In the recent (revived) NIPR newsletter I posted an opinion piece on the Saratoga Speedway proposal for a new campground in the Black Creek community. As noted in the article, the proponents of the project ultimately chose to withdraw their rezoning application, and the project now seems dead.

Some readers were critical of what they perceived to be a lack of decisiveness on the part of the North Island-Powell River federal Greens in opposing the Speedway project. As the author of this piece, I would like here to respond to these concerns and criticisms.

Most Canadians continue to see Greens as the party for whom protection of the environment is their core DNA, so it seems natural for us to automatically take the pro-environment side whenever such issues arise. As Greens we know that without a healthy, thriving natural world the human world cannot persist, a situation we are very close to experiencing these days.

However, as a major political party with a vision representing more and more Canadians in government, Greens strive to be balanced and respectful of all Canadians. We seek to collaborate, build coalitions, and find agreement that is wise, long-lasting, and brings cohesion rather than divisiveness. It is therefore incumbent upon us to always listen and learn; to be sensitive to the complex nuances often inherent in issues of competing values; and where possible to build coalitions and consensus that leads to wise, balanced and durable decisions.

When first approached for support in opposing Saratoga, none of us in the NIPR EDA were  familiar with the details of the proposed campground. Before jumping in with an ill-informed opinion based strictly on supposed Green environmental ideology, we chose to reach out to informed Black Creek area residents for more detail on the project. We received some excellent background material, and were in the process of digesting this to come to a reasoned and justifiable position.

After examining this material in some detail NIPR Greens had concluded that the proposed campground was inconsistent with furthering the health and wellbeing of the Black Creek community, not to mention the planet. The supposed jobs and revenue would not have justified the potential threat to local water, air and habitat, or the considerable disruption to the relative tranquility of local citizens’ lives with increased noise, pollution and traffic.  And as many pointed out, the very existence of an activity based on lavish consumption of fossil fuel just for entertainment is completely inconsistent with a global climate emergency caused by those very fossil fuels. But before we had an opportunity to express these views the project proponents suddenly dropped their plans and withdrew.

The Saratoga speedway experience is a microcosm of the difficult but necessary choices we must all make to change our values and expectations if we are to save the planet, and ourselves. In this instance, the entire issue appears to have resolved itself, likely the result of the fierce, informed and articulate opposition from community members. The choice to withdraw the proposal appears to have been made without the often heavy hand of government. Whether the speedway owners did so in good faith and choose to abide by their decision remains to be seen.

For now, it is an example that suggests how hard work, listening to each other, being willing to change perspective, and seeking to understands larger implications can lead to a creative outcome that is best for all. Communities and people come together, and we discover that as our relationships heal, so does the planet.

Mark de Bruijn

May 10, 2022

Please note: The North Island-Powell River Greens invite anyone in our riding to contact us if you are aware of issues that concern you, or that you think should be highlighted in our Newsletter or on our Facebook page. We ask that you allow us sufficient time to adequately assess such suggestions so that we may make a considered and appropriate response.

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