• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Election result could be a win for the environment

In Agriculture
Nov 30th, 2014

The October 27th municipal election resulted in another huge turnover in the membership of County Council, more than 50%. In some municipalities none of the incumbents on council survived. One of the biggest issues almost everywhere is transparency. People want easy access to information, not to be stone walled by politicians and bureaucrats looking out for self-interest corporations. Large corporations have deep pockets and can afford to hire consultants who give expert opinions and, amazingly, these opinions always seem to support the people who pay them.  Of course, why else would they hire them? And these experts have the time and resources to schmooze the politicians and bureaucrats and persuade them how wonderful their development is and how it will benefit their municipality.

We are now seeing a rise in the number of people who are pointing out that the growth emperor has no clothes. Sprawl and growth can no longer be disguised as the road to prosperity. They are no longer able to pretend it is good for our communities. Let’s be clear about who benefits from sprawl. Who benefits from paving over farmland and contaminating our groundwater and streams?  Who benefits from destroying the fabric of local communities? It’s the development industry including all the hired gun planners, engineers and especially lawyers.

So what does this election mean for protecting the environment and farmland? In this election we won a few battles but the war is just beginning and the self-interest groups, the sellers of sprawl, have a big head start.

Hopefully we now have a majority of County Councillors who will support the public having input into the massive changes in the Simcoe County Official Plan (SCOP), now being forced through at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). By using the rules of the OMB the County lawyers are shutting out the public from commenting. Changes are being made to the language of the SCOP to water down environmental and natural heritage protection. Each Participant at the hearings is only allowed to comment once and is strictly limited to 15 minutes. But there are 5 phases to the hearing. Different parts of the SCOP are dealt with in each phase of the hearing. But if a Participant wants to comment on changes proposed in phase 1 or 2, then they are not allowed to comment again on changes that will be made in phases 3, 4 or 5, changes which haven’t even been proposed yet. How does that allow for proper public input?

Hopefully we also have a majority of County Councillors who will take a strong stand with the province to bring in Extended Producer Responsibility legislation that will force producers of material goods, including current blue box and other recycled materials, to pay for the full cost of diverting these products. That would eliminate most of the waste management costs for the County and therefore take if off the backs of the taxpayers. The green bin materials should be the only resource materials (currently referred to as waste) the County is responsible for.

So now is the time for all people and groups who care about preserving the character of our Simcoe County communities, our farmland and our environment to push hard on those we have elected to office to fulfill their promises and our vision.

Sandy Agnew can be reached at 705-835-6824 or sagnew@ecomedic.ca .

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