Some Thoughts and Questions for Electors

Since we will be going to the polls to elect Council members on October 27, it seemed like a good time to read up on Taking Back Our Cities by Gord Hume (Municipal World Inc., 2011) which I found at the library. While I haven’t read all of it yet, he seems to make some useful arguments. Among the reforms he advocates, Hume says:

“We must get rid of the 17th century tools (property taxes) and 19th century thinking (the BNA Act that devolved responsibility for cities to the provinces” Continue reading


Smart Growth – All in Favour?

Environmental Defense, which has been a vocal advocate for environmental protection and a vigorous opponent of developments like Big Bay Point, has posted the results of a survey it circulated to municipal election candidates in Simcoe County. (http://www.votesmart2010.caContinue reading

Everyone Should Learn About the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan

The recent Celebration of Lake Simcoe at Innisfil Beach Park drew my attention to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. This is a significant regulatory initiative that, as far as I know, the local press has only reported in generalities.  The Lake Simcoe watershed occupies about 2,800 square kilometres and 47% of that is currently agricultural.

The defined Lake Simcoe watershed overlaps other planning areas such as the Greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Morraine. The mention of a target of 40% “high quality vegetative cover” in the watershed is what made my ears perk up. About 35% of the Lake Simcoe watershed is under ‘natural cover’, that is, woodlands and wetlands. The desired target would be achieved by defining vegetation protection zones around the shore of the lake and along stream banks that drain into the lake. Nor would most development or site alteration be permitted outside of “existing settlement areas”.

The minimum vegetation protection zones are:

– In a built-up shoreline area: 30 metres from the shoreline

– Outside existing settlement areas / outside shoreline built-up areas: 100 metres

A proposal for development or site alteration may be restricted if it is within 120 metres of the shore in a built-up area or within 240 metres of the shore outside existing settlement areas.  Although most of the shoreline is already developed, the aim is to prevent any further loss of the natural shoreline on Lake Simcoe.

An essential part of this plan is the definition of “existing settlement areas”. They are defined as “settlement areas that are designated in an official plan on the date the Plan comes into effect”.

I was also told that the success of this plan will rely heavily on the cooperation and commitment of participating municipalities including Innisfil. This is another important issue for voters to consider before voting for Mayor and Council this fall.

How Will Innisfil Move Into the 21st Century?

I rode my bike over to Innisfil Beach Park on the weekend to check out the Celebration of Lake Simcoe sponsored by the Ladies of the Lake, Windfall Ecology Centre and other organizations. Links to some of the participants appear in the side bar of this blog.

The message is that, essentially, saving Lake Simcoe will involve changing the way we do a lot of things. This is not so much a matter of doing with less but rather using resources more wisely instead of wastefully. The good news is that we would be improving our enjoyment and quality of life at the same time.

Displays presented information on waterfront restoration, water conservation, invasive species, energy conservation, county history and architectural conservancy. I picked up a set of Lake Simcoe Action Cards. The set of 16 cards is an attractive and creative tool that discusses problems, suggests alternatives and inspires action. I recommend having a look if you haven’t seen them. One of the cards contains this message:

“To generate real and lasting change we all need to wake up, shake off the fog, stretch our minds and take in the warmth of a new way to live.”

Absolutely, which is one reason for this blog. Real and lasting change has to begin with individual commitment and action. This blog is an opportunity for Innisfil residents to become more aware of the issues, discover alternatives, find links to local resources and have your say 7 days a week.

There was an earnest volunteer conducting a survey with visitors to assess the impact of the event. Annual attendance in future years will be an interesting indicator of how seriously Innisfil residents view this resource and how successful the Ladies of the Lake are in achieving community engagement. Did you attend this event? What were your impressions?

The Ladies of the Lake have been very successful in rallying several organizations to work together and secure funding for their diverse projects.  (See Now we need to wake up our municipal council. We need to know where this year’s candidates stand on the issues spotlighted at this event. What priorities and projects will our municipal candidates adopt as a platform to sustain Lake Simcoe and the communities around it?

In Britain, concerned citizens in some towns developed a detailed “Energy Descent Plan” to prepare for a day when oil is unaffordable or unavailable at any price. In Germany, citizens are so committed to sustainable practices that a new town was built without any automobile access. (Creating a ‘Car-Free’ Community – Green Blog – And in the Ruhr Valley, a 60 km. stretch of the A40 Autobahn was closed for a day to host a “Still Life” party attended by more than 2 million people.

How will Innisfil move into the 21st century?  That’s the question.