For Immediate Release:  March 30, 2011  
Simcoe Process to Create Sustainable Planned Growth:  Environmentalists See Potential in McGuinty Government Review of Simcoe Growth Plan      
Toronto, ON – Environmental groups around Lake Simcoe are cautiously optimistic about the McGuinty government’s decision to refer future population and employment allocations to the Office of the Provincial Development Facilitator (PDF) for an impartial review. While this might be a victory for those who want to ensure families in the Simcoe area enjoy sustainable economic and smarter urban growth over the next 20 years, it may also provide developers with an opportunity to be more aggressive in their lobbying.
The PDF will meet with municipalities and other stakeholders to determine the most appropriate outcome for Simcoe Region.  
It is important that the PDF hear from citizens groups. Environmental Defence reports indicate that the largest contributor to municipal election campaigns is the development community, so there are concerns that municipal representatives will be pro-growth as a result of this influence. By speaking to the PDF, citizens and environmental groups bring another greener perspective.
While municipalities all want higher population and employment allocations, there is evidence that citizens want residential growth to “green up” and slow down. A November 2007 Environics survey polled 200 Innisfil residents and revealed that 68% of Innisfil residents cited too much growth as their major concern.
“Now that Premier McGuinty has taken charge of the Lake Simcoe protection issue, he needs to make sure that any housing or employment developments on farmland and natural spaces meet high environmental standards. That is what Lake Simcoe needs, and that is we are hoping for,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence.    
“Nobody wants to see more rows of urban sprawl and the increased traffic congestion it brings in the Lake Simcoe drainage basin.  Why not insist that approvals of future growth use Ontario’s modern job-creating green industries, use the latest sustainable building techniques, and promote the development of compact communities?” Smith added.
“Residents from Innisfil have shown they are willing to pay from their own pockets for better sewage treatment, if the development it serves improves the quality of the lake,” said Claire Malcolmson, President of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and Innisfil resident.    
“The PDF can ensure that new development is not awarded to the shrewdest lobbyist, but to the development proposal that considers the widest possible range of growth planning issues, with a healthy Lake as the centrepiece. We are, however, concerned that this course of action punts the hard decisions to a bureaucrat to deliver recommendations right after an election. Who is the government more worried about disappointing here, the voters of Simcoe County, or the developers that help finance so many campaigns?”Malcolmson added.
In January 2011, Environmental Defence, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, Ontario Nature and AWARE Simcoe made submissions under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) asking the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal (PIR) to focus on reviewing the allocation of the population and employment forecasts for the lower tier municipalities in the County of Simcoe, as set out in Schedule 3 of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.  The Schedule identifies how to manage the oversupply of land and to develop alternative intensification and density targets for the designated farmland and natural areas in Simcoe County.  Its objective is to ensure the creation of more compact, mixed use communities that meet a higher green building and community design standard.
The EBR submission calls for greater effort to establish where the jobs really are, and to locate future residents close to those jobs to prevent a further explosion of “bedroom communities” along the already dangerously congested Highway 400.
The Ministry of Infrastructure’s press release is available here:  http://news.ontario.ca/moi/en/2011/03/news-release-march-25-2011.html  
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 232; 647-280-9521 (cell); skohls@environmentaldefence.ca