In early March of this year, there were reports of hazardous waste being dumped along the roadsides of Caledon. Police reports from March 5th and 12th indicate that the materials came from a synthetic drug lab. Not only is the air, water, and soil being contaminated, but also the personal and social environment associated with drug production, trafficking, and addiction.
This kind of hazardous waste is easy to spot – usually dark garbage bags or large buckets dumped on the shoulders of side roads away from prying eyes. It makes detection of the perpetrators difficult in a rurban area with homes well back from the road and infrequent traffic to witness the crime.
In my twenty years of community clean-ups in Caledon, I have found more than my share of garbage bags dumped unceremoniously in the ditches. Usually these bags would be filled with construction waste or sod or the excavations from frustrated homeowners digging out the clay from their backyards. Yes, hard to believe, but not all developers lay down the appropriate clean fill and the required 10 cm of topsoil before they lay down the sod.
This kind of waste disposal is illegal dumping, and the fine for that in Ontario is $500 to $5000; the cost for illegally dumping hazardous waste is much higher. A recent case in Leamington, ON saw North Shore Express Ltd. Fined $150,000 and its owner Daniel Andrew Tiessen sentence to 30 days in jail and two years’ probation from holding a position of responsibility in any corporation. And that was for non-hazardous sludge.
In 2013, Walmart was fined $82 million for illegally dumping pesticides, bleach and fertilizers into American municipal waste streams. Walmart was not alone in this wrongdoing – Target, COSTCO Wholesale and Walgreens also shared fines in the millions to tens of million dollars. The bigger you are, the harder you fall.
That applies as well to the other type of type of environmental contamination going on in Ontario right now. With Provincial and Municipal elections coming up in the next few months, you can expect the toxic sludge to be flowing fast and furious as candidates trade barbs with incumbents while they campaign for a place at the public trough. Here in Caledon, it has already started.
While we are fortunate to have a majority of our Town Council possessing integrity, civility and respect for both each other and the majority of residents in Caledon, there are always the usual suspects. And as new candidates and coalitions jockey for their voices to be heard, the nasty underbelly of political campaigning gets exposed. During my brief stint as a federal political candidate I was cautioned that “Politics is a blood sport.” After watching the leader of my Party at the time get betrayed by competing power brokers, I withdrew rather than play that game.
However, some are playing the blood sport very well in Caledon. In my mailbox this week I received a plain brown 8×10 envelope with a stamp (but no postmark) with a printed sticker to my name and address No return address, and inside was an equally anonymous single sheet of dark red paper, an interesting choice since it is very difficult to photocopy clearly.
This single sheet attempted to cast aspersions on a sitting Area Councillor by including an accusation that his donations to a certain federal political party, and a candidate’s leadership campaign last year for that same party indicated that he was “Trump-esque” in his philosophy. It referred to concerned residents in Bolton which is not even a major player in this Councillor’s Ward. Further it included a copy of Elections Canada funding records showing the details of those donations. Something that is easy to obtain if you sit on or have access to the executive branch of a political party.
As of the time of publication, both the Conservative Party of Canada and Elections Canada had responded positively to my emails, and both groups were actively working on identifying where the information originated. Since the stamps for the mailings had to be purchased, and it turns out it is connected to a municipal candidate, it would be considered an expense for a municipal campaign. Financed municipal campaigning is prohibited before May 1, 2018.
There is also the case of a sitting Regional Councillor for that same Ward who was recently the target of a vicious social media smear campaign impugning her integrity for her association with a controversial political leader. These attempted smears are egregious for two simple reasons. First there are no Party alignments in municipal politics – councillors are elected as independent citizens. Secondly, a person’s personal choice of political philosophy and associates is their democratic right. It is a person’s actions in public that speak louder than words. Both of these sitting incumbents are intelligent, social justice focused, economic conservatives and as far from anything “Trump-esque” as I can imagine.
It is hard to know where toxic waste like this originates. One could presume it is coming from competing candidates, or maybe a disgruntled citizen, or a litigious developer’s lobby group. So far there is only one declared candidate for that Ward, but there are other factions in the Town of Caledon who would love to see their voices come to power.
Well, if they play the game with toxic waste and hazardous materials, they should be outed, publicly shamed, and fined in the order of other “illegal dumping” penalties, including a lifetime ban on running for public office or campaign lobbying anywhere, ever again. This is one time I agree wholeheartedly with the “Not In My Backyard” philosophy.
Any person or their team who hides behind anonymous slurs and misinformation campaigns should be run out of town. This same kind of dirty politics cost my Ward one of the best, most genuine, hard working and honest councillors ever elected. We cannot afford to let it happen again. Caledon citizens be alert! Whether they are dumping hazardous waste into our ditches or our mailboxes or our social media sites, it’s all toxic. And we all need to remember that the price of good governance is eternal vigilance.
The way I see it.
Skid Crease, Caledon
* images from oaklandnet.com and stockfresh.com