Another original article by Dr. John Bacher, first published by Mediacoop.ca:
The Media Co-op
April 21, 2017
Patrick Brown’s Empathy for Fellow Conservatives Beats That Of Natural World
Dr. John Bacher
Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown who is riding high in the public opinion polls to become the next Premier of Ontario, in on July 25, 2016 made a disturbing remarks regarding empathy. It was addressed to the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce. The speech was made at a business round table held at the Dutch Mill County Market, in Millgrove.
Flamborough is a quaint rural community of the City of Hamilton. Its landscape of forests and farms, a green island of the greater Toronto region. It is also home to the African Lion Safari, where visitors drive in cars for animal viewing through a predominately forested landscape.
Flamborough’ s bucolic landscape of pastures and forests near the spectacular waterfalls of the Niagara Escarpment, is the actual location for the dramas of the television episodes of the The Road to Avonlea. Most of the various CBC recreations of the pastoral celebrations of rural life in Prince Edward Island were filmed in here in Westfield Pioneer Village in the heart of Ontario’s Greenbelt.
A lot of effort by ecological restorationists and conservationists has been put into making the beauty landscapes of Flamborough celebrated in the CBC’s pastoral epic dramas. The most revealing aspect of this reality is seen in by one of Anne’s favourite forested paths. It is goes through an ecological restoration planting of coniferous trees. Such evergreen plantings were typically used to bring desertified landscapes, scarred by deforestation and resulting blow sands, back to life.
Like television viewers in awe thinking they are seeing Prince Edward Island rather than the Greenbelt in the City of Hamilton, few appreciate the wonders of rural Ontario’s rural landscape. This problem emerged in the Flamborough venue where Ontario’s Premier in waiting, discussed reviving the mid-peninsula expressway. He also denounced plans to double to size of Ontario’s Greenbelt.
The Greenbelt is quite connected to the path that Anne took through the restored evergreens that launched the Anne of Green Gables series. It ensures that the former desert landscape brought back to life by the massive plantings of evergreens, is not destroyed by the concrete wasteland of sprawl. Now there is a serious danger that protections for the Greenbelt lands around Hamilton, including Rockton, may be weakened by the easing on restrictions of expansions of rural hamlets.
Many hoped that when Brown became PC leader he would bury the support for the mid-Niagara Peninsula Expressway. Unpopular in Burlington (Click here for the video of Stop The Escarpment Highway Coalition campaign.), where it would cut through the Niagara Escarpment near majestic Mount Nemo, it is beloved by Conservative politicians and activists in Flamborough, rural Hamilton, and throughout the Niagara Region. The City of Hamilton and Niagara Regional Council dominated by activists in the Conservative Party have been chronically calling for the construction of the mid-peninsula expressway since the early 1990s.
In his speech to the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce, Brown stressed that the need to review the cancellation of the mid-Peninsula expressway by the Liberal government. He promised it would be “very seriously studied” by a Conservative government lead by him.
The mid-peninsula expressway’s cancellation followed a long environmental assessment imposed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, in response to a cased brought by the City of Burlington. In reviving the debate, Brown stressed the need for “empathy for the advocacy” done for the expressway by past Conservative leaders, notably his predecessor, Tim Hudack.
Empathy is an important word. It means being deeply connected to others. Such bonding applies to both people and the natural word. It can mean a loving caring attitude towards human beings and a deep bond with the natural world. Brown’s concept of empathy however, is quite disturbing.
Brown’s empathy is reminiscent of what during the Soviet Union during the 1970s was termed the “era of stagnation.” This was formulated by the expression, “respect for cadres”- meaning the ruling elite of the Communist Party. For Brown empathy means feeling for past Conservatives defending an expressway through the rural heart of Niagara, across the Niagara Escarpment and the enchanted rural green landscapes loved by millions of television viewers.
What makes Brown’s empathetic defense of the mid-peninsula expressway for his fellow PC politicians is that it collides with empathy for the wildlife that could be killed by the project. My concern for the importance of empathy increased through my participation as a member of the Community Advisory Group, (CAG) on the mid-peninsula expressway. ( by this time it had been re-branded as the Niagara GTA West Corridor)
The CAG group on the NGTA corridor found a lot of technical reasons to stop the mid-peninsula expressway. One was the realization, drawn to our attention by a Professor of Engineering of McMaster University, Robert Korol, that the capacity of existing expressways can be increased by stacking them. (putting lanes on top). Another was declining motor vehicle use by youth. One of the biggest issues was how good local transportation strategies could reduce clogging the Queen Elizabeth Highway in peak periods.
While technical considerations ultimately prevailed in the CAG forums, what proved to me to be most convincing was empathy. What pained me the most was an experienced when through a last minute cancellation of a ride share, I was forced to travel via taxi from my home in St. Catharines to the CAG meeting in Grimsby.
On the way the taxi driver told me of his horrible experiences during the first couple of weeks of the operation of the Red Hill Creek Expressway. What erupted was a terrible wildlife slaughter. For him it was particularly upsetting to see all the dead deer killed in collisions. He assumed that the road kill horror show ended only after all the wildlife that might cross the expressway had been killed.
For me empathy regarding the mid-peninsula expressway concerns feeling the pain of the wildlife that may be killed by it. For Brown, it seems to be honouring his fellow Conservative politicians who are immune to it.
Click here for the Mid-Peninsula Transportation Corridor backgrounder proposal.
Reproduced with permission. JohnBacherPhD.ca