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Glass plant fight a perfect example of the little guy making big change, residents group says

GETconcerned waged a concerted, organized and educated fight against Xinyi Canada's plans to build a huge factory in their township
20180717 Xinyi Glass Meeting KA 02
Susan McSherry of GETconcerned, Inc. speaks to Guelph/Eramosa council during a meeting. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday file photo

Chalk one up for the little guy.

The decision by Xinyi Canada not to appeal the rejection of its application to build a huge glass plant just west of Guelph is vindication that residents can make a difference in the process, says one of those that led the fight against it.

Susan McSherry and 11 other residents were the backbone committee of GETconcerned, a Guelph/Eramosa resident’s group that educated itself, organized itself and fought the glass plant.

“Grass roots organizations really do have the ability to affect change,” said McSherry in the wake of Xinyi seemingly abandoning its plans for Guelph/Eramosa.

“It shows that if you feel something it truly wrong, that you do need to speak up and you do need to take action and you need to do the work and keep going.”

In the end 80 residents joined the group and other organizations from outside the township came on board to lend expertise and support in the fight to stop the plant from happening.

“That’s an empowering and good thing. You truly see democracy in action and you realize that people can affect change. It was a really stunning example.”

GETconcerned believes the fight is now over.

“I think Xinyi has recognized it’s just not a go here, we’re grateful for that,” she said.

Xinyi has not responded to requests for comment.

McSherry said there were many people who likely thought in the beginning of the process that a bunch of local residents didn't have much of a chance at stopping the proposal from moving forward.

“It’s proof that you really can do something, and that’s important for all of us to know.”

“The whole thing was so anticlimactic almost, but not in a negative way,” she said of the passing of the deadline for Xinyi to file a notice of appeal.

“We were grateful that it was done, great for the residents and even the township, because an appeal could have been very costly,” McSherry said.

She feels there were two turning points in the fight against Xinyi: a meeting in a Whitelaw Road church that saw a shift in the stance of mayor Chris White to be more supportive of the fight against Xinyi and a letter from City of Guelph CAO Derek Thomson to the township expressing Guelph’s concern over the amount of water that would be used at the plant.

“I think that was the final blow,” McSherry said of Thomson’s letter.

McSherry has praise and thanks to outsiders who joined the fray, most notably Wellington Water Watchers, the Council of Canadians and lawyer David Donnelly.

McSherry also has respect for Xinyi in “quietly walking away” from the proposal and not launching an appeal that could have proved very costly for the township.


Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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