Land use planning chaos + informed, supported and empowered citizens
= Greenbelt removals reversed
= Official Plan boundary changes potentially reversed
= Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO’s) to be examined by the Auditor General
Defend the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan
- Advocacy to all levels of government
- Letters of advice to Environment Ministers regarding necessary actions to uphold the LSPP
- Delegations to Council, provide advice to Councillors
Empower & Educate to fight the Bradford Bypass:
- Engaging hundreds of people via three in person town hall events, multiple topical, shareable video shorts
- 250 postcards distributed to affected well owners; petition signed by 650 people
- Webinar focused on the Lower Landing, a threatened significant historic & First Nations archaeological site under the highway
Enliven & connect
- 9 days of animating libraries, parks and classrooms with Lake Simcoe Defenders program
- Naturalising Lake Simcoe shorelines video created with landscaping professionals
- Garbage pick up & educational paddle in Barrie with community partners
- Providing leadership for Stop Sprawl York Region and transitioning to the Alliance for a Liveable York Region
Maintaining your trust
- By diversifying our revenue sources, using our volunteers effectively, revamping our contacts database
- Reducing time paid to our Executive Director, hiring a Coalition coordinator, and getting a grant for a summer student.
In 2023 we celebrate our 20th anniversary! Congratulations to all!
This year feels like a year of vindication for our long held priorities and beliefs, and a demonstration of the power of people, journalism and democracy. We are proud to have played our part in protecting the Greenbelt at such a pivotal time in Ontario’s history.
Towards the end of 2022 it appeared that southern Ontario’s farmland and natural landscapes were at serious risk of inappropriate sprawl development. Environmental organizations collaborated tirelessly on Yours to Protect and Stop Sprawl campaigns to raise awareness about the impacts of sprawl, with varying success. This built on the RLSC’s long-standing emphasis on explaining that development impacts constitute the biggest growing threat to Lake Simcoe’s health.
We built on our local knowledge, networks and passion to push back against an expensive and environmentally destructive sprawl agenda. RLSC focused on York Region, where we wrote, delegated and raised the alarm about Council’s early attempts at dismantling the Greenbelt in York Region. Following five years of raising awareness about the inappropriate development being pushed by the province, a glimmer of hope in late summer and early fall when the wheels started to come off the province’s sprawl bus. Groups like ours, people like YOU, opposition parties and journalists put enough pressure on the province to convince them to reverse the 15 removals of land from the Greenbelt for development.
When people stop trusting governments, they turn to trusted sources for information. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is proud to be well respected and trusted by the public and the media. In 2023 we organized, promoted, and went to rallies against sprawl, to protect the Greenbelt, and against the Bradford Bypass. We wrote letters, shared information, hosted information sessions and webinars. We researched and advocated for transparency around the King – Newmarket Southlake Hospital Greenbelt removal. We hosted Protect the Greenbelt phone zaps, we supported submissions to the government, and we maintained Stop Sprawl York Region for at least a year with no funding in order to hold a place for people to share information to hold the governments’ feet to the fire. Thank you for trusting our leadership!
Stop the Bradford Bypass
We have been fighting the Bradford Bypass for 3 years. The proposed 16 kilometre route cuts through the Greenbelt, and damages Lake Simcoe’s most important wetland, the Holland/ Keswick Marsh complex. While we know there is some frustrated commuter support for the Bypass, we are committed to the truth. The truth is this is badly planned and will not solve all of the local traffic issues. The impacts to Lake Simcoe from salt alone could be disastrous, and at best the project forms a terrible precedent for highway construction on the 404 – highway 12 expansion planned for the southeast side of Lake Simcoe.
In April we got a positive decision about our judicial review of the Federal government’s refusal to reconsider an Impact Assessment request. This precedent setting ruling means that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has to substantially respond to subsequent IA requests, but it doesn’t change the course of the Bypass now.
In June we hosted three townhalls about the Bradford Bypass in three locations, with community volunteers and partners at Ecojustice, FROGS and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. We researched specific areas, presented information to 100 people, recorded it, and shared the presentations and short cuts on social media and Youtube. We also facilitate meetings every two weeks with volunteers to develop and roll out our campaign. We distributed informational postcards to people whose wells would be affected by the Bypass and we are currently trying to hire an expert on water impacts to support our campaign. This year we also spearheaded the creation of a new coalition that will join the advocacy effort around developing Ontario liability coverage for slip and fall lawsuits, the bane of salt applicators, and ecological standards to reduce the amount of salt entering Lake Simcoe.
Being seen and heard
Lake Simcoe and the RLSC’s work are also catching the attention of a wider audience, and we are delighted with those results in 2023. Executive Director Claire Malcolmson achieved a lifelong “nerd dream” by appearing on TVO’s the Agenda in the spring. And in the fall, Claire appeared on a popular “Wild Ontario” podcast https://www.youtube.com/@wildontariopodcast. Claire’s twenty-two-year history of volunteering and working on Lake Simcoe is invaluable in these settings.
Our fabulous summer student, Tynan Webb, helped us deliver an innovative education program over three days at the Barrie library, and did basic Lake Simcoe education and outreach at 10 community events like farmers markets over the summer.
Our volunteer education team has done nine days of outreach and education for kids and their families this year, reaching over 40 people. Moving forward we will use the small grant from the Orillia Foundation to do outreach and education in that general area.
Our core work
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition sees its core raison d’etre as defenders of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan. With Innisfil-Barrie MPP Andrea Khanjin as new Minister of the Environment we may have reason to hope. We are currently supporting Lake Simcoe Watch’s request for municipalities to remind the province of Ontario that they want the province to develop a plan to reach its 44 tonne / year phosphorus loading goal. We provide a valuable service to residents and municipal Councilors who need information both via delegations to Councils and by providing informal advice. We also research, write letters to all levels of government, and advocate for the completion of work that is needed to save Lake Simcoe’s future.
The education, engagement and support of people motivated to save their local environment is an essential function of our Coalition. But we are going to need more people to roll up their sleeves, or more people to open their wallets, if we expect to be effective. When all of the policy is upended and planning is chaos, it’s hard for anyone to hold governments to account. But we can’t give in just because it’s hard.
Managing the work
Following five years of both an increasing workload and an ever lower pay level for Claire, we decided to hire a coalition coordinator, Jessica Merriman, whose 5 hours / day is split between working for us, supporting our volunteer committees, and focusing on York Region for Environmental Defence. This new arrangement enables Jessica, who is from York Region, to coordinate and support people there who want to get involved and make a difference in that region. We nurtured the creation of the Alliance for a Liveable York Region in order to springboard from Stop Sprawl York Region to a big tent initiative that brings together unusual allies, like labour, health and environment, to advocate for change and sustainability.
Diversifying revenue sources
We are deliberately widening our relevance and reaching out to new audiences. In 2023 we hosted our second Laugh for Lake Simcoe Fundraiser, raising $7500 for the Coalition. We attracted more corporate sponsors than ever, covering $9000 in event costs. We also continued in our effort to work with local businesses who share our priorities. With Corporate Recess in Barrie, we joined a team of Dragon Boat racers for a night on Kempenfelt Bay learning about Lake Simcoe. We made a video about what you can and can’t do on your Lake Simcoe shoreline, and what you need permits for, with Parklane Landscapes from Orillia. We are now improving our contacts and donor database, which is an excel file, thanks to a grant from the Federal government for charities to modernize their operations.
Lake Simcoe is a microcosm of the limits of growth and the perils of techno-idealism, but at the same time, it is still the crown jewel of southern Ontario, and could be the poster-child for sustainable development. We thank you for being with us on this journey.