April 5, 2012: Opinion: The Taint of Section 37.
Opinion: The Taint of Section 37.
By Tim Thibeault.
“Our opinions matter very much since the results of current plans and decisions are going to last a very long time”
On March 20, the Hintonburg Community Association hosted a public meeting to discuss intensification plans. About 100 people turned out. Two of the points raised were particularly insightful, but the meeting’s time limits did not permit fuller exploration. Nevertheless, they DO deserve a closer look.
One strong and well-applauded statement urged the Kitchissippi City Councillor Katherine Hobbs to represent her constituents forcefully and clearly, with the reassurance that those constituents would stand behind the councillor when she voices their opinions. This enthusiastically- applauded exhortation carried with it an implicit observation that many at the meeting felt their intentions were being represented less than forcefully and less than effectively.
As residents, we already know that intensification is not something being considered in an abstract way; it is an ongoing process that is happening now in neighbourhoods across the city. Our opinions matter very much since the results of current plans and decisions are going to last a very long time. It is essential then, that our representatives at the municipal level focus on speaking for their citizens rather than to them.
Another very salient point raised, was that perhaps these plans and decisions should be regarded without great consideration being given to Section 37 benefits. (In essence, Section 37 allows for developers to provide cash payments in exchange for favours.) The speaker who raised the point suggested that Section 37 carried some vague taint.
On closer consideration, that feeling of taint becomes much less vague. Past practices in the Hintonburg area have involved privileged men with money coming to Hintonburg to offer cash-for-favours to resident ladies on a one-to-one basis. The powerful offer cash to get what they want and absolve themselves of any moral or social responsibility by paying that small fee. It sounds fair and fine until you take a closer look at what this type of dealing does to the people involved.
Section 37, while looking attractive at first blush, simply takes the individual out of the equation and treats the whole neighbourhood as one collective prostitute. A few thousand bucks today, and you can make a difference that lasts for generations while feeling smug about the short-term good you have brought. In fact, the money offered doesn’t last as long as the potential for damage to a street and a neighbourhood that might easily find itself hosting vertical slums that will form the ghettos of tomorrow for decades to come.
The HCA is wise and forward thinking to hold these meetings, and those in attendance would be equally wise to listen closely and to insist on getting their ideas broadcast clearly and widely by the people who asked for, and were granted, the privilege of representing Hintonburg’s concerns to the City.