By Bruce Hain
There’s been a bit of a backwash to last week’s announcement by the province to set up a scientific panel, as well as a citizen’s advisory group, to determine how best to restore Lake Simcoe.
Within hours of Liberal Party Environment Minister John Gerretsen’s press conference at Queen’s Park, the provincial and federal Conservative parties were taking him to task.
“The time to study is over,” said York-Simcoe MP Peter Van Loan. “It’s now time to clean up Lake Simcoe. I call upon the provincial government to match the $30 million in federal funding the federal government announced last month to preserve and protect Lake Simcoe. While the provincial government announcement says they want a ‘gold standard’ for Lake Simcoe’s environment, they aren’t providing any gold.”
Van Loan says the Lake Simcoe Regional Conservation Authority has already studied the lake extensively and identified dozens of remediation projects that if enacted, could cost taxpayers well in excess of $100 million.
The federal conservatives have already brought in measures to protect Lake Simcoe, Van Loan added, including a ban of dumping waste and sewage from watercraft, and a move to virtually ban phosphates in detergents.
Julia Munro, Progressive Conservative MPP for York-Simcoe, weighed in by saying “if the province is going to institute special requirements on Lake Simcoe watershed municipalities to improve their sewer systems, it must provide them with special funding. If Lake Simcoe was a real priority for the (provincial) government, they would not spend all their time preparing studies, they would start writing cheques. The Ontario Liberals should be providing specific funding for Lake Simcoe cleanup, but their record so far shows little hope.”
However, the Campaign Lake Simcoe coalition of environmental groups was somewhat optimistic about Gerretsen’s statement.
“The province has correctly identified land use changes, meaning urban sprawl, as a primary cause of water quality decline,” said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence. “Now, the government needs to do something about it. Simcoe County is the ‘Wild West’ of Ontario urban sprawl and the new Lake Simcoe Protection Act must bring it under control if Lake Simcoe is to survive.”
Annabel Slaight, co-founder of the Ladies of the Lake, said the action being taken by the Liberals, “is another great step forward, particularly because it envisions residents of the watershed and government working hand in hand.”