County supports Food & Water

Following a presentation by Shirley Boxem, Dufferin County Council last Thursday moved to support the Food & Water First Campaign, an initiative of North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce (NDACT).

NDACT was formed a few years ago in opposition to a mega-quarry on 2,400 acres of prime farmland in Melancthon and placed the source water of four river systems in peril.

It launched Food & Water First in the hope that a Legislature committee’s review of Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act would lead to stronger protection of farmland and source water than is given in the present Act and Provincial Policy Statement.

NDACT believes the review has failed in that respect. Ms. Boxem, in presentations to the council and, earlier, at Shelburne has stated in effect that the campaign is not opposed to aggregate extraction but only what is viewed as a provincial preference to aggregates over agriculture.

Although the mega-quarry application was withdrawn in the wake of strong public opposition, “there is nothing to prevent a new application (being made),” she said.

The council’s approved motion by deputy mayors Darren White of Melancthon and Walter Kolodziechuk of Amaranth reads: Whereas only 5% of Ontario’s land is suitable for farming; and whereas only half of one per cent of Canada’s soil is Class 1; and whereas Ontario, with over 56% of Canada’s Class 1 land has lost, in the two decades between 1976 and 1996, 18% of its Class 1 land; and whereas prime farmland is a non-renewable finite resource; therefore be it resolved that the County of Dufferin endorse the Food & Water First campaign.

In other land use issues, the council approved a motion by Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill and Mono Deputy Mayor Ken McGhee to “declare the entire County to be an ‘Unwilling Host’ for any future industrial wind farm development.”

Although the motion notes that the townships of Amaranth, Melancthon and Mulmur had previously declared themselves to be unwilling hosts, the county motion might be largely symbolic as the county itself does not yet have an official plan or any land-use control.

As well, it isn’t clear where the province stands on renewable energy approvals in unwilling host municipalities. The stated policy appears to be only that preference would be given to projects within “willing host municipalities,” as was the apparent case with the recent, major Samsung approval in Haldimand County.

Also with respect to farming issues, the council approved the suggested predator control bylaw.

The bylaw would permit hunting or trapping of, primarily, coyotes (or coywolves) following a livestock kill but only within a restricted area and for a limited period of time.

A Dufferin Federation of Agriculture delegation pointed out that the aim of predator control is not to exterminate coyotes but only to apply a lethal method of control where all other means have failed.

By Wes Keller
Published in the Orangeville Citizen, Nov. 21, 2013

NDACT not impressed by ARA report

The North Dufferin Agriculture and Community Taskforce board is meeting this week to discuss what measures, if any, it can take to counter what it views as glaring omissions and the weak language of the Aggregate Resources Act review recommendations.


Ontario must put farmland first (editorial)

Our provincial government has missed an opportunity to protect a vital part of Ontario’s economy.

The recently tabled review of the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) fails to put any importance on protecting agricultural land of any class.

However, the province’s agriculture industry contributes about $34 billion to the economy and supports more than 740,000 jobs across Ontario.

Farmer Brent Preston explained the financial value in farmland best during the ARA review committee’s stop in Orangeville.

“I only produce eight or 10 tonnes of salad a year on my farm, but I can produce salad in perpetuity,” Preston said. “You can only mine a tonne of gravel once.”


ARA review tabled in legislature


ARA review tabled in legislature

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Changes suggested for the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) would still permit a mega-quarry application if implemented, according to Carl Cosack, chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural Taskforce (NDACT).

On Wednesday (Oct. 30), the all-party committee reviewing the ARA tabled a list of 38 recommendations at Queen’s Park.

However, none of the suggestions protect farmland or water sources from becoming quarries or pits.

“There’s no doubt we’re disappointed. There’s no protection for the water underneath the land and no protection for the land itself,” Cosack said.

“Bottom line, it’s just unacceptable. We expect better representation from an all-party committee.”

Ontario’s Standing Committee on General Government began the process of examining the ARA more than one year ago. The review included numerous public hearings throughout the province, including Orangeville.

The committee heard from a variety of stakeholders in the land and the aggregate industry, from municipalities to farmers to engineers.

Cosack, who attended several of hearings throughout the province, said change was a reoccurring theme for aggregate legislation.

“There were all kinds that said this needs to be different. It all got ignored,” Cosack said. “It’s really quite remarkable.”

The committee recommends that farmland transformed into an aggregate extraction site is rehabilitated “where practical.” As well, improved monitoring of agricultural capability is suggested.  

On prime agricultural land, the committee recommends the Ministry of Agriculture and Food receive the application to evaluate rehabilitation plans and the potential reduction of local food production.

