Politics

What Maple Leaf Should Have Done

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 25, 2005

With all the hysteria over those craven city councillors who dared to listen to their constituents (normally called "caving in" by interested parties with opposing agendas), little scrutiny has been spared for Maple Leaf itself.

Instead of rolling with the punches, the corporation picked up their toys and going home as soon as it started to look like everyone in Hamilton wouldn't roll over dead by their generous offer to open a slaughterhouse in Hamilton.

Apparently, Maple Leaf expeced City Council to roll out the red carpet, and were offended when a vigorous public debate about the merits of the plant slowed down the process.

Too bad - it's called democracy, something corporations should be used to by now.

In any case, Maple Leaf hasn't exactly helped its own cause, dealing in the usual mix of empty rhetoric, secrecy, and backroom dealing that generally means a corporation shouldn't be trusted.

I would have felt a whole hell of a lot warmer and fuzzier toward Maple Leaf if their little environmental shill had stood up right at the very outset of the process and said something like the following:

"Maple Leaf works in an industry that isn't usually known for cleanliness and environmental sensitivity. In the past, meat processing plants, including ours, have been smelly, dirty, dangerous places. This is a fact, and we would be insulting your intelligence if we tried to 'spin' that away.

"In fact, Rothsay Rendering, our rendering subsidiary in Flamborough, has been responsible for bad smells, waste, groundwater contamination, etc., for several years. We've spent the money to clean up the plant, and we're about to find out how much the government decides to charge us in fines for our past violations.

"We'll pay the money gladly, confident in the knowledge that we're turning our backs on a way of doing business that was acceptable in the past but is no longer.

"Part of the reason we want to build a new plant is that we want to take advantage of the innovations in cleanliness, safety, and environmental protection that have emerged since we built our Burlington processing plant.

"Moving to a state-of-the-art plant in Glanbrook is one way to be more responsible to our shareholders, our customers, and our neighbours by meeting the triple bottom line that Hamilton City Council has so wisely adopted.

"We will gladly go through the evaluation process, because we feel Hamilton's citizens deserve clean, responsible businesses that won't foul the air, ground, or water.

"We expect and welcome public participation, and won't be scared off because some citizens worry that we might not be good neighbours. That gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that we will be good neighbours, and that we will contribute to Hamilton's economic well-being without compromising its environmental health."

Now that would have been a breath of fresh air.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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