Ottawa/Queen's Park



 NECThe Liberal government has a responsibility to communicate more clearly its co-ordinated land use planning review with constituents in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound prior to any changes taking place, says local MPP Bill Walker.

Earlier this month, MPP Walker attended a public information meeting in Owen Sound hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry where a number of local residents expressed their concerns and collective confusion over the Government's current proposal to expand the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

MPP Walker put these concerns directly to the Natural Resources Minister Kathryn McGarry and Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro who have a shared responsibility over the Land Use Review. A copy of MPP Walker's letter is shared below.

Dear Ministers McGarry and Mauro:

I am writing you in regard to the the results of the Co-ordinated Land Use Review which looked at the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment and the Growth Plan.

Yesterday I attended the public information meeting in Owen Sound hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and I wanted to bring to your attention the concerns of my constituents and those I personally observed. As such, I submit the following bullet points for your review:

· The Ministry presented different versions of the map related to the expanded area. As a result, people were unable to interpret any variations and seemed very confused about what exact changes were being proposed.

· Some of the language seemed to suggest municipalities would not be required to support the expanded boundaries. This statement created much skepticism and cynicism, with many concerned constituents comparing this process to the one used for the Green Energy Act. As such, the Ministry's approach was not well received.

· Constituents whose properties will be in the new boundaries have not been directly contacted to be advised of any proposed changes. In fact, I did hear from people after the meeting who had not heard about the Open House until after it was held. My constituents remain very concerned about the poor communication protocol and what communication will be offered going forward. They indeed expect to be engaged and consulted in the process that impacts their land and livelihoods.

· People expected to receive a summary of the proposed changes, yet no such overview was communicated verbally nor distributed at the meeting. Specifically, people were very interested to hear and understand what the rationale was for the expanded NEC area, as well as how the expanded boundary of NEC would benefit a rural area.

· Feedback from the Municipality of Meaford (as per attached letter) is that its residents will be severely impacted by the proposed changes (i.e. very limited opportunity for growth and assessment increases) As such, it would be beneficial to consult about the long-term financial impact to the residents and to provide clarity as to whether or not the Municipality will be given any power in regard to the boundary areas.

· People were very concerned that this 'Open House' would be considered public consultation and did not feel such a forum was adequate for such a significant potential change.

· Many people felt 'consultation' could mean the government would hold a meeting at the end of the 'Comment Period' and simply tell the municipality and property owners that the decision was made. This was very concerning and again, reminded people of the flawed GEA process.

· Constituent want to know what the financial impact is of the changes to individual property owners. Would there be any financial support provided in situations where property values would be negatively impacted due to the new designation and the limited opportunity to develop/sell their property, or would they realize increased value to their property similar to property value increases those property owners that are adjacent but not within the boundary will realize?

· Many of the proposed boundary expansion changes were contemplated when the NEC was created but were not included, and in fact were limited to what the existing boundaries are. What has changed? What is the rationale for the expansion? What is the benefit of the proposed expansion? What consultation has been completed with impacted property owners and municipalities?

· Concerns of duplication and validity of the NEC today. Conservation Authorities have to be consulted. Municipal and/or County government both have planning departments which they did not have when the NEC was created? Why do we need? Much concern about duplication, cost and the time required when dealing with any form of application within the NEC designated areas.

· Many concerns expressed in regard to the NEC being totally opposed to any/all development and not even willing to entertain ideas that may positively impact growth, jobs and the economy of rural areas.

· Much of the information in the 'Open House' was geared to the Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt Plan and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, with very little focus on NEC. Much of the review was focused on the urban initiatives and that the items related to the NEC would negatively impact rural Ontario.

· Griffith Island has previously challenged the rationale to be included and oppose the proposed change.

· Places like Griffith Island were not consulted or even made aware there were proposed changes being contemplated?

· What is the rationale for changes to include these islands?

Moreover, and as you will be aware, Grey County – which represents 9 municipalities (Owen Sound, Meaford, Grey Highlands, Hanover, Chatsworth, Grey Highlands, West Grey, Southgate and The Blue Mountains - has taken a position and voiced its objections to the proposal as part of the consultative process with the Ministry.

Given the summary of concerns, I respectfully seek your assurance that you will review and address these concerns, and, most importantly, ensure that there is extensive consultation on these proposals. Anyone who has property in the areas where the government is proposing to make changes must be informed that they will be impacted and have the opportunity to comment.

Thank you for your time, attention and efforts with this important request.


Bill Walker, MPP
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound

source: media release, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker


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