Part 5 in the Councillor Cado series
CHERYL LYON – In Part 4, “The Big Heat”, the Watershed Peterborough Councillors were meeting in the throes of an unprecedented and deadly heat wave. A UN report in 2022 that had found “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place” had come true. A previously approved free-for-the-gleaning Food Forest had had to be abandoned when repeatedly high heat waves destroyed its seedlings. Up for reconsideration now are competing new proposals for that same plot of scarce, city-owned land..
“Why won’t he wake up, Momma?” asked Cado. “Why is he all beat up like that?” Cado was his four year old self again, looking with terror at his father’s inert and bloodied body. “He’s not waking up again, my sweet one” his mother had replied. “The oil company has stolen his life.”
Now, as a twenty-six year old City Councillor, that memory took him over. When he was old enough to understand it, his mother had told him how the guards of a big oil company on Nigeria’s coast had beaten his father in a workers’ protest. The company’s pollution had also ruined the beautiful life-giving lagoons and mangroves along the coast and the mouth of a major river. Too late for his family, fossil fuel extraction had finally ended globally some years later. By then, Cado and his mother Chioma had been welcomed to a new home in Canada.
Cado snapped out of that memory and wondered why it had surfaced at this moment as the housing developer rep came to the lectern to make the case for new housing on the vacant land.
Increasingly severe climate impacts had not spared the housing industry. Developers, whether private or not-for-profit, had to meet strict new environmental regulations and show social betterment from their developments. Their rep’s description of a mixed rental/ownership project with garden plots and passive solar heating did not outweigh, in Cado’s mind, the food security argument of the urban farm. But several other Councillors were looking favourable.
“Enough to carry the vote in favour of the urban farm,” he wondered? Cado squirmed at the pain of not being able to vote this time.
If Council voted to apply a new zoning definition − Food Land − to that piece of land, the housing development could not proceed. “Food land” reflected yet another new, climate-driven, adaptive tool cities had been given in the last few years as things worsened. The need for more housing had grown in Peterborough, driven by “climate refugees” from larger Canadian cities as well as abroad. Sea level rise or crop failures compelled desperate people to seek new homes.
The C.A.N.O.E, “Council Action Now Or Else” youth delegation with the dead, dry leaves of their protest costumes rustling in the public gallery, kept a reminder of Nature’s presence in the room. What did their ‘or else’ mean? Was it a threat?
Then, just as the Mayor opened her mouth to invite the debate, the Council Chamber plunged into total darkness! *
In the two seconds before the battery-backed, emergency lights flashed on, loud gasps went up and a scream pierced the dark. Immediately, the Mayor called for calm. “Please everyone! Stay in place and look out for one another. Staff know the drill. Follow them to the exits.”
All safely evacuated the building. Outside, Fire and Police Services had swiftly cordoned off the area around City Hall. The Mayor and Councillor Cado made their presence known to Police and Fire as members of the municipal Emergency Control Team (ECT). The whirling red flashers of emergency response vehicles bounced wildly off surrounding windows and garishly lit up people’s tense faces.
Suddenly and silently, a huge green banner unfurled down the front face of City Hall. On it, the simple black outline of a canoe and large, fluorescent white letters C.A.N.O.E.
A fire truck immediately deployed its ladder to the rooftop of City Hall while police raced inside to search and secure the building.
‘Or else,’ Cado repeated to himself. Was this the warning he had wondered about? How had the perpetrators gotten to the roof? How had the building’s electricity been cut? An inside job? Was there more to come? Where? When?
After a few hours of information gathering, the ECT members decided that convening the Emergency Control Team was not necessary. They would let things “cool off” (if such an expression still applied in the midst of one of severest heat waves ever in this part of Canada.) Their media release stated that an investigation and report of the incident would be forthcoming. Council would meet again in two weeks.
What next? Cado sighed as he stood in the stifling heat. Nothing to do right now except catch the inter-urban electric light rail to his home in Bailieboro.
By the next afternoon power had been restored to City Hall, and the official investigation of the incident of the banner and the outage had begun.
To be continued…
* NEW CITY HALL. Due to increasing population and a mandated reorganization and expansion of Ontario municipalities based on an ecological basis of governance, a new city hall had to be built. Still on the same site in downtown Peterborough, it now covered its former old parking lot (with the advent of sufficient and efficient public transit) and relocated the Council Chamber to the lowest level for air conditioning efficiency and taxpayer savings.