Food, Water Issues Should be Included in 2018 Election Campaign

By Marni Walsh
Orangeville Citizen, March 30, 2017

 

The North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) is asking Ontarians to focus on food and water issues as the politicians begin to gear up for the 2018 provincial election.

The task force is launching a campaign to make sure all politicians seeking election “make the preservation of our valuable farmland and source waters a #1 election priority.”

Alia Jalbert, the new Chair of NDACT and its legacy movement Food & Water First, says, “If there is one thing that has been a human characteristic throughout history, it is ingenuity; the easy path, in many ways, is to take over nice, cleared land for developments, but I am certain, as witnessed in Europe where there is much more reluctance to convert farmland into suburbs, that when that route is removed other ideas will emerge.”

Ms. Jalbert says the most imminent threat to Ontario Farmland, and to Dufferin-Caledon specifically, is “development, in a variety of shapes, outside of already established communities – housing developments, aggregate extraction, and other industrial uses of agricultural land.”

She suggests residents press politicians on questions that focus on the preservation of food and water such as: “What to you consider sustainable growth? Without any political action, how do you see the current trend (virtually no farmland from Markham to Toronto any more) ever ending? What options are there for growth if farmland and environmentally sensitive land are removed from the growth equation?”    

Provincial improvements have been made in recent years, largely due to organizations like NDACT working hard to keep preservation and protection issues in the political forefront.

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The cost of land protection tackled at NDACT meeting

Shirley Boxem, Chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) opened their Annual General Meeting on July 28 to a crowded hall in the Horning’s Mills Community Centre.

Ms. Boxem noted that the crowd was filled with “friends and supporters” and thanked them for being there. She introduced board members and once the minutes and agenda were adopted and financial statement reviewed the meeting adjourned to focus on the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review Draft.

This review only occurs every ten years, and Ms. Boxem stressed, “As we go through policy changes, public opinion does matter.”

She encouraged continued submissions from the community, announcing that 50 per cent of the responses to the review of the Aggregate Resources Act mentioned protection of farm land and water with specific reference to NDACT’s legacy movement “Food and Water First.”

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Last chance coming for public comment on Land Use Draft

Shirley Boxem, chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT), reminded the audience at NDACT’s annual general meeting (AGM) last Thursday, July 28, that the Province’s Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review only occurs once every 10 years and the last chance for public comment will be September 30th.

Speaking to a crowded hall in the Horning’s Mills Community Centre, Ms. Boxem said, “As we go through policy changes, public opinion does matter.”

She noted that 50 % of the responses to the recent review of the Aggregate Resources Act mentioned protection of farm land and water, with specific reference to NDACT’s  legacy movement Food and Water First.

Keynote speaker Victor Doyle, from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, addressed the Draft and what changes it holds for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including expansion of protected lands and water under the Green Belt and the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

He advised residents that to control urban expansion, they must identify important water function areas when addressing the government.

Ms. Boxem said she believes “we are in the homestretch, and the mandate of NDACT will be fulfilled in the foreseeable future.”

However, the evening was not without concern regarding the proposed Land Use Planning legislation. In response to a question from the audience, Mr. Doyle confirmed that the legislation did not address or change anything about aggregate applications – that remained “status quo.”

Mulmur Councillor Janet Horner, Dufferin’s representative on the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) and Executive Director of the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance, expressed serious concern about the financial repercussions for Dufferin posed by an increase in protected NEC lands proposed in the Land Use Planning Review Draft.

She said “conservation land tax rebates” to taxpayers living in the Niagara Escarpment protection areas could grow to a $800,000 annual loss to Mulmur Township, making it very difficult for the municipality to fund necessary services for residents without significant land tax increases.

Ms. Horner also predicted financial consequences for areas of Melancthon and said the County of Dufferin could take a financial hit of $1000,000 in tax rebates should the expansion go through.

She said Mulmur already provides high protection for the escarpment and questioned the benefits of the expansion to the citizens.

Dufferin’s lower-tier municipalities needed to “take a close look at this (planned expansion of the Niagara Escarpment) and make sure that compensation is provided.”

Mr. Doyle responded that he was certain this concern would “get the attention of politicians.” 

In terms of climate change, Mr. Doyle stressed, “What we do locally effects us globally. … Canada has already paved over one-third of its agricultural land and must start planning hundreds of years into the future.”

He praised NDACT saying, “Food and Water First has sent a resounding message across the province” and the community “should be very proud.”

Public submissions on the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review Draft are due no later than September 30th.

By Marni Walsh
Published in the Orangeville Citizen, Aug. 4, 2016

Task force says provincial aggregate policy needs clarity

 

NDACT 26d33   ContentPhoto by Alexandra Heck
Tom Eisenhauer, CEO and President of Bonnefield Financial gave a presentation on his company's progress rehabilitating the farms which would have been home to the Melancthon Mega Quarry.

The North Dufferin Agricultural Task force stopped the Mega Quarry nearly four years ago and the group hopes to ensure they never have to protest against an aggregate application again.

During NDACT’s annual general meeting on July 28, members and local residents spoke about their next steps in the ongoing aggregate battle, which include submitting public comments to the provincial government.

Presentations were made at the meeting by Janet Horner, Mulmur Councillor and Niagara Escarpment Commission representative; Victor Doyle, a planner with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing; and Tom Eisenhauer, chief executive officer of Bonnefield Financial Group.

