Ontario Agriculture

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Well, it has begun—sort of! It is March 31, 2010, 10:30 a.m., I am sitting in the King Township Council Chambers. The Ontario Municipal Board hearing is about to get under way with respect to the site plan for the York Energy Centre. A 393MW (but licensed for 435MW) natural gas-fired peaker power plant to be imposed on the Stewards of the Land in an area known as the Holland Marsh, (the Salad Bowl of Ontario, Greenbelt, Protected Countryside, flood plain, Specialty Crop Area, to name a few of the pieces of legislation that “protect” this sensitive, high value vegetable food production area) by the proponent, Pristine.

We all stand when the judge enters the room. The lawyer for the proponent and the Township are present, together with some members of the farming community (of which one is a participant), Holland Marsh Growers’ Association Executive Director who is a participant, Concerned Citizens of King Township (CCKT) a couple of whom are participants, the Executive Director for the Global Environmental Action Group who is a participant, along with others who have come to show their support in opposition to the location of this facility.

Some guidelines are laid down by the judge for the media present. After this, it’s down to business.

The referral of the site plan motion is scheduled to commence Tuesday, April 6, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. at King Township Council Chambers. We are advised that Rule 4.1 of the Rules of Civil Procedure will apply, and a Form 53 of the Courts of Justice Act must be filed. This is not applicable to summons’ witnesses. The expert evidence will be heard first, and then the participants statements will be heard. The dates for the 10 day hearing are discussed amongst the judge, and the two solicitors, with a couple of these dates being tentative. We are adjourned until Tuesday, April 6/10.

A videographer from Rogers Cable is interviewing several people—one being the proponent’s lawyer. I hear him say that this peaker plant facility is necessary, and words to the effect that it has to go in. Really? And the ONLY available place to build this facility is in the Salad Bowl of Ontario? Less than a kilometer from where our valuable crops are grown, and the waterway we irrigate from!

Our population is growing, and is only going to continue to grow. Taking prime agricultural land out of production, and potentially reducing the yields of the crops on the land remaining as a result of the impact the emissions from the YEC may have on our waterways, and organic based soil seems, to me, a step backward—not forward thinking at all!

I’ve said this before, this power plant is not even going to benefit our area with us having access to the electricity. The energy will be for Bradford, and north-eastern York Region, not the Holland Marsh!

I was also interviewed by Rogers, and asked what I would like to see come out of this OMB hearing? I advised that the land for the YEC is located in the Greenbelt, which was supposed to be protected for green space and food production (Greenbelt Plan and Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan). However, the government can step in and impose infrastructure running at 35% efficiency that is clearly a “conflict use”. I’m also baffled that the MOE , or whoever receives the “studies” information has not jumped on at LEAST 2 facts that have come to my attention, as a “lay person”:

1). “all necessary studies have been completed with no negative impact to this area…” regarding the impact from the emissions from this facility on soil. Yes, MINERAL soil—this is key, since studies DO NOT EXIST to show the impact of said emissions on ORGANIC BASED/MUCK/PEAT soil (Specialty Crop Area soils) such as are present in the Holland Marsh. There are many types of soil out there—not just mineral!

2). “the emissions from the YEC fall within acceptable parameters”. Sure they do, if you are farming the land at the Pearson International Airport, which is the airshed that was tested for acceptable emissions levels. The last time I checked, there was no airport in the Holland Marsh. The airshed that should have been tested was right here, and not near the highway either. Why wasn’t the air where the plant will be built tested. My guess, probably because the emissions test would not fall within acceptable parameters!

I find it ironic that at a time when government is pushing Farmers to invest more money (at their own expense) on food safety, food traceability, continued reduction in fertilizer and pesticide use, together with on-going tri-annual certification of Farmers in this regard (all to preserve our environment), requiring Farmers to obtain Permits to Take Water to irrigate their crops, strict human rights rules and regs (as employers we are NOT to put our employees in harms way, but must make sure their workplace is safe—by imposing this power plant in this agricultural area, our health is being put at risk—again, I find it ironic that the government would push this type of industry here), to name a few of the rules we must adhere to--that this same government is calling the Farmers NIMBYs, and pushing this peaker power plant down our throats. Even going so far as to say that the environmental assessment applied to this facility (which is the equivalent to that of a 2 MW windmill) is sufficient for a 393 MW natural gas fired peaker plant!

So, back to what I would like to see come out of this OMB hearing? I would like to see this entire project put on a shelf. We have all this new legislation, and Plans and Acts, but the science, assessments and logic is 40 years old—it must be revised. Municipalities should be allowed to conduct studies in order to see exactly how this type of industry will impact the communities they know, but most of all the Farmers of the Holland Marsh must be allowed to continue to do what they do best—grow safe, healthy, nutritious food for you and me without the additional challenges a peaker power plant will no doubt present to them!

Avia Eek

Holland Marsh Farmer

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