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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lake Simcoe Protection Debate Reaches Legislature

Lake Simcoe Protection Debate Reaches Legislature
All political parties urged to take up plight of Lake Simcoe

The campaign to rescue Lake Simcoe and its
watershed enters a critical new phase on November 23, 2006, with a debate
concerning the decline of Lake Simcoe reaching the Ontario Legislature for the
first time.
Garfield Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North, will be introducing a resolution
to the Legislature of Ontario, calling on political parties of every stripe to
embrace comprehensive watershed protection in the struggle to save the Lake.
Mr. Dunlop introduced the Lake Simcoe Protection Act as a private Member's
Bill on June 2, 2006.
After conducting public consultations over the summer, the MPP concluded
action and possibly an Act would have more chance of success with the full
weight of government resources and planning behind it.
Campaign Lake Simcoe, a coalition of groups concerned about urban sprawl
and the health of Lake Simcoe, is targeting the protection of the Lake by
specific legislation as a key election issue in 2007. Support for the Act and
an immediate freeze on development around the Lake's shoreline outside of
settlement areas is the only way to judge each party's commitment to real
The Act was inspired by recent events showing that water quality in Lake
Simcoe is deteriorating. Source waters, shoreline areas and Lake Simcoe itself
are particularly vulnerable to degradation and contamination from various
sources and activities, including wastewater discharges to surface water and
groundwater and land uses for urban, suburban, rural, mining, silvicultural,
agricultural or recreational purposes that result in non-point source runoff
of pollution.
Unprotected by Greenbelt legislation, the entire west shore of Lake
Simcoe is threatened by new development proposals that are clearly at odds
with Ontario Government policy.
"No local authority is able or prepared to save the Lake from new
subdivisions like the one at Moon Point on one of only three natural shoreline
areas remaining around the whole of the Lake or massive projects like the
lifestyle community planned at Innisfil," said Robert Eisenberg, co-chair of
Campaign Lake Simcoe. "People are being lulled into a false sense of security
by recent phosphorus numbers endorsed by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation
Authority. Almost the entire apparent improvement is due to changes in
measurement techniques and to dryer climate during the more recent testing
period. There may be some minor improvement in the deepest part of the Lake,
but near shore where water quality affects people most directly, conditions
continue to deteriorate, and excess phosphorus is still the main culprit. The
Act will restore environmental protection to the top of the Lake's agenda."
"South Simcoe County, with its important lakeshore habitats and
associated wetlands, is the most vulnerable landscape in the Greater Toronto
Area," said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature. "Without
the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, massive sprawl and development could erase
what's left of forests and wetlands within this region."
The concept of extending the Greenbelt as part of the Lake Simcoe
Protection Act has widespread appeal: the latest poll conducted by Campaign
Lake Simcoe shows 80% of the population around the Lake is concerned that the
Region was not included in the Greenbelt and did not receive specific
watershed protection. Another recent poll showed 90% of GTA residents approve
of the Greenbelt.
Even before the Act is introduced, Campaign Lake Simcoe is asking all
parties to support an immediate freeze on development outside of settlement
areas around the Lake, to invest in major wastewater treatment for the Holland
Marsh agricultural run-off, and to start developing a long-term plan for the
revitalization of this remarkable body of water. Simcoe County is slated for
the most extreme growth in the province in the next decade.
"Both the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine were being cut up
and damaged by piecemeal development until the provincial government showed
real leadership and produced specific protection legislation," said Dr. Rick
Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. "We need provincial
leadership to protect Lake Simcoe."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lake Simcoe delivers trophy smallmouth

