Toronto—Members of Campaign Lake Simcoe are calling for significant changes to the draft Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, released today, amidst troubling questions over the disappearance of key protection elements.  
The Plan fails to address new marina or resort developments, despite the public’s calls to close the loop-hole that allows developers to build massive new urban settlements by calling them “resorts”. Recreational activity, especially boating, is lumped into what seems like an after-thought “encouraging best practices” category, without even identifying the need to survey how many boats actually use the congested Lake.
Additionally, the Plan’s implementation timelines are too long, a large portion of the policies are encouraged, not mandatory, and enforcement seems to be absent. The language used to identify the targets, for example, for healthy shorelines is too vague.  The Plan would also allow new mineral aggregate projects in key natural areas.
In the lead up to the Plan, almost every citizens’ group around Lake Simcoe told the McGuinty government that special favours to developers in the form of transitioning or “grandfathering” developments like Big Bay Point are unacceptable.
 
“We know from past experiences, that where transition regulations for development are ambiguous, the environment loses,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence and Co-Chair of Campaign Lake Simcoe.
The weak transition provisions in the draft Plan will allow the McGuinty government to select which projects must adhere to the Plan, based on a number of ill-defined criteria. Projects such as the Big Bay Point mega-marina and 2,000 unit resort should not be allowed to sail through a yacht-sized loop-hole on a Lake where cottagers will be subject to new regulation and government oversight when they seek even minor changes to their dock or boat house.  
“The double-standard and dangerous precedent that this draft Plan proposes cannot be allowed to stand,” said Smith.
Environmentalists are concerned that if the transition criteria remain ambiguous, more development cases will have to go to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), and there will be more threats to democracy though an increase in SLAPP suits. Groups have been critical of the McGuinty government’s silence (literally, as government lawyers are paid to attend the hearing but never speak) over the unprecedented $3.2 million OMB SLAPP suit brought against defenders of the Lake by Big Bay Point developers.
“The Plan has some strengths but we’re left wondering why there is a double-standard,” said Bob Eisenberg, Founder of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and a key supporter of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act. “This weak Plan needs strengthening before we can support it.”
The draft Plan gets a few things right, including requirements to prepare:
•    plans for a phosphorus reduction strategy;
•    municipal master plans to control stormwater run-off – a significant source of contaminants entering the lake;
•    a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy; and
•    a Shoreline Protection Regulation restricting development and site alteration in key natural heritage and hydrologic features in the watershed (unless, of course, you benefit from the transition regulation loophole.)
 
“We will be letting the government know that this draft Plan raises more questions than it answers,” said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature.  “The Lake has been degraded by allowing one project after another to slip past rigorous and consistent assessment.  This game has to stop.”
Over the next 60 days, the public will be invited to comment on the draft Plan at public meetings and through the Environmental Bill of Rights.  Campaign Lake Simcoe will be working with allies around the Lake to ensure that significant changes to the Plan are made.
About Campaign Lake Simcoe: (www.CampaignLakeSimcoe.ca) Campaign Lake Simcoe is a partnership of Environmental Defence, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Ontario Nature and welcomes participation from all citizen groups who care about Lake Simcoe.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Robert Eisenberg, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, (416) 484-1250 x 220
Caroline Schultz, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 x 237, (416) 768-9795 (cell)