The people who put bodies at the gates to stop dump Site 41 are mobilizing to bring change to the political landscape of Simcoe County.
The Stop Dump Site 41 Coalition attracted about 100 people from more than half the county’s 16 municipalities to a Barrie church on Saturday, to discuss ways to organize at the local level for the Oct. 25 municipal elections.
Letty McNeil of Wyevale — one of the organizers of the coalition’s ‘spring into action’ meeting — said the turnout far exceeded expectations.
“It’s clear many people feel strongly about the need for political change in Simcoe County,” she said. “They want more openness, more honesty in politics. “They want municipal and county politicians to be accountable 365 days a year, not just on election day every four years.”
McNeil, who spoke about the strategies employed in the battle against dump Site 41, once known as the North Simcoe Landfill, said the next meeting will be in Bradford on May 1.
Kate Harries, another coalition member, said many people who came to the meeting feel isolated in their struggle to be heard on issues at the municipal and county level.
“This is about bringing change across the whole county, not just North Simcoe,” she said.
“We plan to have a core group in every municipality who will support candidates committed to the democratic process; candidates who, when elected, will operate in an open, transparent way.
“There has to be a code of conduct among politicians that replaces the current tendency to invite a lawyer for coffee so they have an excuse to make decisions behind closed doors.”
At the same time, she added, “people have to start taking a serious interest in how local politics impact their lives. Dropping your ballot in a box once every four years, then whining about the way you are governed, doesn’t work. People have to monitor politicians on an ongoing basis to keep them accountable.”
Harries said one of the issues the group will be focusing on is improved communications from the county and local governments.
“People need to have factual information, not information with a spin that’s designed to make the political leaders look good,” she said.
Emelia Franks, from the Clearview Community Coalition said her group is battling a quarry development, but has been kept in the dark because local and county politicians have made decisions in-camera.
She said a joint Ontario Municipal Board and Environmental Review Tribunal hearing is scheduled for April 12 in Creemore.
“We have invited township council to meet with us at 10 a.m. next Saturday at the community hall in Duntroon.”
Franks said she will certainly be at the May 1 meeting in Bradford because she believes there’s “a real need for people to organize, especially in light of our experience.”
Last Thursday, Environmental Defence announced that it has joined the Clearview Community Coalition’s bid to halt the quarry at Duntroon.
An Environmental Defence news release said the organization is joining forces with the Niagara Escarpment Commission, Clearview Community Coalition and Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL) to protect the Niagara Escarpment, “which is under threat from two proposed quarries.
“One quarry, proposed by Walker Aggregates Inc., was already proposed for Duntroon, Ontario near Collingwood, when plans for yet another quarry only 600 metres away, was announced by M.A.Q. Aggregates.”
“Duntroon quarry licence application itself is a serious test case for protecting the Niagara Escarpment, the Greenbelt and Ontario’s freshwater resources,” said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.
The release says that ‘without consulting residents, a settlement has been negotiated between Walker Aggregates Inc., Simcoe County and Clearview Township which, in part, transfers a portion of County Road 91 from Simcoe County to Clearview Township for future closure.
“This agreement was apparently approved in-camera by Clearview Township on Feb. 10, then discussed again in-camera and approved by Simcoe county council on Feb. 25. As a result, Simcoe County and Clearview Township are now in favour of Walker Aggregates’ quarry proposal,” the release said.
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BILL RE-INTRODUCED
(QMI) — Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop is set to reintroduce his private member’s bill to revoke the dump Site 41 certificate of approval this week.
The bill — introduced last year — made it to second reading, but died on the order paper when the McGuinty government prorogued the Legislature.
Simcoe County has mothballed the dump, but has kept the certificate of
approval. Opponents fear the county could sell the property to a private operator, which could use the certificate to open a dump.
“If county council is sincere about not having a landfill there why would you hang on to the certificate of approval?” Dunlop asked. “I’ve said often said Site 41 is a mistake.
“The best thing would be for the bill to get support and be passed so we can move on.”