It never ceases to amaze me how some river anglers who enjoy casting for smallmouth bass will have a photo taken of themselves with a 3-pound "smallie" and promptly describe it as a whopper. Stay tuned. You'll soon find out what a real smallmouth whopper looks like.
On a separate note, why is it that some fishing fans insist that ounce-for-ounce the smallmouth bass is the hardest fighting fish there is? Sure, it's a fine battler, but compared to similarly sized South American peacock bass, morocotos and piranhas, or Florida snook, baby tarpons or crevalle jacks, the smallmouth bass is relatively easy-going.
However, I do not intend to demean the species. It's highly regarded by river waders, johnboaters and canoeists who, in these parts, do not have a much better fighting fish to look for.
That out of the way, allow me to introduce my friend Wil Wegman, who is the Conservation and Media Director of the Ontario BASS Federation, not to mention a fine outdoors writer and a fishing guide on Ontario's Lake Simcoe.
Wegman likes to pull my chain now and then as he teases me with photos of smallmouth bass that he and his friends caught. The fish almost always look as if they'd been on steroids, frequently exceeding 6 pounds in weight, which is comparable to largemouth bass weighing 10 pounds or more. (Smallmouth bass grow at a much slower rate than largemouths, hence even a 4-pound smallmouth is considered a decent fish anywhere.)
Wegman says that Lake Simcoe is only one hour's drive north of Toronto. "It is Ontario's most intensively fished inland lake," he says. "But that's only because of its winter fishery when more anglers fish it than at any other time of year. Simcoe is big -- 280 square miles -- and it is the sixth largest inland lake in Ontario." That alone is a mouthful because the province boasts more than 250,000 lakes of all sizes.
On Oct. 15 Wegman caught a smallmouth bass in Lake Simcoe that weighed 6.2 pounds, which was not his first smallie to exceed 6 pounds. "I dream of the day when I'll have a five-fish limit of smallmouths that weigh 30 pounds. It's not impossible on my home lake," he insists.
To further impress us Americans -- who really ought to take a closer look at the waters to the north -- Wegman described one of the most impressive sights in the history of Canadian competitive bass fishing. It happened a few weeks ago when one monster smallmouth after another was brought to the weigh scales during the Sixth Annual Crackle Cup Bass Tournament on Lake Simcoe. "Simcoe was the same incredible smallmouth bass factory that claimed the heaviest five-bass limit ever weighed during a Canadian bass fishing contest, which was the 2003 Crackle Cup when five smallmouth bass were weighed for a total of 29.59 pounds," he pointed out.
This year proved to be even better. On Nov. 5, 18 two-person teams headed out to try and break the record.
The hosts of this final bass tournament of the year, the Aurora Bassmasters, got plenty of support from Bass Pro Shops, which supplied various prizes for the winners.
As anglers began to check in their catches at the end of the day, it was clear that a fair number of bass over the 6-pound mark had been hooked. The majority of the contestants used plastic tube jigs and also said that jigging spoons accounted for a few fish.
When the team of John MacDonald and Steve Hawkins came up to the weigh-in stand, every one of their five smallmouths looked to weigh at least 6 pounds. The scales began to flicker close to the elusive 30-pound mark. Would they settle on or above that magic number? The crowd hushed in excitement as the fish settled and the weight was 29.90 pounds! Their biggest fish was a 7.14 pound smallie. The duo set a Canadian record. Their 29.90 pounds for five bass now becomes the weight to beat for a one-day bass tournament on Canadian waters.
The bass that had been caught were released back into Lake Simcoe -? all except for four big specimens that now reside in the local Bass Pro Shops' giant public aquarium.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Residents urged to save Lake Simcoe

Residents urged to save Lake Simcoe
Date: 2006-11-10

Local residents are being urged to take action to save Lake Simcoe.
At a gala a few weeks ago, the Naked Truth Citizens’ Action Plan To Save Lake Simcoe was distributed to the public.
Packaged in a colourful, easy-to-read “fan deck”, the plan is the result of input from more than 300 citizens around Lake Simcoe who took photos last July to look at the lake from above, below, on the surface and from shore, images flashed on the screen in the banquet hall.
“You cannot look at those pictures and not be moved,” said chairperson Hilary Van Welter.
Ladies of the Lake co-founder Annabel Slaight said the message from the people who participated was “loud and clear.”
“We must manage the environment as part of daily life. The lake must no longer be an isolated ‘science-fix,’ but plans to save it must be intertwined with economic growth strategies, youth opportunities, innovative grassroots action and more,” she said.
That weekend, organized by the Ladies of the Lake and Windfall, resulted in the unprecedented grassroots movement that culminated in the creation of the Action Plan.
Windfall Ecology Centre’s executive director Brent Kopperson said the cause of Lake Simcoe’s woes, primarily due to global warming and population growth is simple, in the end.
“It is us,” he said.
The diverse plan’s priorities range from changing government policy, sustainable development and healthy shorelines.
It is divided into four sections: A New Way To Plan, exploring how it all began and came together; Vision for Living in the Lake Simcoe Watershed - “drink it, swim it, fish it, love it”; Priorities and Actions — “a menu of ideas”; and Bringing the Plan to Life - “bold possibilities”, ending with a challenge from Ms Van Welter for everyone to get personally involved in some way “to save her” (Lake Simcoe).
For more on the the Naked Truth Citizens’ Action Plan To Save Lake Simcoe, see the web sites and

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Government refuses to act on Lake Simcoe phosphorous levels

Government refuses to act on Lake Simcoe phosphorous levels

York North MPP Julia Munro demanded in the Legislature recently that the provincial government reject a proposal to allow phosphorous levels in Lake Simcoe to increase.

