by Michelle Minnoch
Councilor Dan Davidson spoke with Premier Dalton McGuinty about the proposed Act and development around the watershed. photo by Michelle Minnoch
Premier Dalton McGuinty surprised many at the Lake Simcoe Summit on Friday afternoon, dropping by to make the announcement that he intends to push through the Lake Simcoe Act once they resume in the fall.
“I am concerned with the natural legacy we are bequeathing to our children,” the Premier said. “You and I have to do everything we can to protect this planet.”
Thanking residents and local conservation groups, McGuinty said the Act would raise the bar for sewage treatment standards and set strict limits on pollutants; create a governance structure as recommended by LSEMS; promote recreational opportunities while protecting the health of the Lake.
“I am pleased to take this very next important step forward to protecting Lake Simcoe and its watershed.”
Regarding any implications for the Big Bay Point development, McGuinty told reporters that the development would not be affected by the new legislation. “That has been in the works for four to five years now,” he said. “Our proposal is to address new development.”
The Summit, hosted by the Ladies of the Lake, included speakers from the Ladies of the Lake (LOL), Windfall Ecology Centre, Ontario Nature, and Environmental Defence.
“This is really a historic day for Lake Simcoe,” said LOL Jane Meredith.
CBC’s Valerie Pringle was the host of the summit, admitting she had yet to ever dip her toes in the Lake. “I have absolutely no connection to Lake Simcoe,” she admitted.
LOL co-founder Annabel Slaight said people must start considering the environment in their daily lives.
Regarding LSEMS (Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy), Slaight said an array of groups got together to discuss the next direction of the project. She said on June 30th, a 100 page report was handed to the government. She said the public and private partnerships working on LSEMS provided an opportunity for information sharing between the groups.
Wendy Francis from Ontario nature told the crowd that South Simcoe currently has 85,000 hectares of Provincially Significant Wetlands, and the area is maintaining one quarter of its original forest cover.
Rick Smith from Environmental Defence said Friday was a key day, and the improvement of water quality was their main goal.
Regarding LSEMS, he stated, before the McGuinty announcement, that the Act must ensure a government structure for LSEMS.
“If it (LSEMS) was working, we wouldn’t have the problems we are having now,” he said.
Citing a poll by Oracle, she stated that 90 per cent of Simcoe County residents care about the environmental quality of Lake Simcoe. “Eighty per cent are concerned that South Simcoe County was excluded from the Green Belt. As long as one side is protected and the other side is being developed, Lake Simcoe is in trouble.”
Robert Eisenberg of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition (RLSC) said we are watching as paradise is paved over. “The current and long term health of the watershed is at risk.” Regarding phosphorus loading, he said “we don’t know what our target should be, so we don’t know what’s going on.”
York-North MPP Julia Munro stated that the McGuinty government had four years to make the promise, and to make the announcement prior to the upcoming election was rather strategic.
“There was no money attached to the announcement,” she said. “It is a costly announcement, not a legislative one.”
Munro stated the Conservative intent, released in June, made the issue of sewage a plank in their platform.
“What he mentioned, in regards to phosphorus loading, groups have been working on for years.”
Lake Simcoe watershed area representation included Innisfil Councilor Dan Davidson, Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes, Ramara Mayor Bill Duffy and Mayor of Georgina, Rob Grossi.