Press Release: 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.Read more
A letter, co-written by SCGC and the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, sent to Simcoe County Mayors and council members.
December 19, 2018
Dear Mayor and Council,
RE: Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition represents 17 local groups of citizens who are concerned about the health of Lake Simcoe. The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition represents 35 groups from across Simcoe County and the province including ratepayers, naturalists, indigenous communities and climate advocates who want to create a more prosperous Simcoe County through protection of our water, green spaces and sustainable development.
Recently, the provincial government tabled Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act. This bill would enable municipalities to pass an Open for Business Bylaw which would remove key protective policies for our water, farmland and green spaces in favour of expediently processing development applications which may create employment opportunities. These policies which are under attack are not small, insignificant pieces of legislation. Rather they are keystone policies that keep our water clean and safe to drink, including the Clean Water Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and the Great Lakes Protection Act.
Our coalitions stand behind these protective policies and their implementation because we know that local economies and the public’s health rely on them. For example, Lake Simcoe contributes $200 M per year to its regional economy. The Clean Water Act, which was a direct to the tragedies in Walkerton, ensures that drinking water sources for Ontarians are free from contamination. We appreciate the need for economic opportunities, but we strongly believe that economic opportunities do not have to come at the expense of our drinking water, lakes or green spaces.
And some of your fellow mayors agree with us on that point. On Thursday December 13th, the Mayor of Barrie, Jeff Lehman, added his name to the growing list of Mayors who have criticized Bill 66. The Mayors of Hamilton, Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, Aurora, Oakville and Guelphhave also come out against Bill 66. These mayors appreciate the need to protect public health and understand their economies depend on a healthy environment.
Many citizens are very concerned about Bill 66. They want to hear that their councils believe community development and protection of our environment can coexist and be mutually supportive. To learn more about Bill 66 see the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s briefing document at : http://www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/files/CELABriefingNote- Bill66andCWA.pdf
Today, we are calling on all municipal councils in the Lake Simcoe watershed, and in Simcoe County, to reassure those citizens that their water and green spaces won’t be sacrificed. We respectfully ask that your council put safety and good regulation first and publicly commit not to use Bill 66. To that end, we enclose an example motion which could be considered by your council.
We would appreciate notification of any actions taken by Council regarding Bill 66. Sincerely,
Executive Director, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition email@example.com
Executive Director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition firstname.lastname@example.org
Joint Press Release: 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 to qualify for application of this bylaw in most of the province. Having provided for jobs, the development application can 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 that don’t receive fulsome protection from contamination or over-extraction. And this 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, states, “Bill 66 is completely inconsistent with the Province’s recent “Made in Ontario Environment Plan”, which stated last week 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.”
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: email@example.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
For media inquiries please contact: Claire malcolmson, Executive Director