Opinion – Who are the ‘Special Interest Groups?

June 24th, 2008,

If there’s an “interest group” out there in London’s drive-thru debate it is certainly the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association – not the large coalition of citizens, physicians, climate scientists and environmentalists asking for a little corporate restraint to literally and figuratively clean the air. Fast food restaurants, which have an “interest” in selling junk food (and not much else), were taken off guard by overwhelming local support for a moratorium on new drive-thru restaurants. The Council of Canadians, which represents tens of thousands of citizens across the country, and the many other groups backing a municipal ban on new drive-thrus, including Greenpeace and Canadian Physicians for the Environment, have nothing to gain from this moratorium than clean air for our children and a brighter future for everyone. Time after time we are told by climate experts that if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions we are toast. A moratorium on new drive-thrus is a small step toward a future that is less dependent on cars and therefore on fossil fuels. Everyone wins. So what does the restaurant association do? Incredibly, it launches a campaign to convince Canadians that idling is good for the environment! I hope these restaurants will forgive us if we find their research problematic. According to Natural Resources Canada, 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting an engine and releases twice as much exhaust as a moving vehicle. London’s fast food restaurants might want to “get back to serving Londoners safely, quickly and conveniently,” as Michelle Saunders wrote in her letter this week (Manoeuvres indicate ban coming), but surely the City of London would be acting within its rights to put limits on where and how these restaurants make money if it takes us even a small step toward a cleaner more breathable future. And surely the restaurant association can agree that this kind of future is in all of our interests.

Stuart Trew, Ontario-Quebec regional organizer, The Council of Canadians

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