At our invitation, GPO Leader Mike Schreiner set out to do much more than guest speak at the Brant Greens Annual General Meeting. He connected to the people of Brant in a whirlwind tour that energized the entire region.
The day began in the small community of Glen Morris. At the village coffee shop, Mike was drawn in to a conversation with local farmers about everything from rain, boarder crossings, school boards and buses to power generation, energy conservation, and voter participation. We heard from residents who helped earn Glen Morris five blooms, winning the Ontario Communities in Bloom competition, and placing second across Canada.
From there, we went to the Paris District High School to speak with students in the Community Environmental Leadership Program. We expected to meet the leaders of tomorrow but instead found strong leaders of today. PDHS earned certification as an Eco school last year. Reclaiming and rehabilitating an outdoor courtyard, native tree planting, and installing the first ever in-school water bottle refilling station are just a few of their initiatives.
The Concerned Citizens of Brant discussed the recent announcement by Dufferin Aggregates to act on a permit granted in 1974 to open a gravel pit. That pit is now on the very edge of the town of Paris, directly over the town’s water supply, and requires infrastructure that would compromise environmentally sensitive and protected areas. The Sustainable Brant group told us about the continued accumulation of farmland by a foreign investment company, speculating on residential development within currently protected agricultural areas.
Next, Representatives of the Grand River Employment and Training (GREAT) centre showed us how they‘re achieving a vision of strong economies, self-reliance, and responsibility for their wellbeing. The 20-year-old organization owns and operates a central complex housing professionals, students, businesses, and service agencies all under one roof – built in the long house tradition.
The wind picked up as we drove to the Shelegy Organic farm to the southwest. We saw field after field with dry soil blowing off in the wind, but no soil erosion at the Shelegy farm. Here, the shelterbelts are kept closer together and the rye and spelt were already above ground. In the village of Scotland, we visited a park built by the Optimist Club, featuring a butterfly and hummingbird conservatory surrounding a little amphitheatre.
In the evening, Brant Green supporters from all walks of life came together to found a new provincial constituency association in their riding. Mike inspired us with examples of Green Party successes. He rallied us with a sober analysis of the upcoming provincial budget — with a call to speak out for changes to misguided priorities in the budget. He then challenged us answer the GPO’s calls to action: to create non-political opportunities to improve our communities, and to help chart the course for the GPO at the upcoming AGM in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Over the day, Mike did what he said he’d do – he reached out and spoke to the people of Brant. He related to everyday people in everyday places. He celebrated the volunteers who’d come together to improve their local communities. To those citizens rising up to protect their communities, he offered solidarity in their fight to protect their rights where municipal, provincial, and federal legislation failed them in the face of corporate interests. He was inspired by examples of leadership, entrepreneurship, social innovation, and community development. And at the climax of it all, he reflected this inspiration back to us — to celebrate what we’d already achieved, to continue our efforts in the face of new challenges, and on all levels, to be the change that we want see.
A day just doesn’t get any better.
By Ken Burns, 2011 Brant Candidate