BARRIE — Premier Dalton McGuinty made a surprise visit yesterday to the south shore of Kempenfelt Bay to tell well-heeled opponents of further development around Lake Simcoe that he will give them what they want: a new law controlling building around the lake.
But the Premier made it clear that the proposed Lake Simcoe Act will not stop one of the key targets of their activism: a massive marina-resort development at Big Bay Point, which will be the subject of an Ontario Municipal Board hearing starting Aug. 9.
While he told reporters he would not discuss specifics of an OMB case, Mr. McGuinty noted that the Big Bay development, which the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing signed off on last week, has been under way for four or five years and is supported by both the town of Innisfil and Simcoe County.
“Our proposal is to address new developments, and I am urging all those that are considering new developments to take a look at our press release and to understand that we are intent to move on this [the act] as quickly as we can,” the Premier said.
Mr. McGuinty’s appearance turned a meeting aimed at putting election-eve heat on provincial politicians to back a Lake Simcoe Act into something of a Liberal lovefest with representatives of about 100 groups from around the lake.
But it had none of the usual trappings of a government announcement.
The Queen’s Park media were not along for the event and no county warden or mayor was lined up to participate.
And even though the Premier likened the importance of the new act to the creation of the greenbelt, the announcement was devoid of the detail – for example, the areas that would be governed by the proposed act – characteristic of a carefully prepared government measure.
The Premier said that a new act would raise the bar for sewage-treatment standards, set strict limits on pollutants, create a new governance structure for controlling development around the lake, and promote recreational opportunities so more people can use it.
Mr. McGuinty was introduced at the meeting by Rick Smith of Environmental Defence Canada, a group that has been closely allied with the Premier’s development-control policies.
But the announcement apparently did not go as far as some of the guests hoped. Before Mr. McGuinty’s arrival, lawyer David Donnelly, who is representing opponents of the Big Bay resort at the OMB, confidently said: “It is an outrageous, audacious proposal, but I think his [project developer Earl Rumm’s] luck is going to change, starting today.”
After the Premier made it clear yesterday that the law would not apply to the Big Bay proposal for a 1,000-slip marina, 1,600 time-share units and 400 hotel rooms, Mr. Donnelly said that regulations were developed with the greenbelt legislation to retroactively catch some proposals that failed to meet the act’s principles.
“Nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to policy and legislation,” said Mr. Donnelly, who added his clients are studying the Premier’s remarks and “will have something to say about it next week, I’m sure.”