Press Releases

Innisfil, Barrie Councils question proposed Bradford Bypass

Protecting Lake Simcoe, process at the core of concerns expressed

June 2, 2021

Simcoe County, ON – On May 31st Barrie Council declined to support the proposed Bradford Bypass, and instead passed a resolution asking the province to do a comprehensive impact assessment on Lake Simcoe and those vulnerable watersheds and inflows into Lake Simcoe and to consider alternative routes. This win for Lake Simcoe occurred five days after delegates persuaded Innisfil Council not to pass a motion to “strongly support” the Bradford Bypass. Advocates for Lake Simcoe are pleased because this represents a change in municipal support for the proposed 16 km highway over forests, wetlands, rivers, and farmland.

Concerned citizens, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition applaud those elected officials who took a stand for Lake Simcoe this week. “The arguments for saving Lake Simcoe were at the forefront, thankfully,” says Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. “We have been able to caution municipal elected officials of the risks of blindly having faith in the province’s new environmental assessment process. And that’s because their “process” is to build now, and assess and mitigate as you go. That’s not responsible, and that’s no way to treat the most sensitive wetland in the Lake Simcoe watershed.”

Lake Simcoe is supposed to be the best protected watershed in Ontario, with its Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan. But the spirit of the Plan is being ignored while some politicians promote a highway that will add salt to the delicate aquatic ecosystem, accelerate climate change, destroy provincially significant forests and wetlands, and does a poor job of protecting species at risk.

The highway opponents main challenge remains the misinformation being perpetuated by some local elected officials, and of Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney (a Lake Simcoe MPP) and the MTO’s Bradford Bypass team.

What most concerns opponents about the illogical timelines are that “early works” like bridge supports are proposed to be built before the Environmental Assessment (EA) is complete. Mulroney told a Bradford Today journalist recently that “By early 2022 construction will be able to start on Yonge Street. We want the Environmental Assessment to be completed, that is critical.” However, the Ministry of Transportation wrote in a letter to York Region dated March 17, 2021, that Preliminary Design/ EA Update Study would be completed by late 2022. Starting construction before studies are complete would make the EA process just a show, and one that does not influence the decision about whether to, or where to, build a road to relieve traffic congestion in the Town of Bradford.

“If you can’t get basic information and consistent facts about the highway answered, you have to ask why?” says Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of SCGC. “A government “for the people” should want people to be informed and involved. What we have here is a process that is shrouded in inconsistencies, secrecy and obstruction and that should concern everyone.”

The second procedural complication is the unanswered question about what the Class EA will in fact cover. The province’s website for the Bradford Bypass says that through the Class EA process, MTO will complete a Transportation Environmental Study Report (TESR) which will document:

  • The transportation needs, problems and opportunities;
  • Existing environmental conditions;
  • A summary of consultation undertaken throughout the Study;
  • The generation, assessment and evaluation of alternatives within the Study Area;
  • The preferred alternative(s) / recommended plan; and,
  • A summary of potential environmental issues and mitigation measures and environmental commitments to be carried forward through future design stages.

But there is still an exemption proposal on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, which has not been granted or denied, that would exempt the MTO from doing a TESR.

“As residents of Bradford West Gwillimbury and taxpayers in Ontario, we cannot support spending a minimum of $800 million on this highway, especially with so many unanswered questions,” says the Bradford Women’s+ Group. “We were troubled to learn that families who live along the proposed Bradford Bypass route are being approached to sell their homes or be expropriated before these questions are answered and before studies are even finished. And for what? MTO’s modelling shows that the Bradford Bypass will not solve our congestion issues and we still don’t know if people will be charged a toll for using the highway.”

Finally, advocates are concerned that the Bypass will become another 407 boondoggle. Neither the MTO nor the Minister will directly answer if this road will become a toll road built for future private investment.

“Residents who plan on using the Bypass need to know whose pockets they’re going to be lining”, says Prophet. “Will truck traffic move out of free roads to use a toll road? Not likely. Will the public pay the price of the highway’s impacts just so private corporations can make mega-bucks? “Build now, figure out details later” isn’t how a huge highway project should proceed, especially when we have people’s water, climate and health on the line.“

For an in-depth blog on the factors behind the building of highways and expanding road systems, visit https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/the-bradford-bypass-clearing-the-air/

 

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For media inquiries please contact:

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director, SCGC

705-718-1383 margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca

Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director

647-267-7572 rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com

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

About the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition http://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.

Background:

Barrie Resolution:

1. That, in accordance with the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, the City of Barrie requests that the Government of Ontario conduct a comprehensive impact assessment on Lake Simcoe and those vulnerable watersheds and inflows into Lake Simcoe (amendment – and consider alternative routes ) 2. That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Provincial Minister of Transportation, Provincial Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, all local MPPs and municipalities along the Lake Simcoe watershed along with a request for support.

Stop the Bradford Bypass website https://linktr.ee/stopthebradfordbypass

Change.org petition: https://bit.ly/3cFTaMI

Life in the Fast Lane: “Priority” highway projects exempt from environmental assessment obligations under Bill 197:

https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2020/highway-projects-environmental-assessment-bill-197/

March 30 letter to Minister Mulroney https://rescuelakesimcoe.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-03-30-Ltr-to-Mulroney.pdf

Lake Simcoe Under Pressure in 2021 Report which outlines the threats the Bradford Bypass and other projects pose: www.rescueLakeSimcoe.org

 

Lake Simcoe and Simcoe County Need Greenbelt Support

Province’s Greenbelt Expansion Consultation Should include Simcoe County

April 13, 2021

Simcoe County, ON –  The province is seeking feedback on how and where to grow the Greenbelt in Ontario until April 19th. Considering the growth pressures within Simcoe County and the health of Lake Simcoe, two local environmental groups are calling for the province to consider Simcoe County as a priority area for Greenbelt expansion.

“In 2018, Simcoe County was proposed by the province as a key area to expand Greenbelt protections to and for good reason,” says Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “The sustainability of our farmland, significant wetlands, key shorelines and forests are threatened by the urbanization pressures we’re facing that encourage sprawl. We need to ensure the highest level of protection for our landscapes and water before we lose it to overdevelopment.”

A recent report, Lake Simcoe Under Pressure 2021:  Key Stressors and Solutions, authored by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition points out that huge projects in the area will only overwhelm Lake Simcoe – a lake already in declining health.  The issues are many, but the groups narrowed it down to the most egregious  projects of concern: The Bradford Bypass, the Orbit MZO, Upper York Sewage “Solution”, and growth planning.

