Green party leader joins Cambridge protest against Bill 23

By CambridgeToday Staff

One of coldest days of the year did not deter many citizens including members of local community grassroots groups such as the Grand River Environmental Network, the Greenbelt West Coalition, Save Ontario Wetlands, the Wellington Water Watchers, the Nith Valley Ecoboosters, APT Environment, 50×30 Waterloo Region, and local neighbourhood associations from across the Grand River Watershed from holding a pop-up rally Saturday at the Dumfries Conservation Area.  

Marking World Wetlands Day the concerned citizens expressed their opposition to and anger with the provincial government’s dismantling of Conservation Authorities and the removal of many wetland protections needed in an era of global climate change.

Participants also expressed serious concerns about recent provincial government actions including Bill 23, Bill 39, provincial government attacks on the Greenbelt, and the dismantling of Regional Planning to a chorus of supportive honking and cheering from hundreds of passing motorists.

Mike Marcolongo of the Greenbelt West Coalition told the crowd that “The Dumfries Conservation Area was donated to the Grand River Conservation Authority and community by the late Percy R. Hilborn, as an ecological treasure for future generations to enjoy.  Under Schedule 2 of Bill 23, Conservation Authorities may be forced by the provincial government to sell off wetlands and natural areas such as these for urban development.”

Photo supplied

“The fight is not over,” Mike Schreiner, the Leader of the Green Party of Ontario, told the crowd.  “The Premier and his housing minister have explicitly promised not to open the Greenbelt to development.  We have to force the Premier to keep his promise.” 

To loud cheers and applause, Schreiner spoke of the importance of wetlands and the short-sightedness of Doug Ford’s Conservative government in forcing the development of natural areas rather than building more sustainably and more affordably within our existing communities as citizens are demanding in our climate emergency.

“We are very concerned about the ongoing actions by the provincial government pandering to a handful of developers while acting totally against the best public interest,” said Colleen Cooper, one of the rally organizers, in a press release. 

“The decimation of the Grand River Conservation Authority and other conservation authorities will have negative consequences that will be felt for generations.  Wetlands filter drinking water, store carbon and pollutants, support threatened and endangered species, help to mitigate floods, prevent erosion, and provide recreational areas that contribute to community well-being.  We have lost 72 per cent of our wetlands over the last 50 years and they are disappearing three times faster than forests.”

The Grand River Conservation Authority is the oldest water management agency in Canada. Since its inception in 1932, the GRCA has stewarded the Grand River Watershed that now almost a million people depend on for all of their water needs – living entirely within the carrying capacity of our watershed.  Distributing the GRCA’s responsibilities among the numerous area municipalities as Bill 23 now requires will result in a lack of co-ordination and consideration of the watershed as a whole.

Kevin Thomason of the Grand River Environmental Network, told the rally, “It is fantastic to see such an incredible turnout of people from across our community willing to stand out on one of the coldest days of year speaking up for these essential wetlands and the better future that we want to see.  We need to send a strong message to the provincial government that this is not acceptable – Bill 23 needs to be repealed and our regional planning must be left intact as unanimously approved by our local communities – not overridden by a distant Minister against our wishes and threatening the groundwater on which we depend.”

Rally participants marched along Hespeler Road with placards and signs containing the following messages:

  • Stop Bill 23
  • Doug Ford Keep Your Greenbelt Promise
  • Protect Our Water
  • Stick with the Plan – Our Regional Official Plan
  • Wetlands – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
protest at Dumfries
Photo supplied



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