Last spring, NDACT submitted recommendations to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as well as the Ministry of Natural Resources, outlining the changes they would like to see in the provincial environmental protection plans.

This was in response to a Coordinated Land Use Planning Review to make changes to protected land in the Greenbelt, Golden Horseshoe, Oak Ridges Moraine, as well as the Niagara Escarpment.

“NDACT supports tighter protections for agricultural lands within all four provincial plans,” the group wrote in their submission to the provincial government.

They requested that “aggregate extraction should not be allowed on any Class 1 farmland within the provincial plans.”

They also suggested that where aggregate extraction is taking place, it should not go below the water table.

“The proposed Highland Mega Quarry would have plunged 200 feet below the water table, devastating a massive aquifer and impacting water for up to 1,000,000 people downstream,” they wrote.

Now, the government is accepting feedback from the public in response to the planning review.

NDACT hopes to rally support for greater protection of local farmland by encouraging residents to submit their comments.

Since the Stop the Quarry movement in 2012, municipalities in Dufferin have continuously faced applications for aggregate extraction.

Currently, residents in East Garafraxa are concerned about a proposed aggregate operation in their area, while a group called Protect Mono is protesting plans for a quarry in their region.

“This highlights to me the need for a set of guidelines,” said Shirley Boxem, chairperson of NDACT.

She wants to see a provincial policy that clearly states where you can and can’t take aggregate.

“One of the absolute crimes,” she said, “is that a small group of citizens have to get together and raise tens of thousands of dollars to battle what is usually, lets say often to be on the safe side, an inappropriate application. That is plain wrong,” she said.

By Alexandra  Heck
Published in the Orangeville Banner, Aug 4, 2016

Rezoning application in Melancthon raises concern

Farming investment firm Bonnefield Financial has applied for zoning by-law amendments on parcels of its land holdings in Melancthon Township. The land, previously owned by The Highland Companies, was the battleground for which residents fought long and hard to protect farmland and source water from aggregate extraction. It is not surprising that re-zoning applications by Bonnefield, that contain the clause “prohibiting any new dwelling on the retained lands,” are raising eye brows and concerns among residents still feeling the loss of thirty homesteads wiped out by The Highland Companies as they cleared the way for their mega mine proposal.

 

Melancthon Mayor Darren White told the Free Press, “There are three applications, but only one large one.” In layman’s terms, White says, “From my point of view, Bonnefield is asking to join a number of individual farms with building lots into one large parcel and remove the ability to put a house on the property.” White says he is not sure of their motivation, but notes that “farmland is taxed differently than the building parcel, so costs could be a factor by way of reducing the taxes.”


Questions in Melancthon Council Chambers at the May 21st public meeting, expressed concern for the loss of small family owned farms, potential growth, and community. As far as development concerns go, White says the Township has “no indication that Bonnefield is interested in anything other than industrial farming opportunities on that one contiguous parcel.”


Bonnefield, which holds tens of thousands of acres of farmland across Canada, acquired over 6000 acres of prime vegetable land in Melancthon in July 2013 under the motto “preserving farmland for farming.” Since then, the Mayor reports, “Bonnefield has sold some of the individual properties, as well as some of the residential lots they had acquired. They also have worked with local landowners on some other land deals that will benefit local farming.”


As a result of questions from Council and comments from the public, the company agreed to put their applications on hold, giving the Township time to look into options for retaining additional building lots. Bonnefield representatives stated that they understood the public concern and would work with the Township to be a good corporate neighbour.


Karren Wallace, whose family has farmed in Melancthon for decades, and was present at the meeting as an agent for her mother, Doris Wallace, said she “was really encouraged that Council and Bonnefield were on top of the issue before the meeting.” Wallace submitted concerns that included: affordable housing, fiscal sustainability, strengthening community, Township representation at County Council and growth allocation mandates for Melancthon in Dufferin County’s Official Plan.


North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce (NDACT) Chair, Shirley Boxem says the organization’s interest in the rezoning issue centers on rebuilding “the homes destroyed by Highland Companies in Melancthon.” NDACT is concerned the application would “deny construction of homes that had been there in the first place.” Boxem says she agrees with Wallace’s point that the “Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing works to promote a housing market that serves the full range of housing needs, protects tenants and encourages private sector building – therefore, permitting residential dwellings on the retained lands would support this initiative.”


Board Member Carl Cosack says: “NDACT has a very constructive relationship with both Tom Eisenhauer (President of the company) and Bonnefield….As always, we will do our due diligence, but I trust that a resolution will be found that we can support and will be beneficial to all involved, including to the Township of Melancthon. Minister McMeekin (Municipal Affairs and Housing) is acutely aware of the special housing requirements in Melancthon and we look forward to his support for rebuilding houses that were removed by The Highland Companies.”
After the public meeting with Bonnefield on May 21st, Wallace reported, “All parties were attempting to work toward a resolution that would be in the interest of both Bonnefield and the community.” She said, “More companies should look to Bonnefield as a corporation that is a model example of true public consultation and community involvement.”
“Other landowners in and outside the Township have done these types of re-zonings,” said Mayor Darren White, “so, in general terms, it’s not that uncommon in the age of large farming operations.” He made the point, “In the future, if Bonnefield sold all or some of the parcel it could be returned to smaller farms without much effort.” He said, “The fact that the company was willing to put things on hold, so we could gather some further information, does help to put my mind at ease a little.”

By Marni Walsh
Published in the Shelburne Free Press, May 28, 2015