OP-ED: Will the Guelph Innovation District Be Everything We Want it To Be?

A few days ago, Guelph-based builder Fusion Homes announced that they had closed the deal to buy the Guelph Innovation District Lands. A slick video posted on social media promised “thousands of jobs, and endless new entertainment, shopping and dining experiences,” but was that the point of creating the GID in the first place? One concerned Guelphite wants the developer to remember the core ideas of the GID in the first place.

First, check out the original announcement about Fusion Homes purchase of the Guelph Innovation District Lands posted to Facebook.

Below are Jay Wilson’s thoughts on the matter in this special letter to Guelph Politico.

Lee Piccoli proudly announced that Fusion Homes purchased 325 acres of property in the Guelph Innovation District saying the development will be “transformational for the city, defying expectations of what the city will look like.” There’s good news. It contains 100 acres of “protected natural areas.”

Still, I find this announcement troubling. While I’ve not seen the final plans for the development, I am hearing reports of mixed-use, “endless new entertainment, shopping and dining experiences.” Is that what our climate crisis, poverty crisis, housing crises, racism crisis needs, to pull us out of this mess; more dining, entertainment and shopping experiences?

Is the timing of the upcoming provincial and municipal elections coincidental?

What’s innovative about maintaining the status quo?

Now that Guelph has a Green Party Provincial leader aren’t we ready to take on other socialism ideas such as co-operative land purchases and housing? Land ownership is after all at the root of our economic and climate crisis. It’s not OUR land, it’s THE land: land for use by all.

This is the Indigenous principal we so fondly long for when we honour land acknowledgement – not that it is indigenous land but rather that land ownership was a concept indigenous AND compassionate humans understood to be detrimental. Sharing the land was the path forward to sustainability.

The ONLY way we can dig ourselves out of these crises is to work cooperatively: land coops where everyone has a say on what takes place on that land. That’s the path forward to solving housing. That’s innovative. Building more shopping, dining and cheap entertainment is not innovation.

What cooperatives do is provide a voice for ideas that have nothing to do with profit: going beyond protecting farmland to protecting forests, and fully diverse ecosystems that may at first glance appear unprofitable. That’s innovative.

Yes we need more housing and parks but we also need more, much more, natural green space and not just north of the tree line. We need acres and acres of green space within every urban boundary. I was about to use the phrase “protected green space.” Even having to use that word “protected” shows the threat we all are living under. When we have to “protect” life we’ve already lost the battle.

When we speak against highways we often say, “ruining all that farmland,” but many farms are just outdoor profit systems, rural factories. We need to go much much further and protect land regardless of it’s profit potential. In the end forests are profitable. They sustain our most valuable commodity: life.

Yes growth at the moment is inevitable but capitalism is not inevitable. Endless economic growth is not inevitable. Value, everyone will come to realize is not just measured in gold.

I sincerely hope these are the values, Lee and Cam and council and citizens aspire to when approving this sale. I know I have not been part of the conversations surrounding this project. I hope the responses prove me incorrect.

Written and Provided by Jay Wilson.

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