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OPINION: Lead, follow or get out of the way

Gary Walker
Guest Opinion

Well, out with the old, in with the old. We, the citizens of Charlottetown elected our city council to protect and enhance the capital city.
Which heading does an asphalt plant fall under?
Did Mayor Philip Brown and other members of council never hear the expression – "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile?" Did they think that Chapman Brothers were going to build a park, a lovely green space at the entrance to the city? The major entrances to the city are already a disaster – from the west the 'triple round-about' game, followed by the 'Moncton Mountain Road' of University Avenue. From the south – hello Irving tanks. From the east – a new 'round-about' game, quickly followed by the 'guess your lane – quickly' game, then more 'Mountain Road.' It seems we forgot the north; it's not all crappy from the airport south, at least for a bit – so let's add to it 'Ta-Dah!' – an asphalt plant. Much more noise, pollution and heavy traffic. It would be interesting to see if any of the city councillors who voted to support the motion live anywhere near the 'nearly-done-deal' of this environmental disaster.
Mayor Brown – is this going to be your leadership style? Are we beginning a new era of 'toss the ball to IRAC'? As in, let's let old laws and planning hang around as they have. Then, if something comes up, let the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission – a non-elected body – deal with the mess. Who is in charge here? Speaking for myself, and I'm sure for many other citizens of Charlottetown, we are totally fed up with this type of city council. Is it to continue to be 'the side with the most lawyers wins' again? Elected officials hiding behind non-elected officials?
We have obviously elected council members who vote, sneakily, for things that they know nothing about. I believe that this decision by council shows that they don't, or can't, exercise due diligence in decision-making. This particular issue – land use – is not new. It was studied and introduced in 1926 in England by Sir Patrick Abercrombie to limit urban sprawl and ribbon development; now known as the Campaign to protect Rural England (CPRE). Has any member of Charlottetown city council ever read this study? Ever heard of it?
P.E.I is often compared to Ireland. Where? Very few parts of P.E.I. can still say that.
Let's be upfront. How about new tourist brochures? Instead of The Cradle of Confederation, we could have Visit Charlottetown – The Detroit of Canada.
Mayor Brown, unkind as this may seem, there is a well-known quotation generally attributed to General Patton that seems to fit this situation – "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." In my mind, it would appear that it may already be time for a new civic election.
I will leave city council, and indeed the provincial government, with a quote from the American environmentalist and activist Edward Abbey:  "Growth for the sake of Growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
We deserve better.

Gary Walker is a Charlottetown resident and a life-long educator and commentator on current issues.

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