Questioned by Munro during question period, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing refused to rule out an increase, according to a statement issued by Munro's office later in the day.

The Inter-Governmental Action Plan, a planning process set up by the Minister to plan

development in Simcoe County, is recommending a strategy for development that would allow the levels of phosphorus flowing into Lake Simcoe to increase, the statement said.

"The government today has refused to rule out increasing phosphorous levels in Lake Simcoe," Munro remarked. "In doing this it rejected a recommendation from the Conservation Authority not to allow levels to go up."

The government paid the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) $1.5 million to develop the framework that

provides advice on development plans and their impact on Lake Simcoe. LSRCA's concerns about phosphorous were ignored by the government, Munro charged.

"Increased phosphorus levels in Lake Simcoe

would mean continued degradation of the Lake and loss of all the gains made over the last fifteen years," she said. "The government must commit to my constituents that they will not allow phosphorous levels to increase."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New poll supports greenbelt

New poll supports greenbelt

Local politicians who mess with Ontario's greenbelt lands do so at their peril.

That's the warning from a Toronto Star/Decima Research poll that shows an overwhelming majority of GTA residents support the greenbelt's goal of curbing urban sprawl and protecting area farmland.

Eighty-nine per cent — almost nine out of 10 area residents — support the greenbelt as a way to ensure cities in Greater Toronto remain liveable and environmentally healthy, with 49 per cent of those saying they "strongly support" the measure, according to the poll.

Just 10 per cent of respondents say they oppose the greenbelt because it could restrict development, drive up housing prices or make people live further away from the city.

The survey underscores the popularity of the provincially-mandated 720,000-hectare arc of protected countryside that runs across the northern GTA. And it's probably why many candidates in the burgeoning towns and cities on the edge of Toronto are making greenbelt support a key plank in their election platforms, says Decima chief executive Bruce Anderson.

In Durham, where regional council recently voted to roll back the greenbelt in some areas, election signs for several candidates include slogans such as "we love our greenbelt" in the hopes of translating public support for the provincial law into votes on Nov. 13.

And yesterday, the Sierra Club of Canada endorsed a dozen candidates in that region for their pledge to protect greenbelt land and to refuse campaign donations from developers.

Environmental lawyer David Donnelly, who has acted for Environmental Defence Canada in its attempts to win provincial protection for sensitive wetlands, woodlots and endangered species across the GTA, hopes area residents who support the greenbelt will help "green" candidates get elected.

Since many of these candidates are women who have trouble competing financially with their pro-development opponents on council, Donnelly and Markham councillor Erin Shapero are co-chairing a fundraiser at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel on Monday.

The "Green Divas for Council" event will celebrate all candidates regardless of gender who have taken the "green pledge," Donnelly says. The so-called Green Agenda 2006, drafted by environmental advocates, calls for politicians to vote against changing the greenbelt boundary; not accept developer money to finance their campaigns; and to vote in favour of creating a "green building standard."

"We need to elect people who will vote to expand the greenbelt and stop developers that want to eat away at its edges," he says. "When the greenbelt gets bigger, our grandchildren's traffic jams get smaller."

"Diva" candidates being honoured include Vaughan's Deb Schulte (Ward 2) who helped save an old growth forest in Boyd Park; Richmond Hill environmentalist Natalie Helferty (Ward 3); Pickering activist Bonnie Littley (Ward 1) who helped save the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve; Oro-Medonte's Mary O'Farrell-Bowers (Ward 5) who fought development at Moon Point on Lake Simcoe; and Clarington's Linda Gasser (Wards 3, 4) a greenbelt defender in Durham Region.

Most GTA residents agree developers should not be allowed to contribute to municipal campaigns, according to the poll. Seventy-four per cent said real or perceived conflicts of interest should disqualify developers from financially backing municipal candidates. Just 26 per cent said they should be treated no differently than other voters and be able to donate.

The Sunday Star published a partial list of 40 candidates running "developer-free" campaigns this week. Since the story ran, more candidates have contacted the Star to say they, too, are accepting only donations from individuals.

They include Toronto candidates, Helen Kennedy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Jim Robb (Ward 43, Scarborough East); Richmond Hill candidates Asghar Naqvi (Ward 2) and Vik Gandhi (Ward 3); Markham candidates Bala Balasubramaniam (Ward 5); Howard Shern and Peter Pavlovic (Ward 2); George Treheles and Ivan Yao (Ward 3); Brian Weller (local Ward 4); Surinder Lamba (Ward 8); and Halton Hills mayoral candidate Robert Heaton.

Decima surveyed 748 people in the GTA between Oct. 20 and 26 using computer-assisted web interviewing. The results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.6 percentage points 19 times out of 20.