2020 was the year of the “pivot” when socializing stopped abruptly in March. The RLSC adapted and was still able to bring together those who care about the lake to influence decision makers.
PROTECT OUR PLAN CAMPAIGN
We were in the middle of our Protect Our Plan campaign, aiming to protect Canada’s strongest watershed-based legislation, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (LSPP). The purpose of the campaign is to educate watershed residents, MPPs, and Councillors about the LSPP in order to build a base of popular support and political will for the LSPP in its 10-year review. Protect Our Plan reached thousands of new supporters in 2020, dominated the media conversation about the importance of the LSPP and its review, and educated watershed MPPS and Councillors. By 2021 we had 5000 petition signers to Protect our Plan.
The changing conditions allowed us to question the feasibility of thorough public consultation for the LSPP review in a pandemic. After consulting with our members, we strengthened our request to leave the targets and objectives of the LSPP alone and to increase policy protections.
The Protect Our Plan campaign used Zoom meetings and webinars through 2020 to inform and engage at least 12 community groups in educational forums about the LSPP, “Hot Topics,” Forest Protection, Protecting Nature from Development, Climate Change, and the Impacts of Development. Recorded webinars are available to view, along with an I HEART Lake Simcoe video.
These efforts, along with two in-person events before the lockdown began, with area ENGOS and the York Women’s Business Network, included the participation of at least 2500 people.
We continued to talk policy with MOECP and MNRF staff and with area MPPs (five occasions, seven MPPs), advancing our positions on the LSPP review. The results of the Protect Our Plan campaign are to be determined, as the province has yet to release proposed changes to the LSPP. However, at the time of writing, the MOECP is saying that they are considering IF the LSPP needs to change. This is positive.
OUR LAKE SIMCOE
In 2020 we also partnered with Rogers TV on a half-hour documentary on Rogers TV called “Our Lake Simcoe” which aired in 2021, reaching more than 50,000 viewers. As Community Producer, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition solicited the involvement of key citizen players in the creation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, and was thrilled to include First Nations and fishermen’s perspectives in the documentary as well. We are grateful to our funder LUSH for their support.
GREENLANDS MAPPING PROJECT
With funding from the Greenbelt Foundation, we initiated the Greenlands Mapping project in 2019. We partnered with cartographer Kirby Calvert at the University of Guelph to conduct an environmental policy mapping research project. We analyzed how well-protected our landscape is by policy in order to argue for better protections for the watershed’s natural heritage (forests, wetlands, etc.) in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan Review.
Using the Greenlands research locally we hosted a community mapping session in Innisfil to discuss greenlands and the Orbit area, and then wrote up results in a report called “Results of the RLSC greenlands mapping event” also researched and wrote recommendations to Durham Region regarding their draft Greenlands report, and co-authored “Advancing Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the Lake Simcoe Watershed” report with Cambium Aboriginal’s Kerry Ann Charles.
Based on this research and more, we created factsheets and shareable social media content, available here, about the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, Naturalizing Shorelines, Environmental Policy mapping in Simcoe County and the Lake Simcoe watershed, and What You Can Do.
Throughout 2020 our Executive Director and some of our members and member group leaders made delegations to Councils around the watershed, sharing the results of the greenlands mapping work, and urging them with this evidence to support a resolution: “that provisions in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan that protect water quality are not weakened and that policies protecting natural heritage be strengthened, in order to meet the targets of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan” etc. This resolution was passed by Georgina Island First Nation, Barrie, Aurora, Orillia, and Brock. Additionally, Newmarket, Oro-Medonte, and Whitchurch Stouffville passed supportive resolutions.
ADDITIONAL POLICY ADVOCACY
During this time period, we coordinated with larger ENGOs to comment on provincial policy proposals. As the province weakened the Conservation Authorities Act, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition strongly defended Conservation Authorities in partnership with other provincial ENGOs, recognizing the critical importance of having watershed experts review land use planning decisions affecting the environment.
We also commented on ERO 019-1680, the proposed changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (“Growth Plan”) and ERO 019-1679, the Lands Needs Assessment Methodology (“methodology”). We are now working on the implementation of the Growth Plan in York Region, Durham, and Simcoe County.
2020 was a challenging year for fundraising, but many hands made light work. We auctioned a Charlie Pachter print, sold holiday cards, and we were the lucky recipients of funds from the Boathouse Blues Band and Deb Brown’s Water Protector Jewelry line. Thanks to all volunteers, donors, promoters and fundraisers for making 2020 a great year, under the circumstances.