Don't sneer at local fears - the cause can be just
Jul 08, 2009 04:30 AM
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It's been at the very least a little cheeky for Premier Dalton
McGuinty and his deputy, over recent months, to dismiss those who
would thwart their will as NIMBYists.
In particular, this was the epithet Energy Minister George Smitherman
used on Ontarians opposed to the installation of wind turbines near
That health, aesthetic and property-value concerns should be raised
about the implications of the Green Energy Act was only reasonable.
That they'd be raised most passionately when intrusions become local
and immediate, as opposed to abstract and elsewhere, is only human
The active engagement of citizens concerned about decisions imposed on
them from above and afar – especially in seeking to protect the health
and wealth that constitutes their most precious assets – is more to be
applauded than demeaned.
Across the province are numerous examples of local folks fighting just
such David and Goliath battles.
In Dufferin County, near Shelburne, a controversy has been building
over a land assembly that locals fear will turn 2,428 hectares of
prime agricultural land into an aggregate quarry.
They're worried about the loss of non-renewable farmland, especially
of a soil type unique to southern Ontario and conducive to high-
quality potatoes. There is also, they say, the environmental
consequence of deforestation and the impact on water, wildlife and
"This is not a local issue," organizers maintain. "This is an issue
for anyone who lives in Ontario, who eats food and drinks water."
Local food-processors get most of their potatoes from Dufferin County,
one activist says, and "if the lands are turned into a pit (they)
might as well take their jobs to Idaho or P.E.I., where the potatoes
On another front, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in Elmvale on the
weekend to support local demands that the province stop the County of
Simcoe from opening a landfill – known as dump Site 41 – on the
"This beautiful spot is the wrong place to start dumping 40,000 tonnes
of garbage a year," she said. "We should be protecting what scientists
call one of the cleanest sources of water in the world."
On Monday, as the decades-long battle over the dump came to a head,
native protesters – the longest-standing and most dogged of
environmentalists – took the fight to the gates of the proposed site,
demanding that McGuinty answer their pleas and step in.
"It's our duty as native peoples to be stewards of the land and
protect our water," Elizabeth Brass Elson, speaking for the Beausoleil
First Nation, told the Barrie Advance.
Meanwhile, from Gull Lake, near Minden, came word on the weekend that
Suzanne Lauten was "on cloud nine."
Lauten is founder of the Cottagers Against Uranium Mining and
Exploration, owns a cottage near land staked for uranium exploration,
and reported that federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May had agreed
to be keynote speaker at the group's anti-uranium rally at Queen's
Park in September.
Lauten also said that Dr. Helen Caldicott, the renowned Australian
anti-nuclear activist, would be visiting Toronto in October to support
the anti-uranium campaign.
Caldicott is billed, Lauten said, as "the single most articulate and
passionate advocate of citizen action." And her visit will bring "two
major green powerhouses" to Toronto in a matter of weeks.
"Humbly, I suggest to you: There's a story there."
There probably is. And not least of the tale, of course, is that,
whether you're talking wind turbines, or mines or garbage dumps and
their impact on potato fields, water supplies or cottage pleasures,
one man's NIMBYism is another man's (or woman's) honourable uphill
battle and just cause.
Jim Coyle's provincial affairs column appears Monday, Wednesday and