have faith because all around us is the answer to the question: “Who really is the 800-pound gorilla today”?

And we had better start acting like we know it.


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