“We cannot afford to ignore the bigger picture,” says Claire Malcolmson of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. “The science about the lake and climate is telling us that already our land use planning decisions are destroying the places and water we care about. Building large scale infrastructure projects through MZOs and “streamlined” environmental assessments is using the same 1950s solutions that got us here in the first place. Lake Simcoe needs serious champions with a sense of urgency about the lake’s predicament.”

The report outlines several recommendations about how to keep the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan strong as well as cancelling the outlined projects as they are currently proposed. Another one of the recommendations is to grow the Greenbelt to help protect the portion of the Lake Simcoe watershed that isn’t already in Greenbelt to protect its farmland, areas of hydrological importance, and to constrain urban growth in Simcoe County.

Margaret Prophet of Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition says, “Sprawl and overdevelopment are huge threats to Lake Simcoe and our region generally.  The land speculators will never say they have enough of our farmland, our wetlands and forests to turn a profit.  It is the job of our elected officials and the public to limit what is for sale and destruction. The Greenbelt can help limit  sprawl and strengthen the protection for our most sensitive lands – and most importantly, our water.”

The groups recognize the need to expand the Greenbelt to Simcoe County is urgent because Ontario recently changed many planning policies that encourage sprawl and costly forms of growth. Local municipalities are being directed to calculate the amount of land they will need to accommodate growth to 2051 with market based methodologies that favour destructive sprawl.

Malcolmson says, “The impacts of decisions made about land use today will be with us for centuries. It’s expected that the watershed’s population will more than double and likely add 20 tonnes of phosphorus to the lake by 2051. The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan target is to lower phosphorus loads from an average of 90 tonnes to 44 tonnes per year by 2045. We are concerned that the province is approving development without any public discussion or consideration of the long term damage it causes to Lake Simcoe. That should concern everyone.”

The public has until April 19th to contact the province and encourage them to expand the Greenbelt to Simcoe County. The projects outlined in the report will also likely be decided on in the near future as well.

“There isn’t a single solution to fix the problems that recent provincial policy changes have created, but reconsidering these large infrastructure projects, strengthening the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and expanding the Greenbelt to vulnerable areas are a good start,” says Malcolmson.

The public can review the Lake Simcoe Under Pressure report at: www.rescuelakesimcoe.org.  For those interested in submitting comments to the province about including Simcoe County and protecting Lake Simcoe with Greenbelt expansion, you can visit www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca for tools and tips.

Ontario’s comment portal on Greenbelt expansion is at https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-3136 

Lake Simcoe Under Pressure can be found at www.RescueLakeSimcoe.org 

Report coverage in the Toronto Star: ‘There’s a tipping point’: Lake Simcoe is supposed to be protected by Doug Ford’s government. But residents fear the province’s policies now threaten its health. April 12, 2021

Issues backgrounders

Growth Plan:  https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/the-new-growth-plan-puts-sprawl-over-all/

Innisfil Orbit MZO: https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/orbit/

Upper York Sewage Solution:

https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/upper-york-sewage-solution/

Bradford Bypass: https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/bradford-bypass/

Blog: What municipal comments about the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan reveal: https://rescuelakesimcoe.org/2021/03/26/what-municipal-comments-about-the-lake-simcoe-protection-plan-reveal/#

 

Concerned residents challenge misleading statements about the Bradford Bypass

April 1, 2021

Simcoe County, ON – The Bradford Women’s+ Group has taken the helm of the ship crammed with concerned citizens from across Ontario who oppose the Bradford Bypass. With this new energy comes an affirmation that one of the biggest problems opponents face is misinformation and a lack of transparency.

One of the citizens’ critical questions is whether studies to protect the environment are going to be done before highway construction begins. Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and local MPP, and the Mayors of Bradford West Gwillimbury and East Gwillimbury, have made statements that claim environmental protections would not be compromised. But they do not yet have any of the updated environmental impact studies, or even a design for the highway, and there is no clear commitment from the Province to complete them before construction. Proposed exemptions from the Province mean that the normal Environmental Assessment process would not be followed. Information provided on government websites is inconsistent and no clear answers have been offered about which studies will or will not be completed before the province plans to start construction. The consultation requirements have not been made clear either, which worries residents since they have not been consulted about this project since the late 1990s.

The Province’s 2021 budget released last week proposed to commence construction in the fall of 2021. By default, this will finalize the route. Yet the Minister recently confirmed that the missing studies and the highway design are not going to be complete, until late 2022 at the earliest. It seems unreasonable that the Province could incorporate any meaningful public input since no public information sessions have been announced or scheduled. 

The Environmental Assessment (EA) that was finished in 2002, predates the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, Greenbelt Plan, or any climate targets and commitments. The EA concluded there would be severe impacts to stormwater and groundwater and required upgrades to important studies on groundwater protection, archaeological resources, and stormwater management if the project were to be pursued. Proceeding without the required studies could mean that underground water that feeds wells in the area could become contaminated with salt and other pollutants from cars and the road. Stormwater that becomes contaminated puts pollution into an already stressed Lake Simcoe, a source of drinking water and fish. No federal fish impact study has been done and no federal permits have been obtained. 

Is the Province withholding information on the design of the highway and the health, environmental, and community impacts while rushing to start construction?  Why hasn’t the province clearly committed to completing badly needed studies of traffic, noise, and water contamination that it previously decided were required before starting construction?

Ministry of Transportation statements and the province’s publicly available documentation show that the province intends to proceed with this highway project before studies of the impacts to Lake Simcoe are complete and before current local residents have had any say in the highway. This is why the request to have the Federal government take over the environmental assessment process was made in the first place by Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition with legal support from Ecojustice.  

“This highway will forever change our community,” the Bradford Women’s+ Group says. “We support the request for a federal environmental assessment because we do not accept the approach of building now and dealing with the consequences to our families’ health, community, and environment later. This is not the legacy we want to leave for future generations in BWG.”

“Will the province pass a regulation to allow them to build bridges wherever they want with no studies?”  asks Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director Claire Malcolmson. “That’s their pattern. The province needs to recognize that this project is going to impact the lake they say they will protect. To ensure public trust they must do the studies they claim they are doing and build accordingly.” 

The Bradford Women’s+ Group shared information with those along the proposed route last weekend and heard concerns from their neighbours. “It has been useful to engage with residents and hear their experiences with the bypass project,” the Bradford Women’s+ Group shares. “Some residents did not know that their homes are only a few hundred metres away from the highway route and others did not know about the project at all. Some said they hope to sell their homes before the construction begins, others asked us how they could learn more and share their concerns. We’ve heard that the regional public transit systems do not meet the needs of commuters and that there are major concerns about the increase in housing developments. Most supporters of the project state that they care about the environment, but there is a strong narrative that a highway is the only possible solution.”

