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Citing delays and 'overt hostility,' Xinyi suspends Stratford glass factory plans 'indefinitely'

Xinyi Canada says it has suspended its plans to build a $400 million float glass factory 'indefinitely' after the company couldn't reach an agreement with city officials over cost sharing.

Xinyi Canada said Tuesday it was pulling out to reduce costs and damage to its reputation

Xinyi Canada says it has suspended its plans to build a $400-million float glass factory 'indefinitely,' in part, due to 'overt hostility' from grassroots opposition groups. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Xinyi Canada says it has suspended its plans to build a $400-million float glass plant in Stratford, Ont., "indefinitely" because it couldn't reach a deal with city officials on a cost-sharing agreement. 

The company posted the statement on its website Tuesday, saying the deal with city hall was "critical for the timely development of the proposed float glass facility."

Xinyi wanted to build the plant on the city's southern edge. They were promising 380 well-paying jobs and a plan to make Stratford the beating heart of its Canadian glass manufacturing operations, to ensure North American cars, homes, and skyscrapers would be sheathed in gleaming Xinyi float glass. 

A fiery debate followed, in which people questioned the factory's impact on the environment, the company's potential links to the Chinese government and whether local democracy itself was circumvented in the city's attempts to bring the factory to town. 

Xinyi claims opposition spread 'misinformation and falsehoods'

In a statement, Xinyi said a combination of Stratford city council's "continued deferral of approval" and the "small opposition groups" whose "overt hostility," "misinformation and falsehoods," Xinyi claimed, ultimately soured public opinion, were what led to its decision to pull the plug on the project. 

"Xinyi Canada has decided to suspend the project indefinitely to avoid further financial loss and unfounded attacks on its reputation," the company said. 

The City of Stratford issued its own statement Tuesday, saying it was aware of the glassmaker's decision and would consider its implications, but for now, would remain focused on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Melissa Verspeeten is the spokeswoman for Get Concerned Stratford. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

"It's been a battle the last few months and we're happy to see this happen whatever the reasons may be," said Melissa Verspeeten, the spokeswoman for Get Concerned Stratford, one of two grassroots opposition groups who criticized the project from the beginning. 

She said Xinyi has been cagey about what kind of environmental impact their factory would have on Stratford, often giving vague or incomplete answers on green house gas emissions or particulate emitted in the creation of float glass.  

"I think they were grasping at straws to avoid answering very relevant questions that were raised by the community."

"We never received anything from the company on that." 

Opposition groups still want MZO rescinded

Verspeeten said while she and her colleagues have cause for celebration, the battle isn't over yet. Get Concerned Stratford has formally requested that the Minister's Zoning Order (MZO) that paved the way for the factory in first place be rescinded by city hall. 

"We haven't seen a response as of yet," she said. 

In a news release published Tuesday, Wise Communities Stratford, spokeswoman Loreena McKinnett said her group is hopeful that city hall will eventually rescind the MZO for the factory. 

She also called Xinyi's swipe at opposition groups "regrettable," saying Stratford wasn't the first Ontario community to turn the project down. 

"I hope Xinyi will come to learn, when they get past this point, that it was citizens standing up for their community, their democracy and the future health of the planet, for which none of us can take for granted."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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