Rick Vanderlinde
INNISFIL – Some Innisfil councillors are angry that a national environmental lobby group continues to place hurdles in front of the Big Bay Point Resort.
The mega-marina has been approved by all levels of government, but Innisfil’s sewage treatment plant needs to be upgraded to service the development.
The proposed expansion is undergoing a mandatory environmental assessment, which allows comments from the public and interested parties.
Environmental Defence, which has vigorously opposed the resort, wants rigorous restrictions on the plant, the first to be upgraded under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act.
Environmental Defence believes more phosphorous can only be loaded into Lake Simcoe from Innisfil’s Alcona plant if the same amount of phosphorous is reduced elsewhere on the lake.
“The successful implementation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan requires diligence and attention to the opportunities for improvements to the Lake,” Claire Malcolmson stated in a letter. “The Innisfil sewage treatment project is, in our respectful submission, a missed opportunity for the lake.”
But councillors Bill Pring and Bill Van Berkel attacked Environmental Defence’s position as a stall tactic to delay the resort.  
Pring said Environmental Defence has already delayed the project through its opposition, costing hundreds of jobs and millions in tax revenue.
“This is just another delay tactic,” he said. “I find it very difficult to have these people constantly delaying things for the sake of a few people who oppose this.”
Van Berkel, who is running for deputy mayor against Environmental Defence supporter Coun. Dan Davidson, said the anti-resort campaign continues to cost taxpayers money.
“This is a taxpayer supported lobby group and we have to use taxpayers money to fight them,” Van Berkel said. “It’s time to stop the special interest groups and the ‘Old Boys Millionaires’ of Big Bay Point.”
The ‘Old Boys’ reference was an obvious shot at Davidson, who has said he wants to shake up the ‘Old Boys Club’ on council by defeating Van Berkel.
Davidson did not sway into the debate at the council meeting.
However, Coun. Lynn Dollin said the interest in Lake Simcoe and the town’s development is healthy debate.
“As long as there is no ulterior motive, I’d much rather have this than apathy,” she said.
Mayor Brian Jackson added that it’s not unusual for the environmental assessment process to delay municipal projects that might impact the environment.
Environmental Defence has several concerns, including:
• additional phosphorous loads provide no benefit to the lake or existing residents;
• it’s premature to allow any sewage plant expansion around the lake until all municipalities have a subwatershed plan;
• Innisfil’s plan to pump water to Big Bay Point from Alcona should be part to the same environmental assessment. Splitting the sewage and wate assessments should not be allowed.
“We reserve the right to seek provincial intervention and a bump-up of this process to ensure the most rigorous assessment,” Malcolmson said.