Austin berates Ontario woman for piping up on McLean Lake

The row over a proposed concrete batch plant near McLean Lake in Whitehorse has moved from council chambers to cyberspace.

The row over a proposed concrete batch plant near McLean Lake in Whitehorse has moved from council chambers to cyberspace.

Last week, Ontario-based artist Rosemary Kralik sent an e-mail to Whitehorse mayor and council urging them to preserve what she described as the “invaluable gem” of McLean Lake from “destruction” and “greed.”

Kralik’s missive came several days after council voted unanimously to rezone the area to allow for the plant.

But her e-mail still provoked a sharp response from councillor Dave Austin.

“Mr./Ms./ Mrs. Kralik or … Whatever!” Austin wrote.

“We are quite capable of dealing with our own issues here and don’t really want or need any input from Ontario or from anywhere else that should be concerned with their own issues.

“It appears that you can’t get your way where you are and, trust me, there’s less chance you’ll get your way here!

“Have a nice day if you can!”

Kralik, an artist who lives in the countryside west of Ottawa, saw a website about the McLean Lake issue and began to take an interest, she said in an interview Monday.

Although she “knows nothing” about the finer details of the debate, she has witnessed the environmental problems concrete plants can create.

“The only reason I wrote a letter was because concrete companies, the kind of industry that they’re considering for the area … are amongst the most destructive,” said Kralik.

“I felt I had to say something, even though I’m not from the community. Have they (Whitehorse council) not understood what has gone on in other parts of the world?”

Kralik’s e-mail urged Whitehorse council not to go down in history “as the feeble fool who took the payoff and ran.

“Be strong, be a hero, preserve the land that will repay you incalculable dividends and be your legacy,” she wrote.

Four hours after she sent the e-mail, she received Austin’s response.

“No matter how wrong I am, or abusive the public might be, for an elected official to respond in that fashion… it surprised me,” said Kralik.

“When you grow up you learn a certain modicum of respect. I didn’t think my letter was insulting.

“When I saw the response I thought it was either someone who never went to school or who never had parents teaching them how to grow up or was just an inherently destructive individual,” she said.

“I think he just got hung up on the word ‘fool’ and took it personally, which means then that there was some resonance, I suppose.”

Last week’s decision to pass the bylaw and accommodate Ron Newsome’s plans to open the plant was difficult for all councillors, said Austin on Monday.

But while he has to consider the fears of Whitehorse residents in such decisions, he has little time for Outside voices to filter into the debate, he said.

“They should mind their own goddamn business,” said Austin.

“I didn’t appreciate it, and I don’t really want to comment on it. It just pisses me off that people have nothing better to do than mind our business.”

Asked if he feels his response was appropriate, Austin was resolute.

“Of course I do,” he said.

“That was not an easy decision for us to do. The decision was right.”

He pointed to Kralik’s address in rural Ontario as indicating she is likely a “conservationist.”

And Whitehorse council heard enough from that side of the fence on the McLean Lake decision, he said.

“We heard it three ways from Sunday.”

Like Austin, Whitehorse mayor Bev Buckway sent Kralik a response.

She thanked Kralik for her thoughts and included links to a Gartner Lee environmental report, which concluded the plant wouldn’t have a negative impact on the lake, Buckway said Monday.

Austin is speaking for himself, she said.

“When I replied to the letter I pointed out to the fact that we had unanimously passed the bylaw and thanked people for their comments,” said Buckway.

Buckway wasn’t sure if any other councillors had responded to Kralik’s letter.

Austin is miffed that Kralik hasn’t replied to his e-mail.

“If she was legitimately concerned about the issue, she’d respond to me, not to the press,” he said.

Councillor Dave Stockdale has faced criticism recently for his blunt responses to people opposed to the plant.

He sent a written apology to the News before opining at last Monday’s council decision that, if he’s proven wrong on the environmental impacts, “well, too bad.”

Kralik isn’t interested in an apology from Austin, she said.

“Would one want an apology from someone like that?” asked Kralik. “He obviously doesn’t know which end is up to begin with.

“It’s one thing to be malicious, it’s another to be willfully ignorant. His response made me think this guy has a vested interest, and damn the torpedoes, ‘We’re going to go ahead whether it destroys the planet or not.’”