- Published on Monday, 07 May 2012 09:58
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Carl Cosack, NDACT Chair, spoke on AM740 May 7, 2012, about the ARA Review.
In a public release May 4, 2012, the public was informed that the ARA Review (Aggregate Resources Act Review) would begin in Toronto on May 7, 2012. NDACT's response is as follows:
May 7, 2012
Standing Committee on General Government
Dear Mr. Orazietti
Re: Review of the Aggregate Resources Act (the Act)
I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce, Inc. (NDACT), a not-for-profit organization with hundreds of members throughout Ontario. Our interests are aligned with various other organizations and citizens concerned about the impact of aggregate extraction on the environment, source water and our agricultural land resources. As you may be aware, NDACT was formed in response to the application made by the Highland Companies for a proposed 2,316-acre, below the water table Mega Quarry in Melancthon Township.
On September 20, 2011, the Liberal Government announced, as a pre-election promise, that it would be undertaking a review of the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA), presumably with a view to modernizing the legislation to take into account concerns expressed by various stakeholders regarding the adequacy of existing legislation in the context of current and future societal needs.
The Liberal Government, when making this announcement, made the following observations:
- “Our review will help Ontario move forward on both environmental protection and clearer policies that will support the industry and protect consumers.”
- The government’s announcement also went on to say that the review is to re-examine the Act to see if it could strike a better balance between “environmental, community and economic concerns and take into account best practices from other regions.”
At the time, there was a promise made that all stakeholders, including the public, would be provided with adequate input in the process.
Notwithstanding this stated promise, we learned only late Friday, May 4, 2012, by way of press release, that the committee would begin hearings on the next business day, May 7, 2012, and would only be providing a total hearing time of 12 hours.
I am writing to express NDACT’s extreme disappointment in the timing and format of the Standing Committee’s review of the ARA. There was no adequate prior notice given of these important hearings and the public has been allotted just six hours of the committee’s time over two days next week. There is little time for Ontarians to prepare presentations on such a complex issue as the ARA.
In your press release, you indicated there is already a schedule in place with specific time slots allotted to a number of organizations that include representatives of the aggregate industry. One must assume that if these organizations are already prepared to make detailed submissions during the time slots set aside for them, then they must have been given advance notice of the hearings, well before the last-minute, late Friday afternoon, notification afforded to the public. In our view, the promise of “adequate notice” has not been fulfilled, and there is apparent preferential treatment being conferred upon members of the aggregate industry. We view this as a breach of the public trust.
As well, the committee has decided to confine the hearings to Toronto and will not travel to those communities most affected by aggregate extraction. Given that quarries are one of the main challenges facing Ontario’s prime agricultural lands, it does not seem logical that the committee would limit public input to a few hours at hearings to be held only in downtown Toronto.
When the Ontario government announced in March that the all-party Standing Committee on General Government would conduct the review, it was believed the hearings would be both comprehensive and inclusive. We expected a detailed, and stakeholder inclusive, study of the out-dated ARA, which gives aggregate priority over every other form of land use in Ontario – including prime farmland, source water areas and environmentally-protected regions. But in its current form, the review appears rushed and biased. As previously stated, representatives from the aggregate industry have already been assigned time for their presentations this Wednesday. NDACT, the public and other agricultural organizations were not contacted in advance nor invited to attend. As well, the hearings are being held during the spring planting season when many farmers are unable to travel to the city to participate in the review.
On behalf of NDACT, I am asking committee members to immediately make amendments to the current planned process to incorporate the following:
- An extension of the time allotted to conduct more thorough ARA review hearings. This is both necessary and fair in order to ensure that the public and other stakeholders, such as environmental groups, farm organizations and rural municipalities, all of whom are, or will be, directly impacted by current and future aggregate operations, are given adequate time to prepare their presentations to the Standing Committee.
- For hearings to also be conducted in select rural communities, in particular those communities where aggregate extraction prevails. We would suggest, at a minimum, that hearings be conducted in the Guelph/Milton area, Dufferin County and in the Peterborough/Kawartha area.
This review will impact the future protection of Ontario’s prime farmland and water resources as well as responsible aggregate extraction. Much is at stake. Therefore, the committee must ensure its hearings are thorough, open and fair for all those who wish to participate.
We look forward to your response and thank you in advance.
North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce, Inc.
To view a PDF version of this letter, click here.