• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

35 organizations call for more just, green and healthy communities across Simcoe County

In Adjala-Tosorontio
Jun 26th, 2020

From #Just Recovery Simcoe June 18 2020

More than 30 organizations and businesses from across Simcoe County have allied to send a message to local municipalities, provincial and federal politicians — focus on a green and just recovery for the region. This alliance, known as Just Recovery Simcoe, is keenly aware how current issues such as COVID, systemic racism and climate change are highlighting the inherent weaknesses in how we make decisions, how we spend tax dollars and how we build our communities.

Included in the alliance are housing and poverty advocates, health advocates, labour groups, faith based groups, residents associations, environmentalists and local business owners.The alliance’s ultimate goal is to create communities that are equitable, prosperous, affordable and sustainable. To do so, the letter recommends that councils and politicians prioritize their spending, policies and work into three broad categories: Invest in People, Invest in Communities and Invest in Nature.

Suggestions range from addressing food security and poverty to ensuring our communities are safe and accessible for all people, but especially those who are marginalized. There is also a strong focus on investing in local economies including entrepreneurs in the area as well as the region’s established industries including agriculture, tourism and low carbon jobs.

Margaret Prophet, executive director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, says, “Governments will need to make a big impact with future decisions because there will be less money to go around, but more people to help. We can look at best practices from around the world to ensure that however money gets spent, it efficiently increases community health, people’s livelihoods and well being. These are what we call co-benefits — a decision that not only directly improves one aspect of our community, but also strengthens and improves community health, resilience and the local economy. However, that means we need to be looking at the root cause of problems and approach solving them more creatively and collaboratively. We can use these crises as a lesson to help better prepare for future crises and strengthen our communities.”

Just Recovery Simcoe recognizes that people’s input about their community is essential to make the policy and structural changes necessary. They are asking for residents’ feedback about the types of changes you would like to see in your community through a short survey. They have also set up a petition link where you can show your support for a green and just recovery with your local municipality and provincial representatives. Both of these actions are available at their website: www.justrecoverysimcoe.ca

Just Recovery Simcoe is an alliance between 40 groups from across Simcoe County and beyond. Their core belief is that a healthy community is one that is equitable, environmentally friendly and seeks to provide strong places to live and work for all. JustRecoverySimcoe.ca

Here is their open letter:

June 18, 2020

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the undersigned, residents, business owners and community members of Simcoe County,
are calling on local leaders to implement a sustainable, just recovery from the COVID crisis. We
must make our communities more resilient, equitable and better prepared to withstand future
crises, including the emerging impacts of the climate crisis.

People’s health and wellbeing must be the central focus in all of our current and future decisions
and planning. We require more than investment in a robust healthcare infrastructure since only
20% of health outcomes are related to it. The other 80% of our health outcomes result from the
social, economic, and natural environments in which we live and work. These 1 conditions can
absolutely be changed by our policy and planning choices.

In light of this, we ask that three principles – Invest in People, Invest in Nature, and Invest in
Communities – be applied to municipal decision making. Specifically, we request that council
direct staff to ensure that any recovery plans, related committee work and community
improvement projects reflect these principles. We outline the principles and provide suggestions
for achieving each below.

Invest in People
● Create conditions to generate and support local, sustainable, secure jobs:
○ Focus on and support local entrepreneurs as they adapt and innovate in this
post-Covid economy;
○ Invest in our existing economic strengths including local agriculture, eco-tourism
and our low carbon economy;
○ Decrease wage gaps and promote a living wage to address precarious
● Build for equity, safety and accessibility to meet the needs of people based on differing
age, stage, ability, gender, race, and religion:
○ Provide better design of public spaces so they are more safe, accessible, inviting,
and can continue to enable safe physical distancing.
● Recognize and incorporate the right to housing into local policies:
○ Provide more housing options within existing built up areas and discontinue
large-scale, unsustainable sprawl development;
○ Require more from developers, both in terms of the amount of affordable housing
built, and in terms of the type and location of housing built;
○ Advocate for proper funding to achieve housing as a right for all.
● Ensure that Indigenous rights are upheld in a nation-to-nation relationship.
● Move toward an Index of Wellbeing to measure our communities’ prosperity.

Invest in Nature
● Recognize the role that ecosystems play in supporting our health:
○ Protect our ecosystems as part of a natural solution to climate change;
○ Utilize green infrastructure to a far greater extent to help address issues of
stormwater absorption and runoff, urban heat island effects, carbon absorption,
and water and air pollution. Access expertise from non-profits, such as the Green
Infrastructure Ontario Coalition, to help plan and implement plans;
○ Request that green spaces, including greenlands and agricultural lands, be given
stronger protection by inclusion in Ontario’s Greenbelt;
○ Identify and safeguard natural assets, such as wetlands and wildlife corridors to
enhance biodiversity and environmental resilience;
○ Permanently protect all Highly Vulnerable Aquifers (HVA) and Significant
Groundwater Recharge Areas (SGRA) from development and mining for
aggregate to ensure clean and plentiful water into the future;
○ Adjust growth patterns to recognize that natural resources of the planet cannot
support endless growth or even the current rate of consumption.
● Declare a climate emergency and commit to strong action plans.
● Increase access, where appropriate, to natural areas to foster a deeper connection with
nature and encourage the mental health benefits nature provides:
○ Provide opportunities for eco-tourism, recreation and outdoor education.

Invest in Communities
● Seek and facilitate community engagement and give a greater voice to marginalized and
racialized people:
○ Encourage input from residents, non-profits, faith-based groups, Indigenous
leaders and other community groups to access their knowledge and expertise
about what their community needs.
● Increase community food security and access to healthy food:
○ Support backyard gardening and community gardens as a means to enhance
food security;
○ Establish or strengthen partnerships with the local agriculture community,
supporting farmers markets with useful space and promotion;
○ Remove local land use policies that stymie growing food and individual food
● Support creative connections and collaborations among diverse groups within the
● Create communities that are equitable by design:
○ Support active living and active transportation, such as walking and cycling;
○ Improve existing communities so basic amenities can be safely and easily
accessed without the need to own a car;
○ Do not drain municipal finances with costly sprawl; save money through gentle
density and use savings to invest in existing communities;
○ Ensure transit is reliable and meets the needs of the communities most
vulnerable and under-resourced.

We all want to live in healthy, prosperous communities. We believe that the aforementioned
principles provide a clear path towards this goal for the residents in Simcoe County. In the
coming months, we will continue to engage with our respective partners to further identify and
refine these recommendations.

We look forward to communicating with you further to improve our community’s equity, safety,
inclusivity, and sustainability which increases our collective health and wellbeing.

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