When Oshawa residents packed into council chambers on Jan. 16, it was civic engagement unlike anything this city has seen in quite some time, with people crowded in behind chairs, sitting on the floor and even taking over the media desk, causing reporters to scrounge for their own chairs.
And perhaps seats at the media desk are where many of these residents belong.
The job of local reporting is to ensure that the truth is told and people in power are held accountable. Newspapers have a huge impact, an article sent into the community of about 157,000. When a population bands together like Oshawa’s south end, 200 voices add weight to their claim against a proposed development. In this case, these voices need to be heard, their questions asked and, more importantly, they deserve answers.
After fighting to gain access to the development reports from the city, reports that are legislated to be public information under the Planning Act, it seems the reports did nothing to ease residents’ concerns. As far as questions go, residents poked holes in several of the reports created to support the development, including identifying species that were missed altogether in the environmental assessment. The document makes no mention of monarch butterflies, but several residents pointed out that they are a common sight come springtime.
And while the developer’s consultant took the brunt of the ire at the meeting, the city and council will have a lot to answer for should they decide to approve the project as is, including why they would allow for a series of amendments to intensify a space beyond their planning bylaws, allowing for more homes with smaller lots, closer together. They would also have to explain why they thought it would be a good idea to take cash in lieu of parkland while destroying one of the waterfront’s nicest green spaces.
A final decision is still months away, and one would hope that the original proposal was the developer’s high-ball offer in a bartering scenario, and they will follow-up with a proposal that is much less greedy.
Until then, residents need to keep the fire alive. Unfortunately, a single appearance at one meeting will not be enough, and in the coming months those voices may end up being required again and again.
But never fear, if the council chambers fill up just like last time, The Oshawa Express will save you a seat at the media desk.