Press Releases

14% protected natural areas is not enough

Stronger, strategic protections needed in Simcoe County, report shows

August 5, 2019

Innisfil, Ontario – The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition released a report and maps over the long weekend which show that only 14% of Simcoe County’s natural lands are well protected. And even the strictest land protection policies allow for aggregate activity, which has the potential to remove some of the best protected lands. Ultimately the report concludes that Simcoe County does not meet Federal habitat protection guidelines, and that much more substantial protections for natural features and linkages are needed.

Anyone can see that forests and wetlands are being lost in Simcoe County. The report asks, are our current policies protecting enough forests and wetlands to buffer the area’s water and ecosystems from the impacts of development, climate change, and fragmentation of the natural heritage system? The research indicates, the answer is no.

Simcoe County’s Natural Heritage System looks big, but 58% of the County’s land is covered by policies that allow for a ‘death by a thousand cuts’. Development applications often result in the removal of Simcoe County’s Environmental Protection designation. The result is the loss of linkages between well protected natural features. This is not helpful for animals on the move, or general ecosystem health.

The silver lining is that same 58% category. Simcoe County and its municipalities are in a position to increase the level of protection for a greater portion of the County by implementing Conservation Authorities’ Natural Heritage Systems and strategies, setting ecologically based, local targets, and by getting all wetlands evaluated and protected.

“We are not out to denigrate any agency or actor involved in making land use applications or decisions. But we need to point out that today’s policy regime is inadequate at protecting an appropriate amount of greenlands for the long term. If we don’t set a higher bar for protecting natural features we will continue to experience a loss of water quality, species, and ecosystem health,” says Claire Malcolmson, long time Lake Simcoe advocate and Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. “That is not a legacy we will be proud to leave for our kids. Last I checked, kids did not love algae-strewn beaches.”

How well protected are greenlands in Simcoe County?

Simcoe County total land area, excluding water:

14% Best Protected, level 1

58% Somewhat Protected, level 2

28% Not Protected, level 3

To see the full report, go to bit.ly/greenlandsreport.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s greenlands mapping project seeks to identify how well protected Simcoe County forests, wetlands and shorelines are by analyzing the strength of the policies applied to the features that make up area greenlands, and mapping the results. University of Guelph cartographers created four maps for this research, showing the land use mix in Simcoe County, the breakdown of the levels of protection, the locations of aggregate resources that could eat into the best protected greenlands, and the features identified in the RLSC report’s “Best Protected” category.

What should we have?

Forest cover

50% forest cover or more at the watershed scale equates to a low-risk approach that is likely to support most of the potential species, and healthy aquatic systems.

  • Simcoe County has 22%, but is losing forest cover.

Wetlands

The greater of (a) 10% of each major watershed and 6% of each subwatershed, or (b) 40% of the historic watershed wetland coverage, should be protected and restored, and no net loss of wetlands.

  • Simcoe County has 14% wetland cover based on our analysis, and approximately half of its historic wetland cover. Simcoe County is losing wetlands.

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition was involved in the development of the report. She says, “This research verifies what we at the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition have been saying for over 3 years – our green spaces and waters are not adequately protected or respected.  Each day that goes by that we dig and pave, we threaten our water, our climate, our biodiversity and our very survival.  We hope that political leaders recognize the opportunity and need to permanently protect and steward our environment. We can no longer afford dithering and delays.”

Simcoe County’s land use mix does not meet ideal greenlands protection targets, but it is possible to get it right in Simcoe County, and permanently protect an effective Natural Heritage System to buffer the local waters and ecosystem from the impacts of climate change and development, the report concludes.

Solutions

  • Municipalities and the County should implement the Growth Plan’s Natural Heritage System for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and related policies as soon as possible to better protect linkages between the best protected natural features;
  • Ensure First Nations’ perspectives and Traditional Ecological Knowledge are incorporated into provincial policies that protect natural heritage;
  • To achieve “no net loss”, all wetlands should be formally evaluated, identified and protected in the County’s Natural Heritage System;
  • Permanently protect “high quality natural cover” in the review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan;
  • Expand the Greenbelt into Simcoe County;
  • Build denser communities to reduce the need to build on greenlands.

Protect Our Water, Protect Our Plan

Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition launches campaign to improve the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan

March 23, 2019

Sutton, ON – What better time to shine a light on Lake Simcoe than Water Week? The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and many volunteers hosted an event on Saturday, in cooperation with members of the Georgina Island First Nation, to get more people involved in the Coalition’s campaign to “Protect Our Plan”.

