By: John Slykhuis
The Lake Simcoe Protection Act, Bill 99, got second reading in the provincial legislature last week prompting cheers from groups like the Ladies of the Lake who were responsible for raising the issue of the lake’s deteriorating health.
“It was amazing. It was like this love-in for Lake Simcoe,” LOL co-founder Annabel Slaight said. After watching the proceedings she said, “The Ladies of the Lake were applauded no less than 10 times as the prime movers bringing attention to Lake Simcoe, which resulted in the birth of this act and plan.”
She noted other groups like the Lake Simcoe Coalition and Campaign Lake Simcoe all got kudos from the MPPs debating the second reading.
“I feel very positive. I actually feel that we’re getting to the point where this lake is going to be saved. I wouldn’t have said that months ago,” she said.
The act now goes to committee and public meetings later this fall.
Slaight said the final draft of the act must be “tough and decisive. It’s got to show real progress. Obviously the funding is of concern”.
Slaight, who was on the Lake Simcoe stakeholders’ advisory committee said they worked hard “to bring community, business and government together. It was interesting to see all those groups come together. Everyone was in high gear. It was just great.”
She warned if the act “gets watered down, it won’t work. It means some people may have to make some sacrifices, I mean everyone will have to step up to the plate.”
Slaight said she hopes there will be the funding provided beyond the $30 million committed by the federal government and the $20 million committed by the province thusfar.
“There are lots of innovative ways to get the money that’s needed,” she said. The goal is to ensure “something really amazing happens in 10 years” for the health of the lake.
Slaight said that when she and LOL co-founder Jane Meredith first started their campaign to bring attention to the state of the lake five years ago, the issue wasn’t on any elected representative’s radar.
“We were told, no, it’s not an issue. Well look at it now.”
The bill was introduced for second reading by Environment Minister John Gerretsen, who noted the Huron name for Lake Simcoe was “Beautiful Water…It is still a beautiful water, there is no doubt about that, but sadly it has not always been treated with the respect it deserves”.
Gerretsen said “Lake Simcoe is a vital resource, important to the strength of our people and of our province, yet it is not in good health. The lake is under stress and under increasing pressure from urban as well as rural development, population growth, pollutants and invasive species, as well as climate change. These pressures have affected the shoreline, the water quality of the lake and the general ecological health of the surrounding area as well.” ‘
He added, the McGuinty government “is absolutely committed to protecting Lake Simcoe and restoring the natural balance of the ecosystem”.
Liberal MPP Mike Colle said he recalled going to the De La Salle Camp as young boy, noting the radial railway would bring families up to the lake.
 “So it has always been a lake where ordinary people could go and spend a weekend…because it’s also very close, the problem is that there has been a byproduct of urban sprawl…subsequently a lot of feeder streams and springs that go into Lake Simcoe have been paved over”. Colle also warned about “megacottages” being built. “If you come to a lake, you don’t have to replicate what you have in the city”.
Opposition environment critic Toby Barrett said his party leader John Tory announced last year that a Progressive Conservative government “would move quickly to clean up Lake Simcoe” charging that Primer McGuinty “turned his back on the deteriorating health of this invaluable and recreational resource for the past four years”.
His colleague MPP Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North) noted the Ladies of the Lake calendar sale raised about $240,000 and he had just purchased 100 of the latest version to sell in his riding.
He also praised the efforts of Gayle Wood, chief administrative officer of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority.
York-Simcoe MPP Julia Munro questioned the government’s commitment to fund the bill.
“Why do you continue to refuse to fund a cleanup of the lake? Your last budget did not provide any funding, this bill would not provide any, and we have no guarantee you will provide funding in the future,” she said. “What is needed is money, not new legislation or more bureaucracy…sadly, this bill that we are debating here does not provide any money for specific projects”.
The bill has been referred to the standing committee on general government.