PARADISE DENIED People power vs. corporate plan to pave over Niagara nature preserve

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THE CHINESE CALL THEIR PROJECT “PARADISE.” The locals call it a big mistake.

The problem is the Chinese want to build their $1.4 billion Paradise development of shopping malls, houses and offices on 484 acres they bought in the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

This was a lot closer to hell than paradise for local environmental activists. For them the loss of land in the forest is bad—but the threat to the wetlands next to the forest is even worse.

The activists worry that provincial protection of some of the area won’t be enough. The fear is development on any of the land would box in the species that have flourished in the wide-open spaces that are there now.

The activists point out the remaining wetlands would be surrounded by urban development, which carries a different kind of runoff and impact. This has the potential to  “choke” the ecosystem, says Owen Bjorgan.

Bjorgan was among a group of activists who camped out in the Thundering Waters Forest in August 2017 to build public support for their drive to stop the proposed development.

The activists have also created an online petition to demonstrate the growing public dislike for the corporate plan to pave paradise.

Activists camp out to protect Thundering Waters forest from development
Corporate lobbyists on public watchdog board
A natural ally of the activists should be the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA). But it isn’t.

The authority oversees 39 conservation areas and trails in a watershed which includes the entire Niagara Region. It is funded by close to one million taxpayers. But it has been more than a little friendly to the developers.

Activists have exposed how the NPCA used public money to pay for pro-development lobbyists. In addition the authority fired longstanding employees who were not pro development.

The NPCA has taken a particularly pro developer hardline with those who question their actions. The authority launched a $200,000 defamation lawsuit against Ed Smith, a citizen activist who played a major role in exposing NPCA inner workings.

Smith compiled a 45-page report that levelled allegations of corruption and mismanagement against the NPCA. Smith alleged that the authority’s board members — among them municipal politicians — received contracts and other paid positions within the authority, and used those positions to push a pro-development agenda.

Activists press on
None of this intimidates the campaigners. They continue to rally public support to fight the developer’s plans.

Opposition to the NPCA support of the developers includes many NCPA staffers, who are backed up by their union, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union,

The campaign needs your solidarity and support. The Niagara City Council has promised to hold a public meeting before the end of the year to discuss the development.

It’s crucial that the union activists and environmentalists at the heart of the campaign to block this dangerous development can continue to inform the local population about the issues at stake and speak up loudly in defence of the environment. You can follow the campaign on Facebook, or sign a petition against the project.


This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.  

Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.