• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

In wake of Bill 229, an Open Letter to Ontario MPPs

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In Agencies
Dec 9th, 2020
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Ontario legislature

Deputy Speaker Rick Nicholls is in the chair yesterday when the recorded vote on Bill 229 is announced, with no withdrawal of Schedule 6, which attracted widespread opposition for undermining the role of Conservation Authorities.

Keeping Faith with Ontarians Regarding Recent Environmental Announcements

The following letter is from
Margaret Prophet, executive director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition
to Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
with copies to Simcoe County MPPs
Doug Downey, Jill Dunlop, Andrea Khanjin, Caroline Mulroney and Jim Wilson

Dear Minister Clark,

There has been much attention paid lately to the future of our Conservation Authorities – one of the last regulatory bodies designed to protect our environment. In a response to the public outcry regarding the neutering of Conservation Authorities’ ability to protect water, wetlands and public health, Minister Clark made a series of statements and announcements:

First, was the promise of $30 million dollars to “create, restore and enhance wetlands” across Ontario;

Second, was a promise to improve the “quality and quantity of the Greenbelt”.

The timing of these announcements is troubling and does not add to our confidence in the government’s commitment to protecting the environment coming, as it has, on the heels of eight members of the Greenbelt Council quitting in protest over provincial policy changes. Changes that former Toronto Mayor and, until he resigned this past week, Chair of the Greenbelt Council, David Crombie outlined as “high-level bombing”.

But we are willing to accept these announcements in good faith, and we look forward to hearing more about these initiatives. To be very clear, however, if this government is truly committed to these initiatives, by which we mean that they are not being used as cheap politics to deflect from the criticism, fully deserved, that they are receiving with regard to the policy changes noted above, then we expect the following:

-That no more MZOs will be issued that allow development in provincially significant or locally significant wetlands. It makes no sense to commit to restoring wetlands and putting taxpayer money towards that, while simultaneously destroying or impairing other wetlands. Refusing to do this would be creating a boondoggle for developers, using public money to offset wetland destruction.

-Any MZO that is issued in the Lake Simcoe watershed will clearly outline how the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan policies will be adhered to, in order to ensure conformity with said policies as MZO conditions.

-The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, which will be reviewed in the new year, will be strengthened by building on proven existing policies (e.g. phosphorus loading targets and WWTP moratoriums), demonstrating the government’s commitment to protect the environment with policies that protect more high quality natural cover, including wetlands and forests. This should be a zero loss target and policy structure, meaning that there should be no reduction in the quantity and quality of natural cover going forward. Currently, the target in the LSPP is 40% high quality natural cover – a target that we are failing to meet.

The $30 million Wetland Restoration Fund will be money invested by the Government of Ontario and not “blood money” that comes from developers paying a fee to permit the destruction of wetlands. If it is based on offsetting, this is a “pay to pave” mentality that has been proven disastrous for watershed health in other jurisdictions. Funding wetland restoration through the destruction of other wetlands would be disingenuous to the government’s commitment and breaks faith with Ontarians who rely on wetlands for flood mitigation, drinking water purification and recreation.

Growing the Greenbelt includes keeping the existing Greenbelt strong. We don’t want to see a bait and switch where more Greenbelt is added in exchange for current Greenbelt lands being removed from protection. The Greenbelt, its farms and communities, contribute $9.6 billion of economic impact and $3.2 billion of environmental services to Ontario every year. As a region that is growing we will be relying on the services it provides far into the future. Dismantling it through land swaps threatens its ecological functions, and, consequently, its contributions to our collective prosperity and wellbeing.

The province, if it is genuine in its commitment to growing the Greenbelt, will base new included areas on science and public health, not just land ownership. Following such a process means that all source water areas (highly vulnerable aquifers, significant recharge areas, moraines and locally significant wetlands) in Simcoe County should be added to a bigger Greenbelt, at minimum. Simcoe County residents are highly reliant on groundwater for their daily needs. If we don’t protect these areas soon, the public’s health is at risk.

We hope that your government is genuine in its commitment to these ends. We are sure you would agree that using environmental policy as a ploy is dangerous to our public health and erodes faith in our democratic institutions and your governments’ commitment to acting in the best interest of all Ontarians.

Ultimately, it is in no one’s interest that a government fails – such an event has real life consequences for the people of Ontario, including to their health and wellbeing. We are committed to helping where we can to find success in the above noted expectations, but we will not betray our knowledge and understanding, born by evidence, of the actions required to create a more just, prosperous, and sustainable Ontario. We will be watching closely to ensure that you stick to the commitments you have made and do so in a genuine manner.

We look forward to your response and actions progressing these issues.

See also

Short-term political gain can mean long-term environmental destruction

The Ontario Government Betrays the People of Ontario in Favour of Bad Developers with the Passage of Schedule 6

6 Responses to “In wake of Bill 229, an Open Letter to Ontario MPPs”

  1. Gary Christie, Director Nottawasaga Steelheaders says:

    Well written, Margaret.
    Let’s see if Clark responds.

    Gary

  2. John Spring says:

    If the Conservation Authorities stuck to their original mandate, we would have no problem with them. As it stands now they have over reached their purpose and must be reeled in. I applaud the Conservative government for trying to stop the hijacking of these Conservation Authorities by special interest groups. It is about time.

    • Ann Truyens says:

      John,
      Why did the Ford government hide Section 6 in the Budget Bill if it’s so legitimate?
      This issue should have been dealt with in public, not underhandedly rammed through as part of Bill 229.
      The only special interest groups involved here are Doug Ford’s developer buddies who will greatly benefit from this.
      The Ford government needs to stop the ongoing assault on Ontario’s natural environment!!

  3. Holly Levinter says:

    I agree, why was this hidden in the omnibus?

    I wrote my MPP about this issue as well as Ford. No reply from either of them. It hardly seems worth trying to protect ourselves and our environment.

    • Ann Truyens says:

      Doug Ford and Doug Downey never respond to anything Holly.
      All you get is an automated form letter that they received your email.

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