Politics

Dreschel Drives Blind

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 25, 2005

Andrew Dreschel is an excellent writer. He's witty, clever, and produces countless memorable turns of phrase. The Hamilton Spectator would be a much duller read without his feisty column.

However, Dreschel also has a huge and persistent ideological blind spot that curdles much of his commentary. He's quick to assume the worst of his political opponents while twisting himself inside out to excuse his political allies.

I was appalled, during the Joanna Chapman/Larry Di Ianni saga, when Dreschel would grant the Mayor every possible benefit of the doubt even while he impugned Chapman's name with vile insinuations about her character and her reasons for demanding an audit into Di Ianni's campaign finances.

But in today's column, "Civic leadership disappears in Maple Leaf debate" (November 25, 2005), he went right over the top, spewing so much vitriol against those councillors who opposed the Maple Leaf bid to buy land in Glanbrook Industrial Park that the paper seemed scarcely able to contain it.

Instead of arguments and evidence, he delivered meanspirited insults, straw man attacks, and craven, unquestioning support for a corporation with a long (and very recent) history of pollution and violating clean-up orders.

He writes:

When the motion to go back to Maple Leaf cap in hand was walked on the council floor the other night, the close vote spilt the way it was predicted.

Well, yes. The councillors were public about their views.

Rumours that Bob Bratina was going to switch to the pro side didn't materialize. As expected, Dave Braden clambered off his rickety fence onto the opposition bench.

Braden like processes to be open and democratic. When the mayor's office holds closed-door meetings with a controversial business to move it into an otherwise barren industrial park - which that mayor had previously promised would have suiters lined up down the road - Braden gets understandably suspicious.

And Bernie Morelli, who was absent on city business, would likely still have voted against the deal, which would have made it 9-7 instead of 9-6 for asking Maple Leaf to reconsider. Hardly a chastened stampede to woo the company back and forge ahead with impact studies for slaughterhouse rezoning.

This is just embarrassing. What does it say about Dreschel's belief in democratic representation that he expects Maple Leaf can "chasten" elected representatives with its bullying tactics?

The prospect of losing a $250 million investment smoked out dormant community support for the proposed pork plant in the Glanbrook industrial park, which Maple Leaf has happily noted.

"Dormant community support" - read: typical Chamber of Commerce blather plus totally one-sided editorial coverage that held anyone who questioned the merits of the plant in utter contempt.

And the debate exposed the intellectual flabbiness and wretched emptiness of the arguments that councillors opposed to gathering information hid behind.

"Intellectual flabbiness"? "Wretched emptiness"? It's a pig slaughterhouse for crying out loud, an industry with a long and ignoble history of air, ground, and water contamination. There's nothing flabby or wretched here except for the tonnes of contaminated waste this processing plant will produce if it goes ahead.

From the bleating and pouting of Tom Jackson and Brian McHattie to the unfocused ramblings of Braden and Bratina, it was as if their thoughts had been generated by a popcorn machine -- light, fluffy and flying in all directions.

An example here to demonstrate these sweeping generalizations would be nice, instead of Dreschel's usual blanket editorializing.

After spending an inordinate amount of time moaning he wasn't notified a motion to belly up to Maple Leaf was in the works, Jackson fretted that people in his east Mountain community live downwind of the site and so have every reason to be concerned. As if anyone has said they didn't.

So Dreschel's criticizing him for doing his job?

And suffice it to say, [Jackson] never did explain why he doesn't need factual information before tossing out a potential $9 million a year in municipal revenue.

The facts on pork processing are well known. City Council visited a state of the art factory out of province and came back with plenty of evidence that it still smells. Again, Dreschel is trapped by his pro-business ideological blind spot.

For his part, McHattie, sounded like a honking micro-manager having a snit fit. His biggest concern seemed to be he hadn't been informed about negotiations between staff and Maple Leaf earlier.

Another biased mis-characterization. McHattie was concerned about the negotiations between Maple Leaf and the mayor's office that were conducted in secret. Dreschel's as quick to demand openness and transparency from his political opponents as he is to excuse their lack from his political allies.

The poor guy felt left out.

I wish he'd spend less time on sarcastic come-downs and more developing an actual argument from evidence.

Besides, if the city turns down Maple Leaf, McHattie thinks other companies will express interest in the land.

Maybe McHattie is simply taking the word of all those Red Hill supporters who insisted we'd have suiters lining up to invest if we'd only stop waffling on the expresway. In any case, McHattie isn't just crossing his fingers and hoping. He's trying to start a sustainable business task force to attract non-disgusting businesses, something Dreschel doesn't bother to mention here.

If he really believes those are good reasons to show a Fortune 500 company the door, perhaps McHattie should give up politics and start writing children's books for a living.

More intellectual dishonesty from Dreschel. McHattie thinks Hamilton should be attracting clean, sustainable businesses rather than more dirty, polluting businesses.

After kvetching over how many jobs the plant [Bob Bratina] opposes would actually bring to the city

Well, Maple Leaf has promised on-again, off-again to add a second shift, but they have been talking about that for years at their existing Burlington plant. It's a fair concern for Bratina, but as usual, Dreschel doesn't bother to explain it, preferring to set up a straw man he can knock down with his bluster.

Good idea, Bob. Why don't we organize a fiddlefest while we're at it?

Thirteen words Dreschel could have used to present evidence instead of insults.

This little higgledy-piggledy [Art Samson] went to market, this little higgledy-piggledy stayed home.

Look at that: another thirteen empty words.

[Dave Braden] talked about process and integrity. He said he'd like to negotiate bringing Maple Leaf to Flamborough, but would deal with them differently and bring the community in sooner. Not that he's blaming anyone, because we're between a rock and a hard place. And we don't want to be stubborn at the expense of the city. And when the public finds out about the land deal, councillors will be branded as "crooks."

How dare Braden demonstrate the ability to think around an issue and look at it in various ways! Perhaps everyone should get their opinions out of a box like Dreschel.

Regardless of what happens with Maple Leaf, just give thanks we're going into an election year.

I agree, but not for the reasons Dreschel has in mind.

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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