Toronto – – Environmentalists celebrated the unanimous passage of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act Monday night, marking one of the few times environmental legislation has enjoyed all-party support.
Still to be released is the Protection Plan that will make clear the government’s determination to protect wetlands, watercourses and shorelines. At Committee, deputation after deputation focussed on the need to green the shoreline with a robust 100-metre buffer around the ailing Lake. Most of the groups calling for the Act have made submissions that there should be no exemptions for resorts and marinas from the protection elements of the Plan.
“We’re delighted to see this citizen-led initiative supported unanimously, the Lake deserves no less,” said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a co-Founder of Campaign Lake Simcoe. “Future growth in this watershed cannot be sustained at the status quo, we need the Plan to be a world-class expression of protection for the natural heritage features that insulate the Lake from the worst of human activities,” Smith added.
Several key amendments made it through to the final Act, including the obligation to monitor and report on the Act’s progress every five years.
Both the Progressive Conservative and NDP critics addressed the need to rely on the Scientific Advisory Committee’s recommendations for structuring the Plan and emphasized the requirement for government action to protect citizens from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits.
“No country, let alone state, can boast of possessing Ontario’s wealth in freshwater resources,” said David Donnelly, counsel to Environmental Defence and a veteran of several battles to stop developments around the Lake. “Now we have a framework in the new Act to implement a world-class Plan equal to the challenge of protecting these resources. There’s no reason all our Lakes and watersheds, great or little, shouldn’t be governed by the principles of the Act,” Donnelly added.
“This watershed under stress needed and got fast action to protect it,” said Bobby Eisenberg, founding Chair of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. “Minister Gerretsen and all who supported the Act have won our praise and thanks for demonstrating that environmental protection in this century is enlightened politics,” he added.
“The Act follows on the heels of other progressive legislation introduced by this government to protect nature and the ecological goods and services it provides,” said Caroline Schultz, executive director of Ontario Nature.
The Act is to be given Royal Assent and Proclaimed this month. The Lake Simcoe Plan is expected to be released in the next month.
Environmentalists identify next steps as adopting a plan to serve the principles already guaranteed in the Act – science first, ecosystem based, with all shores buffered against pollution and runoff. Campaign Lake Simcoe will evaluate the Plan’s merit based on Campaign Lake Simcoe’s analysis document “What it Takes to Save Lake Simcoe” available online at: http://www.environmentaldefence.ca/campaignlakesimcoe/pub/CLSFinalResponseDiscPaperAp08.pdf
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.
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)