“As commuters, we know the frustration of traffic congestion and we agree that solutions are needed,” Bradford Women’s+ Group team members say. “We question how our decision-makers decided that a four-lane highway through our community was the best and safest option. No other options have even been explored. Key health and environmental impact assessments are missing. The assessments that were completed are decades old, do not consider the current context, and raise many red flags. No real data has been provided on how the highway will affect commute times. There is also no information about how encouraging traffic to bypass our community will affect our local businesses.”

Background: 

Stop the Bradford Bypass website https://linktr.ee/stopthebradfordbypass

Change.org petition: https://bit.ly/3cFTaMI

Life in the Fast Lane: “Priority” highway projects exempt from environmental assessment obligations under Bill 197:  https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2020/highway-projects-environmental-assessment-bill-197/

Original Federal Environmental Assessment review request letter https://rescuelakesimcoe.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/20210203_Bradford_Bypass_EA_request.pdf

March 30 letter to Minister Mulroney https://rescuelakesimcoe.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-03-30-Ltr-to-Mulroney.pdf

Lake Simcoe Under Pressure Report which outlines the threats the Bradford Bypass and other projects pose to Lake Simcoe:  www.RescueLakeSimcoe.org 

 

 

Lake Simcoe Under Pressure in 2021: 

Province has major decisions to make 

March 29, 2021

Simcoe County, ON – 

In 2021 a great number of decisions could be made, and processes put in place, that affect Lake Simcoe’s health. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and their member groups are concerned that the cumulative effect of all of the projects will overwhelm Lake Simcoe and that the province is not looking at these issues in their totality. 

Two Lake Simcoe area environmental groups released a report today called Lake Simcoe Under Pressure in 2021: Key Stressors and Solutions, outlining their concerns.

“The changes to provincial policies have put communities, including natural, in the crosshairs of sprawl and speculation. Between Minister’s Zoning Orders and weakened environmental policies, it has become overwhelming to fend off all of the assaults that are threatening our water, health and sustainable economies.  We can no longer afford to view these assaults independent of one another because they are inextricably linked,” says Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, whose coalition has helped stop three MZO proposals in Simcoe County since 2019.   

“Lake Simcoe is in desperate need of champions because it is not doing well and predictions are that it is going to get more sick as time goes on. If the province won’t be the champion for Lake Simcoe, then it is up to us to communicate how critical this moment in time is. Hopefully we can come together to protect the lake from these assaults,” says the Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, Claire Malcolmson.

The issues are many, but the groups have narrowed it down to the most egregious  projects of concern: The Bradford Bypass, the Orbit MZO, Upper York Sewage “Solution”, and growth planning. 

The groups want the public and elected officials to consider the totality of what is proposed to occur around Lake Simcoe, and answer the questions from Lake Simcoe municipalities relating to how the objectives and targets of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan could be met with all of the development directed by Ontario’s A Place to Grow. Ontario has ordered municipalities to plan for growth with guidelines that promote sprawl development to 2051. This would more than double the watershed’s population and likely add 20 tonnes of phosphorus to the lake by 2051. The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan target is to lower phosphorus loads from an average of 90 tonnes to 44 tonnes per year by 2045. “I just want to grab a big fluorescent megaphone and yell: you’re going the WRONG way!” says Malcolmson. 

Despite known impacts to water and groundwater quality, the province aims to start building the Bradford Bypass highway over Greenbelt lands this year despite the studies being over 20 years old and don’t consider the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan or alternative ways to alleviate congestion via GO transit.

The Orbit would add 150,000 people to rural Innisfil on shores of Lake Simcoe via a Minister’s Zoning Order currently being considered by Minister Clark, MMAH. Instead of providing much needed transit to nearby Alcona just north of the proposal, the Obit would bring a new GO station to the middle of farm fields. The community wants transit, but they don’t want it attached to sprawl accelerated by a MZO.

The province has flip flopped on the The Upper York Sewage System decision many times. Will they send treated effluent from a new proposed sewage treatment plant  to Lake Ontario, or to Lake Simcoe, which has less than 1% the volume of Lake Ontario? Neither option is helpful to keeping Lake Simcoe healthy or Lake Ontario clean, but when growth is planned without considering the impacts of it, this is the result. There are externalities of growth that need to be considered before approvals are given.

“We really want to know what they are deliberating: water quality or growth at all costs?” asks Malcolmson. 

Lake Simcoe is well-loved in Ontario, but if its health deteriorates further it will not be appealing recreationally, for locals or tourists, and its sustainable recreation economy will suffer. The Williams Treaty First Nations also have treaty rights that require the Province to protect their harvesting rights, and that should mean that water quality and fish health remain at the core of management decision-making.

At minimum, the report’s authors expect the province to protect Lake Simcoe as promised in the Made in Ontario Environment Plan, to “Build on previous successes and continue to implement the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan to protect and restore important natural areas and features of the lake.”  The caveat, however, is that if the province is serious about protecting Lake Simcoe and this region, then they must get honest about how other decisions in land use, environment and transportation are direct threats to Lake Simcoe.

“Every single MPP in the watershed is a member of Ontario’s governing party. They have the power to do this, if they want,” says Prophet. “It’s their choice – do what’s best for the people of Ontario or the speculators.”

Lake Simcoe Under Pressure can be found at www.RescueLakeSimcoe.org 

And 

Issues backgrounders

Growth Plan:  

Innisfil Orbit MZO: https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/orbit/

Upper York Sewage Solution:

https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/upper-york-sewage-solution/

Bradford Bypass: https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/bradford-bypass/

Blog: What municipal comments about the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan reveal: https://rescuelakesimcoe.org/2021/03/26/what-municipal-comments-about-the-lake-simcoe-protection-plan-reveal/#

Ontario opposition parties all vow swift restoration of Conservation Authority powers


Developers who get permits through a “political route” would be left with nothing

February 3, 2021

Toronto, Ont. – Developers and landowners who want to develop on floodplains, wetlands and other hazardous or environmentally sensitive lands should think twice before using newly-created political shortcuts to circumvent or overrule Conservation Authorities. That is the unified message sent today by Ontario’s opposition political parties. Ontario’s Official Opposition New Democratic Party, as well as the Liberal, and Green parties, pledged to restore the powers of Conservation Authorities over development decisions. The New Democratic, Liberal, and Green parties also committed to revoke without compensation any permits that are granted using the lenient and politicized new development approval routes created by the government.