For water sources, the committee recommends the government, conservation authorities and aggregate producers assess the risk, and avoid damaging surface and ground water sources “where warranted.”

Cosack takes exception to the wording of the review.

“The language is so suggestive. They use clauses that are ‘if possible’ or  ‘where practical’,” he said. “That’s in essence, I hate to say it, useless language.”

The review’s wording is necessary, according to Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones, who sat on the committee during its public hearing in Orangeville.

“Some of that is because we’re not lawyers. We get an overview of what we see and what we heard,” Jones said.

“Does there have to be further study on some of the recommendations? Yes there does.”

Jones added she is proud of the 38 recommendations made in the review.

“It’s not often you get NDP, PCs and Liberals in a room together that can come up with concrete suggestions on how to improve a piece of legislation,” Jones said. “I wish we would do more of this pre-emptive stuff.”

As far as recommendations for agricultural protection, Jones said the suggested changes are sufficient.

“I think there are some concrete recommendations that cover it,” she said. “Did everybody who presented get what they asked for? No. That’s the nature of a consensus report.”

The promotion of aggregate recycling is one of the 38 recommendations, an idea first floated at Queen’s Park by Jones. In April, the MPP introduce a private members bill that would allow contractors to use recycled aggregate when bidding on construction projects paid for with public money.

“I’m happy to have it included,” Jones said. “The fact they have made reference to it, I’m pleased.”

Cosack said he is pleased to see the inclusion of promoting recycled aggregate. However, NDACT plans to continue include farmland protection in legislation.

“We’ll be fully engaged and we expect the minister (of Natural Resources) to make meaningful changes to this,” Cosack said. “Our attitude has always been that we want to work with people.”

By Bill Tremblay
Published in the Orangeville Banner, Nov. 6, 2013

Rachel McAdams, Toronto, promote Food and Water First

Contributed photo
Filmmkaer Jason Van Bruggen, camera operator Brian Smith and historian Stuart Henderson film a short video supporting the Food and Water First campaign. Actress Rachel McAdams is also featured in the video.



Canada’s largest city and one of the nation’s biggest stars have joined the campaign for Food and Water first.

Rachel McAdams, star of The Notebook, Mean Girls and Wedding Crashers, visited the Honeywood area in August to film a short video promoting the need to preserve Ontario’s farmland.

“Farmland and water are our most vital resources. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to survive,” McAdams explains in the video.  

Jason Van Bruggen, a filmmaker and volunteer with Food and Water First, said McAdams spent about two days in north Dufferin County filming and visiting local farmers.

“She is someone who is deeply concerned with that topic,” Van Bruggen said. “It’s a natural alignment.”

The London, Ont.-born actress joins North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) chair Carl Cosack, local farmer Dave Vander Zaag and Chef Michael Stadtländer of Eigensinn in the video.

“I was just hoping it draws attention to the topic and gets people to take the pledge and think about that issue more closely,” Van Bruggen said.

NDACT is leading the charge for the Food and Water First Campaign, an effort to change policies that allow rezoning that compromises food and water sources.

NDACT was created with the mandate to stop the Highland Companies' quarry plans in Melancthon as well as influence change to the province's Aggregate Resources Act (ARA).

With the quarry application withdrawn, the group is now focusing on ensuring legislation exists to protect Ontario’s edible assets.

Earlier this month, Toronto city council voted to relay its support for the campaign to the premier and ministries of agriculture, rural affairs and municipal affairs and housing.

“I thought it would be important for Toronto to take a stand. … We don’t live in bubbles,” said Toronto Coun. Josh Matlow, who tabled the motion. “Even though one might live in the heart of Toronto, it doesn’t mean we’re disconnected from the region around us.”

While political boundaries separate Toronto from Dufferin County, Matlow stressed the importance of working together within the region.

“We rely on protecting our natural and agricultural lands for the future success of the many millions of people who live in our area,” Matlow said. “We’re interdependent.”

Throughout the fight against the mega-quarry, and the Food and Water First Campaign, signs of support have popped up in Toronto businesses and on residents’ lawns. Matlow said he isn’t surprised Torontonians have joined the cause.

“Many residents recognize the connection between the success of our urban land with protecting our agricultural land,” he said. “I thought it was incredibly impressive how successful a grassroots campaign became. It’s quite remarkable in fact.”

He added the province must hear Toronto’s viewpoint on protecting farmland.

“With the strength of the voice that we have, it’s important the provincial government hears our voice on this too,” Matlow said.

“That’s why I thought it was important that we became a Food and Water First City.”

To watch the Food and Water First video, visit

By Bill Tremblay
Published in the Orangeville Banner, Oct. 24, 2013