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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Message Clear to Ontario Legislature: 78% say Save Lake Simcoe Now

Message Clear to Ontario Legislature: 78% say Save Lake Simcoe Now
New poll shows green space protection remains key issue in battleground
ridings

TORONTO and BARRIE, ON, Oct. 5 /CNW/ - In the rapidly developing area
around Lake Simcoe, a new poll shows residents overwhelmingly support having
their region included in Ontario's Greenbelt.
Within Simcoe County, 79 per cent of people support the Greenbelt - with
only six per cent opposition - while 80 per cent are concerned that the county
was excluded from the Greenbelt. Almost four-in-five citizens - 78 per cent -
say they support directing development away from water sources such as Lake
Simcoe.
The poll was commissioned by Campaign Lake Simcoe
(www.campaignlakesimcoe.ca), a broad coalition working to improve water
quality in Lake Simcoe by protecting green space around it. Simcoe County is
the scene of an unprecedented land speculation rush that has led to numerous
urban expansion applications being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Among the several proposed urban developments in Simcoe County is a
subdivision that threatens to destroy one of Lake Simcoe's last remaining
natural shorelines, known as Moon Point, and the Big Bay Point development, a
proposed 2,875 condominium and resort development.
This summer, Campaign Lake Simcoe held four public consultations on
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop's Lake Simcoe Protection Act, which enjoys
multi-party support and will go to second reading in November. The bill would
focus growth onto existing urban boundaries, and extend green space protection
into Simcoe County, which was left out of the Greenbelt.
"We have heard from people who live around Lake Simcoe that time is
running out to protect this key resource," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive
Director, Environmental Defence. "It's clear people want to protect it, and
that the poorly planned growth that's paving the wetlands, woodlands and
working farms can't go on. It's time to protect Lake Simcoe now."
In Simcoe County - where current plans would place 140,000 more people on
green space - 86 per cent of people are concerned with the state of the lake.
Eighty-one per cent have concerns about the quality of drinking water, and 75
per cent oppose poorly planned development. If the new residents have the same
commuting patterns as Barrie does now, this will mean about 33,000 new cars
each day on the GTA's already strapped highways.
"Natural heritage isn't a fringe benefit. It's vital to our long-term
environmental and economic health," said Wendy Francis, Director of
Conservation and Science at Ontario Nature. "There's no excuse for any party
to oppose practical and popular steps to reduce the pollution entering Lake
Simcoe by keeping natural areas free from sprawl."
The fast-growing area's often-close ridings will be a battleground in the
2007 provincial election, and the poll shows the race to be tight. In Simcoe
County, 44 per cent say they would vote for the PC Party if an election were
held in August. The Liberals have 39 per cent support, and the NDP nine per
cent.
Among PC voters, 70 per cent want leader John Tory's environmental
approach to be more like that of former PC Premier Bill Davis - who protected
the Niagara Escarpment. Among Liberal voters, 91 per cent feel McGuinty should
be greener than the Conservatives; only four per cent do not.
"The state of Lake Simcoe and poorly-planned growth are top-of-mind
issues in the area," said Robert Eisenberg of the Rescue Lake Simcoe
Coalition, which is helping co-ordinate a 25,000-piece mailing into the area.
"And with broad support for protection around the lake, and multi-partisan
support at Queen's Park, it's time to know where the leaders stand on an issue
that's not going away."

The poll was conducted by OraclePoll Research, and surveyed 500 people in
Simcoe County. The margin of error is 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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