“We hope these commitments from Ontario’s opposition parties will help stem the destruction the government has unleashed on natural features that keep us safe. They send a clear message to developers that if they use new loopholes to get around Conservation Authorities’ decisions, they risk throwing away their investment,” said Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager, Environmental Defence. “The prudent approach for developers and landowners now is to act as though Conservation Authority decisions are final, and to focus on complying with whatever flood and landslide prevention and other environmental constraints they impose.”

Last December, the Ontario government ignored a deafening chorus of warnings from Conservation Authorities, independent experts, farmers, the public, and its own Greenbelt Council, and passed Schedule 6 of Bill 229, which undermined protections against floods, landslides and environmental hazards by hobbling Conservation Authorities. These changes are designed – and are already being used in conjunction with Minister’s Zoning Orders – to unleash residential and commercial sprawl in environmentally sensitive areas, like a Provincially Significant Wetland in Pickering connected to Lower Duffins Creek.

Environmental Defence asked all political parties if they would commit to repeal Bill 229 Schedule 6 in its entirety upon forming government. While the governing Progressive Conservative Party did not respond, all three opposition parties have committed to do exactly that. Specifically, they have committed to:

  • remove the power of the Minister to reconsider and force through development applications already reviewed and rejected by arms-length Conservation Authorities
  • remove the Minister’s power to replace the role of Conservation Authorities in deciding all, or some subset of development permit applications, with a backroom political process
  • end “forced permits”, which Conservation Authorities are obliged to issue (even in the face of serious public safety and environmental concerns) wherever the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has issued a Minister’s Zoning Order
  • repeal the “pay to pave” provisions which force Conservation Authorities to let developers build within and compromise key protected ecological areas provided they pay monetary compensation
  • restore the power of Conservation Authorities to expropriate land required to protect the public, as well as their full research, inspection, and stop work order powers
  • remove the power of private landowners who know or suspect their property contains sensitive features, to conceal that fact by excluding Conservation Authority staff
  • restore the standing of Conservation Authorities as parties to Planning Act Appeals.
“Restoring these powers to Conservation Authorities by revoking Schedule 6 will make all of us safer”, said Dr. Anne Bell of Ontario Nature. “Conservation Authorities’ traditional role in permitting work and broader land use planning protected the wetlands and forested areas that store and slow the speed of flood waters, preventing and mitigating damage caused by floods and landslides.”

In view of the very grave threat to the environment and public safety created by development permits issued using newly-created mechanisms which circumvent or disregard expert and arms-length scrutiny, Environmental Defence asked the major parties to go further, and commit that if and when they form government, they will revoke, using legislation which denies any compensation to developers, any Conservation Authorities Act permits issued by the Minister or forced on Conservation Authorities. Both the Official Opposition Ontario New Democratic Party and the Green Party agreed unambiguously to revoke permits and legislate away any right to compensation. While the Liberal Party did not specify the means of denying compensation, they too committed to revoke the permits, and protect Ontario from any financial liability.

“The swift commitment by these parties to revoke approvals granted under Schedule 6 without compensation is a bold but necessary statement that reflects the severity of the risks they pose to healthy wetlands, woodlands, biodiversity and public safety.” said Katie Krelove, Ontario Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.

“The Schedule 6 changes to the Conservation Authorities Act are just one part of a dangerous and coordinated policy agenda that is enriching developers of car-dependent residential and commercial sprawl by sacrificing natural heritage and farmland,” said Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.

“The government’s pro-sprawl agenda, which includes running a new suburban highway through the Greenbelt, pressuring municipalities to expand settlement boundaries by July 2022, suburbanizing large swathes of countryside, and using an unprecedented number of Minister’s Zoning Orders to force through sprawl developments in the interim, have led many of Ontario’s leading environmental NGOs and grassroots groups to band together in pushing back as the ‘Yours To Protect’ coalition,” added Phil Pothen. “Today’s announcement is one of many we hope to make over the coming months as we build consensus among Ontarians of all political stripes around stopping the sprawl agenda and preserving our remaining farmland and natural heritage.”

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For more information and to arrange an interview please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, abraude@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-356-2587
John Hassell, Ontario Nature, johnh@ontarionature.org, (416) 786-2171
Katie Krelove, Wilderness Committee, Ontario Office, katie@wildernesscommittee.org, 647-208-4026

 

Groups request the federal government conduct environmental assessments for two proposed Ontario highways on environmentally sensitive land

February 3, 2021

Toronto, Ont. – Today, Environmental Defence, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition asked the federal government to conduct environment assessments (EAs) for two proposed 400-series Ontario highways in environmentally sensitive areas: Highway 413 (GTA West Highway) and the Holland Marsh Highway (Bradford Bypass). The significant impact on endangered species, migratory birds and aquatic life that will be caused by these highways, along with their associated increase in carbon emissions and the strong local opposition to these projects all meet the conditions for federal EAs. 

Ecojustice is representing the groups in their requests to the federal government.

Highway 413 is a proposed mega-highway west of Toronto that was cancelled by the previous Ontario government, but revived by the current one. This unneeded highway will cause irreversible environmental damage within federal jurisdiction, including harm to fish habitat, multiple federal species at risk, and dozens of significant wetlands, forests, and important ecosystems. The Province’s proposal to weaken its EA process for this highway would prevent proper study and mitigation measures for these impacts prior to construction, as well as exclude any consideration of the climate change impacts of the project.

Highway 413 has already met the criteria for public concern to justify a federal EA. Thousands of Ontarians have written to the Province asking them to reconsider this dangerous and unnecessary proposal. This strong public opposition has received significant media coverage. For these reasons and many others, Environmental Defence is calling on the federal government to designate Highway 413 for a federal environmental assessment. 

“Ontario’s slapdash approach to building Highway 413 could mean severe damage to our environment, including wetlands, forests, farmlands, water sources, endangered species, and people’s homes,” said Sarah Buchanan, Ontario Climate Program Manager at Environmental Defence. “It would also put more cars and trucks on the road, at a time when the federal government has pledged to cut carbon emissions from transportation. But without a proper environmental assessment, we won’t know these impacts until it’s too late. If the province won’t protect our environment, the federal government needs to step in now.”

The Holland Marsh Highway is a proposed fully separated highway located in Simcoe County and York Region near Lake Simcoe. The highway will cross through what is now the Holland Marsh, one of the most productive specialty crop agricultural areas in the country, Greenbelt areas and one of the most important wetlands in Southern Ontario. It is estimated that the development of this project will lead to the removal of approximately 39 hectares of wildlife habitat and large areas of important wetlands. The project would cause significant groundwater contamination and would put Lake Simcoe and the Greenbelt at risk.

