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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lake plan very fishy

There's something just a little fishy about Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's new plan to protect, and save, Lake Simcoe. Announced last Friday at the Lake Simcoe Summit in Barrie, McGuinty's plan is short on both details and cash. It also comes when the Legislature isn't sitting, and during the campaign leading to Oct. 10's provincial election. The timing is great, of course. The premier arrived unannounced on a beautiful summer day at South Shore Community Centre, located on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, and spoke to about 200 members of community groups concerned about Lake Simcoe's welfare. McGuinty was preaching to the congregation, in other words. Anyone who didn't know why the lake is in peril knew after an hour's worth of speakers made presentations on the impact of pollutants and area development.
The premier then arrived, to great applause, and announced his government will introduce a Lake Simcoe Protection Act. It's to improve sewage treatment standards, set strict limits for pollutants such as phosphorus and promote recreational opportunities, while protecting the lake. There was no money attached to the announcement, no real details on how the Act would work. It's an election promise. If his Liberals win another majority government this fall, McGuinty will take steps to make his election promise law. Which is about as much as any politician asking for your vote can do, when it comes right down to it. Simcoe County residents would probably be happier with McGuinty's promise if it came with the Legislature sitting. Or had money to buy lakefront property to help protect Simcoe. The premier also made it clear that his proposal would not apply to development projects that are already making their way through local governments. So, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act won't stop development plans at Big Bay Point in Innisfil, plans that are being considered by the Ontario Municipal Board. And what about the federal government's $12-million plan to clean up Lake Simcoe, announced in March as part of the budget? How would Liberal McGuinty's plan work with the federal Conservative's efforts to save Simcoe? Again, there's little detail and few indications how the plan will work individually or with other efforts. Perhaps those who care for Lake Simcoe, or even just recognize its importance, should be happy that both levels of government have noticed it and have said they will help. But as all Canadians should know, the difference between politicians saying they will do something and actually doing it is often large. Our politicians know the environment has become a crucial issue for voters, and parties are falling all over themselves in an attempt to make their platforms greener and greener. In the weeks ahead, candidates will be knocking on our doors, asking for our votes in October. Liberal candidates should be asked how the Lake Simcoe Protection Act will work, when and for funding specifics. The other candidates should be asked about their plan to save Lake Simcoe. Hold their feet to the fire on this one until there are some real answers, not just promises.

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