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Coalitions call on municipalities to reject Bill 66

Citizens need 'assurance that local councils want to ... protect our water,' says official
2018-04-18 Perch Fest Ice
Lake Simcoe. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

(Barrie) - Local groups concerned about the future health of Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay and protection of our drinking water are now calling on municipalities within Simcoe County and the Lake Simcoe watershed to take a stand against Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act.

An open letter was sent to all municipal councils urging them to “...reassure...citizens that their water and green spaces won’t be sacrificed,” by passing a Council resolution declaring that they will not use the powers provided in Bill 66, should the bill become law.

Several mayors across the GTA and Barrie’s Jeff Lehman have made public statements to that end. Recently, Aurora council was the first to pass a resolution that declared they would not use Bill 66 due to its threat to the Greenbelt, its water and collective vision for their community.

Says Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, Margaret Prophet, “We know that municipalities within Simcoe County and around Lake Simcoe have worked hard to put source water protection plans in place, implement the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, and ensure that their official plans best reflect their community’s vision and needs. 

"All we’re asking them to do now is uphold their values and their community’s best interest by rejecting this bill publicly. Citizens need reassurance that local councils want to maintain transparency and protect our water.”

The bill is intended to give municipalities powers to expedite employment development applications, but at the cost of stripping away policies that protect our drinking water, the Lake Simcoe and Great Lakes watersheds, and the Greenbelt. Further, it would allow municipalities to pass an Open for Business Bylaw without informing or consulting the public, treaty holders or potentially affected landowners such as farmers or neighbours.

“It would be more productive if the province dealt with the issue they have identified directly, which is ensuring Ontario has the best environment possible for good paying and meaningful jobs far into the future. The province can eliminate duplicative policies and regulations without cancelling or rendering meaningless those that protect public health and well-being,” says Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.

The public and municipalities can provide their comments about Bill 66 until January 20.  That means that if councils do not move quickly on this item, they will lose the opportunity to provide feedback on within the formal consultation period of this bill.

For more information about the policies that Bill 66 targets, you can review the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s briefing or more in depth policy review.