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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tory promises to match feds' commitment to Lake Simcoe

Tory promises to match feds' commitment to Lake Simcoe

York-Simcoe PC candidate Julia Munro, Conservative Party Leader John Tory and York-Simcoe MP Peter Van Loan were at the announcement in Barrie. photo by Bill Rea
A Progressive Conservative government would commit itself to investing $12 million over two years in support of efforts to clean up Lake Simcoe.

Party leader John Tory made the announcement, to the delight of accompanying supporters, when he appeared in Barrie last Wednesday.

Speaking on the shore of what he called "one of Ontario's crown jewels,"

Tory announced he has an eight-point plan for the lake, with the first point being the financial promise, matching the commitment the federal government made in its March budget.

"It's a natural treasure that we have to preserve," Tory remarked, as he also used the occasion to take a couple of shots at Premier Dalton McGuinty.

McGuinty put in a surprise appearance at last month's Lake Simcoe Summit to announce his plans to put a Lake Simcoe Act through the legislature.

"He's really done nothing," Tory charged, adding the Premier made his announcement at a "lastminute photo opportunity, with no money attached."

Meanwhile, Tory stressed his personal connection to the lake, the cottage his grandparents owned and his memories of fishing for perch. "I treasure the lake," he declared.

Other points in his plan include developing a new governance structure for the lake, working with stakeholders; creating a Lake Simcoe Charter; increasing and streamlining funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects impacting on the lake (and across the province too); ending the dumping of primary sewage into waterways; hiring of more conservation officers to protect the lake and rebuilding the Ministry of Natural Resources so it can better maintain the health of the lake; conserving more green space with a Land Conservation Challenge Fund in areas like Lake Simcoe; and investing in better GO train service through the area of the lake to reduce pollution and smog.

"Dalton McGuinty has turned his back on the deteriorating health of this invaluable natural and recreational resource for four years," he commented.

"In contrast, a John Tory government will move quickly to ensure the province plays a greater roll in restoring the lake's ecological health."

The proposed new governance structure will involve other levels of government, as well as the private sector and conservationists. It will involve both elected and non-elected people, and will be streamlined to get things done for the lake.

Tory said the charter will come from the work of this governance structure, and it will set out realistic and measurable

targets for the care of the lake. He added the charter will include legislative and regulatory provisions.

He also said this won't be a top-down exercise.

"It's not about government," he declared. "It's about government showing leadership."

Tory said the party's commitment to the lake was laid out in black and white weeks before McGuinty made his announcement. He added the Premier's announcement seemed to be decided upon a couple of hours before it was made, pointing out there wasn't even a draft bill announced. He thought that was odd, given the importance of the lake, both in terms of the species it supports and its vitality to the local economy.

York - Simcoe MP Peter Van Loan was on hand for the announcement, and he said he was "particularly delighted to see the proposal to match the federal commitment of $12 million."

"It will go a long way to meeting the challenges that the lake faces," he added. "Here, you've got real dollars and a real action plan."

"Years of Liberal inaction have taken their toll on Lake Simcoe's sensitive ecosystem," Van Loan remarked. "Our Conservative government is taking action to ensure Lake Simcoe is protected and preserved for future generations. I am pleased that John Tory is willing to take similar action if he becomes Premier in October."

York North MPP Julia Munro (who will be running in York - Simcoe for the PCs in this fall's provincial election) was also pleased with the announcement.

She stated Mcguinty has only indicated his legislative intentions to do something for the lake. "That isn't what I believe is necessary," she commented.

She said a commitment of funding and and realistic targets are needed, and that's what Tory's announcement will provide.

Munro was another who had not been too impressed with McGuinty's announcement last month. She had been on her way tot he Summit herself when she heard the Premier was going to put in an appearance. "It did seem as though it was a spur-of-the-moment decision," she recalled, adding that was about a month after the PCs had identified the need to do something about sewage getting into waterways. "We can't allow the level of pollution that comes from improper treatment," she remarked.

Candidates for other parties weren't as impressed.

"Nice of them to catch up," commented John Gilbank, who is running for the Liberals in York - Simcoe. "He's about three weeks late."

"The point of this is not politics," he said. "It's about the health of the lake. So if he wants to support the Mcguinty proposal, that's great."

As well, he charged the Conservatives voted against the Clean Water Act, even though it delivered on 12 for the recommendations from the Walkerton inquiry.

"Hopefully, the Conservatives' belated interest in Lake Simcoe will mean speedy passage for Premier McGuinty's legislation to protect it," he commented. "But the Conservatives' misguided desire to scrap the Clean Water Act puts the lake and our drinking water at risk."

"Finally, the other parties are catching up to the NDP concerning environmental issues," commented Nancy Morrison, NDP candidate in York - Simcoe, who also charged it was the PCs under Mike Harris who cut back on conservation authorities.

She also wasn't impressed with Mcguinty's announcement last month, stating it "shared no specific plans, nor budget regarding Lake Simcoe, so it was just another McGuinty promise, and I know first hand how much his promises mean."

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