“There aren’t sufficient studies to demonstrate that this new highway would improve traffic conditions and most traffic experts agree that new highways don’t reduce congestion in the long-term. If the Holland Marsh Highway is built, Bradford would become a place people drive through, without stopping. That would impact their downtown, small businesses and community health. We’re putting a lot at risk and spending a lot of money so Bradford can become a drive-through community,” said Margaret Prophet, Executive Director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

In the mid-2000s, the Holland Marsh Highway was shelved as being incompatible with growth planning under the Provincial Places to Grow Act. Twenty-three years later, Premier Ford’s government resurrected the project, proposing to exempt the Holland Marsh Highway from completion of EA updates prior to construction. The province’s approach would not require the Ministry of Transportation to complete proper studies on potentially harmful effects such as noise and groundwater contamination. 

Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition say that the original 1997 EA for the Holland Marsh Highway was irresponsible, failing to consider cumulative effects, climate change, or detail the impacts on natural heritage, migratory birds, fisheries, First Nations cultural heritage and air pollution. The groups are calling on the federal government to request a comprehensive EA to address these and many other impacts to human and environmental health that have been overlooked in the previous EA. 

“Lake Simcoe is stressed by development impacts, salt from the expanding road network, and excess nutrients already. Historically, the Holland Marsh filtered pollutants from the waters that flowed into the lake. It is extremely sensitive, and a wholly inappropriate place to put a highway,” said the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson.

“The Ontario government has repeatedly demonstrated disregard for environmental protections in Ontario in favour of development projects. Now they are trying to do it again by pushing through two highway proposals that will lead to significant, irreversible impacts on important habitats, wildlife, and watersheds in the province,” said Laura Bowman, Ecojustice lawyer. “Our clients are urging Minister Wilkinson to stand up for Ontarians and require Highway 413 and the Holland Marsh Highway to undergo federal environmental assessments that look at all the possible impacts these projects will have on the federal aspects of the environment, communities, and the climate, before they can move ahead.”

The official request for a federal environmental assessment for Highway 413 (GTA West Highway) can be found here.

The official request for a federal environmental assessment for the Holland Marsh Highway (Bradford Bypass) can be found here.

About ECOJUSTICE (www.ecojustice.ca): Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

About the RESCUE LAKE SIMCOE COALITION (www.rescuelakesimcoe.ca): The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a lake-wide member-based organization, representing 26 groups in the Lake Simcoe watershed, that provides leadership and inspires people to take action to protect Lake Simcoe.

About the SIMCOE COUNTY GREENBELT COALITION (www.simcoecountygreenbeltcoalition.ca): The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is a diverse coalition of 42 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.

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For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:  

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, abraude@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-356-2587

Venetia Jones, communications specialist, Ecojustice, 613 447 4546, vjones@ecojustice.ca  

Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, 647-267-7572 rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, 705-718-1383, margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca

 

 

Lake Simcoe Protection Plan Review Starts

Groups worry lake on thin ice unless Plan is Protected

January 13, 2021

Simcoe County, Ontario – Environmental Coalitions around Lake Simcoe have been waiting for the Province of Ontario to start the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review since 2019, and just as the winter holidays began, so did the review.

Lake Simcoe Watch, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and their member groups have been campaigning together under the banners of Protect Our Plan and Lake Simcoe Watch to educate and engage the public in this significant policy review.

At this point in time the groups are concerned with the absence of information upon which to justify changes to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Changes to targets and policies need to be justified using evidence that policies or practices either are working or are not working, they maintain.

“We know that residents, cottagers, fishermen, and the politicians that represent us, love and value Lake Simcoe, the watershed’s forests, trails and natural areas. But we remain concerned that the protection of water quality, Lake Simcoe shorelines, and natural areas is not being managed well enough,” says Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

The retention of long term, stable, and local jobs is more important than ever. The Lake Simcoe watershed supports a $420 million / year sustainable recreation sector. Without a healthy lake, much of that economy is on thin ice.

In early January the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition sent a letter to Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Jeff Yurek, asking for answers by mid-January to questions about what information is available, to who, and when, such as:

Is the Ministry planning to release any other reporting data about Lake Simcoe? How should people be answering questions about policy and implementation in the absence of comprehensive analysis and information about the results of actions to date and the effectiveness of current approaches?

“The public fought hard to get Canada’s best watershed-based legislation. We don’t think it’s time to change it, we think it’s time improve implementation the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan,” says Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has released a public survey, is offering to make presentations to municipalities, is hosting town halls and a science forum. But almost one month into the review no further details have been provided. In the absence of data that supports changes, the groups have asked the province to “Protect Our Plan”; not change it, but rather focus on implementation. To date 2800 people have signed petitions in support of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Lake Simcoe Watch’s position and priorities.

The Lake Simcoe groups have been articulating their priorities for the review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan (LSPP) to the Province since 2018. They are:

  • Bringing down phosphorus loads to the lake to achieve or beat the targets of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, to reduce algae and weed growth and increase water quality
  • Increasing protections for natural heritage features like forests, wetlands and shorelines to help support biodiversity, and to address phosphorus loading, warming water temperatures, and climate change.

Members of the public or media want to know more about the issue, the groups’ positions and research, and sign their petitions, see:

Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition research and factsheets & What is the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan explainer video: www.rescuelakesimcoe.org

Lake Simcoe Protection Plan

Cleaning Up Lake Simcoe report by Lake Simcoe Watch

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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

 

Using Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the fight to protect our environment

From Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Cambium Indigenous Professional Services (CIPS)

December 1, 2020

It used to be that Provincially Significant Wetlands were protected from site alteration and development, full stop. No more is that the case as the Province of Ontario breaks its own rules, and breaks with logic too, by approving development on highly protected areas, many of which are protected because they flood and buffer us from the impacts of flooding. We need to fight this abuse of power wielded by the Province.

Those of us on the outside are fed up with the Province’s disregard for the environment. And that puts us in the same place as some of our First Nations neighbours who have, over centuries, been separated from family and traditional territories, and are frustrated. What can we do?

Today the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Cambium Indigenous Professional Services (CIPS) Kerry-Ann Charles-Norris are releasing a report called Advancing Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the Lake Simcoe Watershed: Perspectives on protecting what matters to our land. The report, written mostly by Georgina Island First Nations member Kerry-Ann Charles-Norris, describes what Traditional Ecological Knowledge is and how it is used by Indigenous Peoples to identify areas that are important to them.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is oral knowledge that is embedded within Indigenous ways of knowing, is culturally based, place specific, collective, holistic and also includes long periods of observation.

