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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
protection.
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."