Press Releases

Local Coalitions call on municipalities to reject Bill 66 and stand up for water, smart growth

December 20, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Barrie – Local groups concerned about the future health of Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay and protection of our drinking water are now calling on municipalities within Simcoe County and the Lake Simcoe watershed to take a stand against Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act. An open letter was sent to all municipal councils urging them to “…reassure…citizens that their water and green spaces won’t be sacrificed,” by passing a Council resolution declaring that they will not use the powers provided in Bill 66, should the bill become law.

Several mayors across the GTA and Barrie’s Jeff Lehman have made public statements to that end. Recently, Aurora council was the first to pass a resolution that declared they would not use Bill 66 due to its threat to the Greenbelt, its water and collective vision for their community.

Says Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, Margaret Prophet, “We know that municipalities within Simcoe County and around Lake Simcoe have worked hard to put source water protection plans in place, implement the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, and ensure that their official plans best reflect their community’s vision and needs.  All we’re asking them to do now is uphold their values and their community’s best interest by rejecting this bill publicly. Citizens need reassurance that local councils want to maintain transparency and protect our water.”

The bill is intended to give municipalities powers to expedite employment development applications, but at the cost of stripping away policies that protect our drinking water, the Lake Simcoe and Great Lakes watersheds, and the Greenbelt. Further, it would allow municipalities to pass an Open for Business Bylaw without informing or consulting the public, treaty holders or potentially affected landowners such as farmers or neighbours.

“It would be more productive if the province dealt with the issue they have identified directly, which is ensuring Ontario has the best environment possible for good paying and meaningful jobs far into the future. The province can eliminate duplicative policies and regulations without cancelling or rendering meaningless those that protect public health and well-being,” says Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.

The public and municipalities can provide their comments about Bill 66 until January 20.  That means that if councils do not move quickly on this item, they will lose the opportunity to provide feedback on within the formal consultation period of this bill.

For more information about the policies that Bill 66 targets, you can review the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s briefing or more in depth policy review.

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About the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition:  www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca:  The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is a diverse coalition of 35 organizations from across Simcoe County and the province calling on local and provincial leaders to better protect our water resources, green spaces and farmland through smart growth and sustainable policies including expansion of the Greenbelt into Simcoe County.

For media inquiries please contact:  Margaret Prophet, co-chair, SCGC

705-718-1383 email: margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca

About: The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a lake-wide member-based organization that provides leadership and inspires people to take action to protect Lake Simcoe. www.rescuelakesimcoe.org

For media inquiries please contact:  Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director

647-267-7572  rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com

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Ontario’s “Open For Business” Bill Endangers Simcoe County’s Water and Green Spaces

December 10, 2018

Joint press release regarding the perils of Ontario’s “Open for Business” Bill 66 from Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Ontario Headwaters Institute

Barrie, ON – On Thursday, December 6, the provincial government tabled legislation known as the “Open for Business Bill”, or Bill 66. This bill provides municipalities with powers that endanger the clean water, healthy environment, and vibrant farming communities that make Ontario the best place in the world to live, play, and work. Bill 66 will allow developers access to formerly protected areas within the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Source Water Protection Areas, and the Lake Simcoe Watershed.

Bill 66 allows municipalities to get Ministerial approval for  “Open for Business planning bylaws”, without notifying the public. Those bylaws are intended to fast track development proposals that are primarily (but not limited to) employment uses. But the bar is low. A development application needs only to provide for 50 jobs, in order quality for the use of this bylaw in most of the province. Having provided for jobs, the development application can then include residential, industrial and commercial uses. And since development applications approved under the “Open for Business bylaw” sidestep public consultation and all of the environmental regulations listed above, it could lead to land uses that contaminate our water and destroy our protected green spaces.

Let’s not forget that the 2000 Walkerton tragedy, in which seven people died, can be traced back in part to a Red Tape Commission launched in 1995 by then premier Mike Harris, which also aimed to open Ontario for business after years of “provincial red-tape fatigue.” Some of the policies that could potentially be subverted under Bill 66 were created following the Walkerton tragedy.

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, says, “Our drinking water is already under threat considering the number of private wells and vulnerable aquifers in Simcoe County that don’t receive fulsome protection from contamination or over-extraction.  Now this proposed bill adds municipal wells to the list of water sources under threat. Why would we even consider putting people’s water at risk? Who does this benefit?”

This Bill also ignores the reality that some planning is best done at a regional level, to ensure region-wide systems, such as watersheds, continue to function properly. Local knowledge and sound science play a central role in regional planning documents such as the Greenbelt Plan and Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. “Without these regional planning documents we put the public interest at risk,” argues Prophet.

For Lake Simcoe, this bill is bad news for a body of water already under threat. Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson, says, “Bill 66 is completely inconsistent with the Province’s recent “Made in Ontario Environment Plan”, which stated that the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan would continue to be implemented. The targets and protections in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan are based on extensive scientific research. Allowing any development to sidestep these protections is a threat to the Lake, the quality of life of its residents, and to the local tourism industry which depends on Lake Simcoe’s health. If this goes ahead, we may as well start planning Lake Simcoe’s funeral.”

The Ontario Headwaters Institute (OHI) for its part is concerned about how the new bill will impact both water and nature. According to Executive Director, Andrew McCammon, “Over the last year, the OHI conducted numerous workshops to craft common visions for a sustainable Ontario. In Simcoe, as elsewhere, it was clear that communities want more protection for our water and our natural areas, not less. We shared those results with the province and rather than extending such protections, the Ford government appears intent on curtailing them. We need sound government policies that balance development and environmental protection, not unaccountable growth that threatens Ontario’s ecology. ”

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About the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition:  www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca: The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is a diverse coalition of 35 organizations from across Simcoe County and the province calling on local and provincial leaders to better protect our water resources, green spaces and farmland through smart growth and sustainable policies including expansion of the Greenbelt into Simcoe County.

For media inquiries please contact:  Margaret Prophet, Executive Director, SCGC

705-718-1383 email: margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca

About: The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a lake-wide member based organization that provides leadership and inspires people to take action to protect Lake Simcoe. www.rescuelakesimcoe.org

For media inquiries please contact:  Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director

647-267-7572  rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com