The report details who’s who at Lake Simcoe, why “consultation” is so often disappointing, and how one goes about doing a Traditional Ecological Knowledge assessment. At Lake Simcoe there is an opportunity to reach the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan’s Natural Heritage targets by focusing TEK analyses at first on areas that would be better protected if they were bigger, or if other values, such as those that rise to the surface in a TEK analysis, were considered in the protection of natural areas. We need all the help we can get, and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition very much appreciates working with local First Nations on our shared objectives.

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Orbit MZO, Yes or No?

 

Residents to stand up for environment and democratic planning principles at County Council meeting

 

November 20, 2020

Lake Simcoe, Ontario – On Tuesday November 24th Simcoe County Council will hear a request from the Town of Innisfil to support, or not, the use of a Minister’s Zoning Order to fast track the development of the Orbit. Founder of Council Accountability Group – Innisfil, Leslie Pollak; principal of Kirshenblatt Urban Architecture Inc.,Steven Kirshenblatt; and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson, will do their best to convince County Council that using an MZO for the Orbit is not in the interest of the County in their delegations to Council next week.

Using an MZO to approve development applications before they have all the details in place is a current favourite of the Province of Ontario. More than 30 MZOs have been issued by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in the past two years. This far exceeds the use of this obscure tool in the past ten years under previous Provincial governments.

The delegations will centre on three main issues:

  1. Using an MZO is risky for everyone but the developer. MZOs are issued by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Once issued there is no chance of appeal by municipalities, citizens or environmental groups. The stated reason for using an MZO is to get a GO train station built as soon as possible but there is absolutely no guarantee that the station build would begin by 2022. Because an MZO is considered to be in conformity with provincial policy, there is also no guarantee that the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan would be followed. Adequate protection of Lake Simcoe and natural heritage was residents’ top concern in Innisfil’s consultations.
  2. Greenlighting a plan that starts a new city of up to 150,000 people is no small matter. At this scale the Orbit would become an urban growth node, a decision that has not been made by the County or the Province. And if Simcoe County Council approves the use of an MZO for the Orbit, Councillors must acknowledge that they are doing so blind, as there are no realistic architectural plans or drawings or site plans, nor is there market research that supports the design pitched. Typically, a development of this scale would go through an Official Plan Amendment and be considered alongside other County municipalities’ requests for settlement area boundary expansions in a Municipal Comprehensive Review. Using this approach would be far more transparent, and guarantee that applicable policies were followed.
  3. Innisfil has mischaracterized public support for the proposed use of an MZO. Of the 62 public comments on Innisfil’s Get Involved page, one supports the use of an MZO. There are worrying irregularities in the introduction of the motion that Council approved, to use an MZO, just 7 days after the first MZO draft was made public. Cynically, Council voted to use an MZO immediately after they had voted to extend the public input period, ignoring the fact that most public comments were objecting to the use of an MZO.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is asking the interested public to call their Mayors, Deputy Mayors, and the County Warden to tell them if they think that using an MZO for the Orbit is a good idea or not. The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition has written a backgrounder on MZOs and is asking local groups to sign on and share it with their Councils to help educate Councils about the pitfalls and risks associated with using an MZO rather than going through normal planning channels.

Council agenda for Tuesday Nov 24:
https://simcoe.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=546

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About: The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a lake-wide member-based organization, representing 26 member groups in the watershed, 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, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition

rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com

647-267-7572

Margaret Prophet, Executive Director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition

margaret@simcoecountygreenbelt.ca

705-730-1774

 

Changes to Conservation Authorities Act are irresponsible and unjustified

 

Ford government eviscerates CA powers putting environment and property at risk


Friday November 13, 2020

Lake Simcoe, Ontario – Last week the province of Ontario snuck changes to Conservation Authorities’ (CAs) powers into their budget bill, which could be passed without consultation as early as next week. The proposed changes are widely regarded by the environmental community as a vindictive stab at the environment and CAs led by the Premier’s Office. Critics argue that these changes will undermine the effectiveness of CAs. Additionally these changes will add costs and “red tape” for both the CAs and those seeking development permits in lands now regulated by CAs.

The proposed changes include:

  • Creating a mechanism for the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to use his/her “opinion” to override the science-based decisions of Conservation Authorities regarding the protection of wetlands, woodlands, endangered species habitats and flood protection
  • Forcing Conservation Authority Board members to “generally act on behalf of their respective municipalities” instead of the goals and objectives of the Conservation Authority and the watershed health it was entrusted to protect; and
  • Tangle up permitting processes while providing appeal rights for developers, and adding red tape and costs for all involved.

Conservation Authorities have professionally trained staff, including ecologists and hydrologists, who are best qualified to understand the impacts of development on key environmental features. By taking over control to authorize or deny development permits, the Ontario government will help the development industry continue to destroy key forests, wetlands, and recreational areas across the province. This will allow, for example, the province to ensure the destruction of the coastal wetland in Lower Duffins Creek to proceed despite the objection of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Town of Ajax and thousands of citizens’ objections.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson, was invited to participate in the province’s public consultation on Conservation Authorities, and did not hear an overwhelming call for the radical changes advanced by the Province. The Province has not released details on how they made the CA Act change proposal in relation to the comments received in their public consultation process. This is where an independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario would have been helpful, but eliminating the independence of that position was one of the first attacks on the environment completed by this provincial administration.

“Despite promises in the Made in Ontario Environment Plan, these changes will have negative effects on water quality, natural area protection, and will make us more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including heavy rain and flooding events. The proposed changes put downstream homeowners at greater risk of flooding, as the permitting and oversight powers of CA’s in the planning process have been gutted,” says Malcolmson.

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) has developed leading-edge policies and programs that help to minimize the significant impacts of development on water quality, which were enabled by the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, but not acted on by the Province. Developers are for the most part doing their part to participate and are thereby reducing harm to Lake Simcoe as compared to a pre-Lake Simcoe Protection Plan scenario. The LSRCA has also developed an exceptional Natural Heritage and Restoration Strategy, a key tool in achieving the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan’s natural heritage protection targets. If the LSRCA is changed in the ways proposed by the Province, no regulator will be taking care of Lake Simcoe.

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About: The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is a lake-wide member-based organization, representing 26 member groups in the watershed, 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

rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com

647-267-7572

 

Innisfil Community Mapping Report Supports Forest and Wetland Protections in Advance of Planned Development

 

Friday August 21, 2020

Innisfil, ON – Innisfil residents at a community mapping event, hosted by the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, articulated a strong desire to protect what attracts people to Innisfil: clean beaches, fish-bearing streams, Lake Simcoe, and the proximity of nature and trails.

