January 19, 2021
Responding to a pre-election survey conducted by our friends at Lake Simcoe Watch, the Mayors of Aurora, Barrie, Bradford-West Gwillimbury, Brock, Georgina and Oro-Medonte have all called for the development and implementation of a plan to achieve the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan’s phosphorus eduction target by 2026. The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan’s phosphorus reduction target is reducing current phosphorus loading from 90 tonnes per year (10-year average) down to 44 tonnes per year, so these Mayors’ responses are heartening. We are hopeful these political statements will help tip the scales towards a responsible, serious approach to bringing down phosphorus loads through a revised Lake Simcoe Phosphorus Reduction Strategy.
But it’s not all about phosphorus. Watershed health relies on a broader healthy ecosystem including flourishing natural areas and wetlands. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, along with Coalition member group leaders, made delegations to Council across the watershed requesting Councils to pass a resolution like this:
WHEREAS a healthy environment provides the foundation for healthy communities, healthy people, and a healthy economy; and WHEREAS the passage of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act received unanimous, all party support in the Ontario legislature in 2008; THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, THAT the Town of X calls on the Ontario Government to demonstrate its commitment to clean water and protecting what matters most in the provincial statutory review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, by ensuring 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; and THAT the Ontario Government be requested to work collaboratively with affected Provincial Ministries and all levels of government, including First Nations and Métis, to achieve the goals and targets of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and to resource the programs that improve Lake Simcoe’s water quality during the provincial statutory review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan; and THAT copies of this resolution be provided to …
Almost all shoreline municipalities, including: Aurora, Barrie, Brock, Georgina, Georgina Island First Nation Band Council, and Orillia Councils passed this resolution. Municipal Council resolutions can be viewed in detail here. Additionally, Newmarket, Oro-Medonte, and Whitchurch Stouffville passed supportive resolutions. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is pleased with this result, and hopes that these municipalities will remember this as they make their comments on the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan for the province.
I speculate that one of the reasons for the show of support for our resolution is that municipalities have a lot of work to implement the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and need the province to come to the table if collectively, we are to succeed in protecting the health of Lake Simcoe and its watershed.
At first, I was concerned that municipalities would not pass our resolution, and instead capitalize on the province’s pro-growth agenda. It would appear that some already are. For example, Innisfil, which did not pass our resolution, is currently asking the Province to issue a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) for the inconceivably large Orbit development which would accommodate 150,000 residents. This is a Town of 36,000 today. Despite Town officials’ reassurances, there is no guarantee that Lake Simcoe Protection Plan policies would apply through an MZO.
Additionally, the rapidly growing Towns of Bradford West Gwillimbury and East Gwillimbury, who also received our delegation, deferred taking a stand until the province started the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review, which is now on until March 3 rd, 2021.
The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (LSPP) is the best watershed-based legislation in Canada, and its policies are up for review. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has released a public survey, while offering presentations, townhalls, and a science forum to municipalities in advance of the March 3rd deadline. However, we are now almost one month into the review process and no further details have been provided by the Province.
Municipalities are being asked to provide comments on potential changes to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, so it’s a good time to ensure that they remember their public commitments.
In the absence of data that supports changes, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and its member groups have asked the province to “Protect Our Plan”; not change it, but rather focus on its effective implementation. To date, 2,800 people have signed petitions in support of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Lake Simcoe Watch’s position and priorities.
For more information and for Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition priorities for the review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan see https://rescuelakesimcoe.org/
With thanks to intern Shannon Pittock and Board member Kira Cooper for their help.