Local environmentalists are elated, but still a bit wary, with news the Lake Simcoe Protection Act passed its third reading unanimously at Queen’s Park Monday night.
There is still a 60-day period where elements of the government’s Protection Plan regarding wetlands, watercourses and shorelines will be finalized. Public consultation will be part of this process.
“We are optimistic, but not popping the champagne corks just yet,” Claire Malcolmson of Campaign Lake Simcoe said.
Deputants at the committee sessions emphasized the need to “green the shoreline” with a 100-metre buffer around the lake. Many also stated there should be no exemptions made for existing, or future resorts and marinas, from the requirements of the Protection Plan.
“Future growth in this watershed cannot be sustained at the status quo,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, one of the co-founders of Campaign Lake Simcoe, an umbrella group composed of individuals and organizations working to preserve the lake. “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.”
Mary Jane Brinkos has been a resident of Big Bay Point for 65 years.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased but what remains to be seen is what the Plan
is,” she says. “How tight it is and if it is backdated to December 1, 2007
or December 1, 2006.”
If the plan is backdated, it could curtail plans for the Big Bay Point Resort.
Brinkos attended the OMB hearings in Alliston last year concerning the Big
Bay Point Resort proposal and is a member of the Ladies of the Lake and the
Innisfil District Association.
“How the Plan is drawn up is an important part of the process,” Brinkos
adds, “and whether it is made up of one-third business, one-third government
and one-third local people from the watershed.”
Several proposed amendments were included in the final Act, including the obligation to monitor and report on the Act’s progress every five years and to make recommendations to its structure, if necessary. There was also a call to protect citizens from Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) actions. Big Bay Point developers are asking the OMB to award $3.2 million in costs over opposition to their plan.
The Lake Simcoe Act will be given Royal Assent later this month. The Plan is expected to be released in January, 2009.
Campaign Lake Simcoe’s analysis and evaluation of the Plan will be contained in a document titled, “What it Takes to Save Lake Simcoe” that will be posted on their web site found at www.environmentaldefence.ca/campaignlakesimcoe/pub/CLSFinalResponseDiscP…