Innisfil resident Texas Constantine said of the event, “I was inspired to see people from different areas come together and share their concern for the areas in Innisfil that are in desperate need of strong protection.”

One of the problems affecting the Lake Simcoe watershed is the ability to protect an adequate amount of natural heritage – mostly forests and wetlands – to protect Lake Simcoe from development and climate change impacts. Although this is a watershed-wide issue, the solutions and progressive plans are made at the community level.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and professional cartographers worked with residents and officials in Innisfil, to understand the extent to which natural features in the Innisfil area of the Lake Simcoe watershed are protected, through a community participatory mapping session. Today the Coalition released the report, maps, and recommendations that came out of that community mapping event.

Participants’ comments, desires for the future, and suggestions were collected; protecting Innisfil’s wetlands is of particular importance. Innisfil’s forest and wetland cover are well below the watershed average and below ecological targets for watershed health:

The Lake Simcoe watershed’s wetland cover currently stands at 18%, slightly less than the watershed wetland target of 20% or more. But Innisfil’s wetland cover stands at just over 10%. It is imperative, say the event participants and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, that all remaining wetlands are studied immediately to determine whether they qualify for policy protection. Those that qualify must be protected as soon as possible.

Woodland cover stands at 28% of Innisfil’s portion of the Lake Simcoe watershed. The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority’s watershed-wide woodland target is 40%, and the existing woodland cover across the watershed is 34%. In order to achieve either the province’s Lake Simcoe Protection Plan High Quality Natural Cover target or the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority’s woodland cover target, Innisfil has work to do.

This ought to be done in advance of the possible development of the Orbit Plan, which aspires to house at least 30,000 residents and / or jobs on what is currently farmland and natural heritage features. This project alone would nearly double the municipality’s current population.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition acknowledges and appreciates that Innisfil Council endorsed a staff report on the Orbit Plan, which includes the following: That Staff engage with residents, businesses and other community stakeholders during the policy development process that will create the regulatory framework for the fulfilment of the Innisfil Mobility Orbit Vision, which will protect and preserve the agricultural and environmental fabric of Innisfil and Lake Simcoe.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is pleased to have worked with residents and elected officials on this event and its recommendations and looks forward to further encouraging and facilitating public participation in realizing the vision of sustainable growth in the Lake Simcoe watershed.

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 more information:

Results of the Innisfil Community Mapping Event report: https://rescuelakesimcoe.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Innisfil_Community_Mapping_Report_final.pdf

What is the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan explainer video: www.rescuelakesimcoe.org

Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, 2009 https://rescuelaketempdomain.blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/merged-pdf.io_.pdf

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For media inquiries please contact: Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director

647-267-7572

rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com

 

Statement on Province’s Lake Simcoe announcement

Friday July 17, 2020

Simcoe County, Ontario – Environmental coalitions around Lake Simcoe have been waiting for the Province of Ontario to start the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review for many months, and today Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin announced that the Ministry will initiate the statutory review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan in the fall of 2020 to determine if the Plan needs to be changed. 

The Ontario Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks released the Minister’s Ten Year Report on Lake Simcoe  and a backgrounder explaining some funding announcements.

Lake Simcoe Watch, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and their member groups have been campaigning together to engage the public in this significant policy review. 

“The province’s timeline on the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan policy review allows interested members of the public to analyze the province’s reports, and to collaborate in order to provide the best advice possible about the LSPP review. We appreciate that. It also gives the province time to hear the expert advice of two provincial Lake Simcoe multi-stakeholder committees which have not met since 2018,” says Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition Executive Director Claire Malcolmson. 

Lake Simcoe’s health is still struggling and it cannot afford any weakening of its protection policies, the groups maintain. In addition to the protections in place in the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, this policy review now planned for the fall affords the province a chance to further strengthen the Plan by:

–        Bringing down phosphorus loads to the lake to achieve or beat the targets of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan through a renewed Phosphorus Reduction Strategy;

–        Increasing protections for natural heritage features like forests, wetlands and shorelines to help support biodiversity, and to address phosphorus loading, warming water temperatures, and climate change.

“We are pleased that the province is spending money on research and monitoring in areas that we agree are important to the lake’s health,” says the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition’s Executive Director Margaret Prophet. “Sound science, evidence and climate change projections need to form the basis of improvements to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. It is a science-based plan; it needs to stay that way.”

Members of the public or media want to know more about the issue, the groups’ positions, and research, see:

Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition research and factsheets & What is the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan explainer video: www.rescuelakesimcoe.org

Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, 2009 https://rescuelaketempdomain.blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/merged-pdf.io_.pdf

Cleaning Up Lake Simcoe, a Discussion Paper by Lake Simcoe Watch: https://lakesimcoewatch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Simcoe-Book-final.pdf

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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 40 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

About: www.LakeSimcoeWatch.ca is a joint initiative of the following organizations: AWARE Simcoe, the Innisfil District Association, South Lake Simcoe Naturalists, North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, Lake Simcoe Association, STORM Coalition and the West Oro Ratepayers Association (WORA). 

For media inquiries please contact:  Jack Gibbons, Chair, Lake Simcoe Watch 905-476-4016 jack@lakesimcoewatch.ca

 

Lake Simcoe group wants someone to make a big decision

Decisions, Decisions, by local artist Charles Pachter to be auctioned for charity

July 14, 2020

In support of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, Charles Pachter, has generously donated his most popular work, signed and framed for auction.


Decisions, Decisions
Pachter playfully presents the Queen in a moment of contemplation, pondering which hat to choose, or rather, which role to assume.
16”W 11”H (work); 24”W 20”H (framed); signed & numbered by the artist.

The DECISION is easy! Join our on-line auction. Bidding starts Saturday July 18th, 2020 and ends Monday August 3rd, 2020

“As the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition works to protect Lake Simcoe, we are delighted to have a friend and champion in Charlie Pachter,” says Executive Director Claire Malcolmson.

About the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and its 26 member groups advocate for a healthy future for Lake Simcoe. The Coalition initiated the campaign which resulted in the Lake Simcoe Protection Act in 2008 and Plan in 2009. This best-in-class legislation is up for review by the Ontario government, and the Coalition is here to defend the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Proceeds of the auction will support outreach and communications so the Coalition can continue to help people who care connect with the governments we elect to make sure they protect our lake.

The Coalition is very concerned that Lake Simcoe is at a tipping point and will not get healthier without a concerted effort from all levels of government to reduce phosphorus loads, limit the impacts of development, and protect forests and wetlands. Get involved or make a charitable donation at www.rescuelakesimcoe.org.