Becky Big Canoe, local Water Protector from Georgina Island First Nation, and a Board member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, says, “My Elders’ directive is to do everything I can to protect the water, and that’s what I’m doing. For us at Georgina Island, Lake Simcoe’s health is a daily concern.” Ms. Big Canoe closed the formal presentations with a blessing of the water.

The event featured live banner painting of iconic water protector stencils, to be offered to municipal Councils around the lake. Versions of this First Nations artwork was available for sale and for kids to paint, too. Other activities included a speakers’ corner, ‘I love Lake Simcoe’ photo booth, kids’ nature-based activities and crafts, a “wish wall”, information about the lake’s health, and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition member groups’ information tables. About 80 people came out to learn, play, socialize and support the Coalition.

“In order to build a community of environmental leaders, we need to involve future leaders in the community organizing work we do. Kids have an important place in this work. They make us happy, and they are the future,” says the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson.

The event was the campaign launch for “Protect Our Plan” (POP!). The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is raising awareness about what the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan does, and how it could be improved during its legislated statutory review this year on its tenth anniversary. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition spearheaded “Campaign Lake Simcoe” in 2005, a partnership with Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature to get the Lake Simcoe Protection Act (2008) and Plan (2009). The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition was reinvigorated late in 2018 by Malcolmson and a new Board of Directors, so that a well-organized citizens group could focus on the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan Review.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is asking the Province to release the Lake Simcoe 10-year comprehensive monitoring report as soon as possible so that future management decisions are based on the latest science. The group is also asking that the Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee and Science Committee be engaged now in preparing for the LSPP Review.

The Lake Simcoe Protection Act says that the Province must review the LSPP every 10 years, and in so doing, must consult with Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee and Science Committee, municipalities in the watershed, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, and public bodies that could be affected. Members of the public must also be given an opportunity to participate in the review.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s priorities for the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review are:

  1. Develop sector-specific interim targets to achieve the 44 tonnes per year phosphorus loading target of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Measure, monitor and adapt through an improved Phosphorus Reduction Strategy;
  2. Protect 40% of the watershed’s greenspace, using a variety of tools, to achieve the high-quality natural cover target of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan;
  3. Add the Lake Simcoe Climate Change Adaptation Strategy policies to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan in order to reduce phosphorus loads, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and increase natural cover;
  4. Maintain nutrient load caps on Sewage Treatment Plants;
  5. Promote partnership with First Nations in implementing the LSPP by funding a position under the direction of Lake Simcoe’s First Nations, to identify LSPP policies that require more thorough First Nations involvement, input, and/or Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

“Along with our member groups and supporters, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition looks forward to working with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks on setting a course for Lake Simcoe that recognizes and addresses the threats to the lake’s health,” Malcolmson said.

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


Statement on Province’s Decision about Schedule 10 of Bill 66

Thursday January 24, 2019

Steve Clarke, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced Wednesday afternoon that the government will not be pursuing Schedule 10 of Bill 66.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and allies across the region and province have strongly opposed Schedule 10, which would have allowed for fast tracking certain development related to employment by overriding long-standing environmental protections, such as those contained in the Clean Water Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, and the Greenbelt Act.

We are pleased that the government listened to concerns expressed by countless citizens, as well as community and environmental organizations, farmers’ federations, municipalities, labour representatives and planning associations, among others. We saw a groundswell of support for protecting Ontario’s water, farmland, communities and environment.

The message to the government is clear: our water and environment is a shared heritage and should not be sacrificed to benefit a few; water is core to Ontarians’ identity; and good planning must be accountable to the public.

We want to thank all of the municipal politicians that showed leadership on this issue, including in the Lake Simcoe watershed, the Councils of Bradford West Gwillimbury, Brock, Georgina, Aurora, and the Mayor of Barrie, Jeff Lehman. We’d also like to thank MPPs Andrea Khanjin, Caroline Mulroney, Jill Dunlop and Doug Downey for meeting with us and listening to our concerns. Most especially, we want to thank the countless supporters who stood up when it counted and lifted their voice with ours.

We look forward to continuing to build a better Simcoe County, Lake Simcoe watershed, and a better Ontario.

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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

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  margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca

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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