About Charles Pachter and Lake Simcoe
Charles Pachter speaks about MY ONTARIO: “Not surprisingly, my Ontario is about Lake Simcoe where I painted in a shoreline studio converted from an ice storage depot for twelve magnificent summers. From my diary:

July 20 Twilight. I just came out of the lake after a second swim. Water so pleasant, soothing, swirling waves lapping noisily on the shore. I waded into the water for comfort and peaceful solitary pleasure. Dove in, eyes wide open, went straight down through the clear amber water to within a foot of the pebbles, stones, rocks at the bottom, surfaced near a loon who hollered before plunging down deep. I surveyed my domain with great glee. I lay on my back, watching clouds float by over the swaying treetops. The sounds were mesmerising – a faint roar, an echoing ebb and flow. Then a palette of whitecaps, moving, roiling, then calm and still. At the shoreline gorgeous daisies swayed in the wind alongside tall grasses, raspberry bushes, mulleins, and monarch butterflies. I was feeling blissful, At Home In My Lake.”

 

Charles Pachter is a painter, printmaker, sculptor, designer, historian, and lecturer. Pachter’s contributions to Canadian culture have been recognized with honorary doctorates from Brock University, OCAD University, the University of Toronto, and Lakehead University. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Ontario, a Chevalier of France’s Order of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. Visit: www.cpachter.com

Strong and strategic natural areas protections needed in the Lake Simcoe watershed

November 28, 2019

Aurora, Ontario – A coalition of environmental groups is calling on the province to improve, monitor and implement policies to protect natural habitat in the Lake Simcoe watershed following the completion of a new regional analysis. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition is releasing a report today that reveals how well protected, or not, are the watershed landscape’s natural features. Results of the report will be discussed with Simcoe County Councillors and staff at an event hosted by Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition today and later in the evening at a public event in Sharon.

“The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan review provides an opportunity to “get it right” by protecting the natural cover that the ecosystem needs to be healthy for the long term. But it will not happen all by itself. The Province needs to put some muscle behind this and match the efforts of conservation organizations and municipalities,” says the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson, who also authored the report.

The research and mapping were conducted to inform the Province’s review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, which is anticipated to start by the end of 2019.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition worked with cartographers from the University of Guelph to map the current policy protections that apply to natural areas in the watershed. They found that despite having a great deal of natural cover in the watershed, only 21 percent of the watershed’s land is protected by policies strong enough to provide assurance that those natural features will be well-protected from land use changes and development. Even in the areas included in the report’s “Best Environmental Policy Protection” category, lands can be developed if aggregate, (stone, sand and gravel) exist on the site, or for some infrastructure projects, such as the pending highway 400 – 404 connector.

In order to protect watershed health, and water quality, scientists recommend natural cover in the neighbourhood of 50 – 60 percent of a watershed. The Coalition’s report points out that achieving 50 percent natural cover in the future, including the 40 percent high quality natural cover target of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, requires that a plan be made to secure those protections for the long term. There are numbers of ways to work towards this as the report outlines. There are places for all levels of government to pitch in.

The project researchers analysed the strengths of the policies applied to natural features across the landscape, and made a distinction between places where land use changes would not be allowed, and where they would be allowed subject to specific criteria and conditions. The latter are included in the report’s “Moderate Environmental Policy Protection” category, which makes up 41 percent of the watershed. The report points out that those protections are weak. When challenged by landowners they can be overturned. This happens often enough that the authors point out that these areas are subject to a death by a thousand cuts, and are not necessarily protected for the long term.

Fully implementing the policies of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is important, but policies are not the only solution. Permanent protection of ecologically sensitive lands through Land Trusts is an essential piece of the puzzle. Local land trusts, Couchiching Conservancy and Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust hone in on important natural features that they could purchase or protect, and particularly those next to areas that are well protected by policies.

The Couchiching Conservancy protects 14 properties, around 4, 406 acres, in or touching the Lake Simcoe watershed; the Nature Conservancy of Canada protects 3586 acres, and the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust currently protects 1531.5 acres in the Lake Simcoe Watershed. They recently expanded their land protection work into Simcoe County.

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority also protects some properties and is encouraging municipalities to adopt their Natural Heritage System and Restoration Strategy. This would help achieve the goals discussed here and restore important linkages between protected features in the watershed.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s report is available for download at www.rescuelakesimcoe.org and https://www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/greenlands_report.

Media and members of the public are invited to join the Coalition and the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust at a free public event on November 28th, from 7 – 9 pm in the Temperance Hall at the Sharon Temple, in Sharon. The two organizations will share strategies and mapping research for protecting natural areas in the Lake Simcoe watershed and nearby Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt areas, through policy and non-policy initiatives.

Event information is available on the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust Facebook pages and at https://www.facebook.com/events/1190918194435644/.

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
rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com
647-267-7572

Teamwork at play for natural areas protection in the Lake Simcoe watershed

Strong and strategic protections needed in the Lake Simcoe watershed

November 21, 2019

Aurora, Ontario – Next week, two conservation organizations share their strategies and mapping research for protecting natural areas in the Lake Simcoe watershed and nearby Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt areas. The free event is on November 28th, from 7 – 9 pm in the Temperance Hall at the Sharon Temple in Sharon.

The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition will unveil the results of their policy mapping report developed to inform the review of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, which is anticipated to start by the end of 2019. The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition worked with cartographers from the University of Guelph to map the current policy protections that are applicable to natural areas in the watershed. They found that despite having great deal of natural cover in the watershed, only 21% of the watershed is protected by policies strong enough to provide assurance that they will be well-protected from land use changes and development.

“The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan provides an opportunity to “get it right” by protecting the natural cover that the ecosystem needs to be healthy for the long term,” says the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson, who also authored the report. “Fully implementing the policies of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan is important, but so is permanent protection of ecologically sensitive lands through Land Trusts.”

Land Trusts are part of the solution, because the properties they protect are protected for ever. The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust permanently protects land of healthy ecosystems and natural environments that thrive forever, on and near the Oak Ridges Moraine. In 2018, the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust expanded their land protection work into Simcoe County. To date, the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust permanently protects 4,408 acres of ecologically sensitive lands on 59 properties.

Event information is available on the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust Facebook pages and at https://www.facebook.com/events/1190918194435644/

About: The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust is a not for profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting the natural features and ecologically sensitive lands on and near the Oak Ridges Moraine, Greenbelt and Simcoe County. www.oakridgesmoraine.org

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
rescuelakesimcoecoalition@gmail.com
647-267-7572

Susan Walmer, Chief Executive Officer
swalmer@oakridgesmoraine.org
905-853-3171 x 32


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

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