Press Releases

CAM gives the District’s new Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan a mixed review

Climate Action Muskoka gives the District’s new Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan a mixed review

Grassroots climate group calls the plan ‘a good start,’ noting that much depends on implementation.

Muskoka, April 15, 2024 — Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) commends the District of Muskoka for its recently-released Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan (CEERP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Muskoka.

“This is an important, ambitious, evidence-based plan, developed with broad community input,” say Linda Mathers and Tamsen Tillson, who represented CAM on the Climate Change Mitigation Task Force.

“As a framework, this is a good start. But we need to go further, faster. We need to see this implemented right away. We are counting on our District and municipal leaders to set specific targets and timelines and to allocate staff and source the funding necessary to achieve the climate goals we have committed to here.”

Based on a 2021 audit of the source of emissions, this plan outlines a vision for reductions and key actions required across the three areas that create the most emissions: transportation, buildings, and community systems. The District of Muskoka has committed to achieving a 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030—less than six years away—and net zero by 2050.

CAM is concerned that projected emissions reductions in CEERP are too reliant on the adoption of EVs by private citizens and the initiative and leadership of community groups, many of which are volunteer-run. The group calls on the District and municipal governments to set an example by implementing the climate actions in all three areas of the plan: transportation, buildings and community systems.

As the plan enters its implementation phase, CAM calls on the District and municipal governments to provide leadership as follows:

1.     A dedicated climate action department and sufficient staff to carry out the implementation requirements in the plan.

2.     Policy and regulations to meet the plan’s targets that are specific, measurable, costed and funded, with timelines and deadlines.

3.     Adequate funding and investment in climate-resilient infrastructure and community incentives. Every dollar invested today saves six dollars in the future, according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

4.     Address the need to phase out ‘natural’ gas in Muskoka, plan for this transition with rebate incentives for residential heat pump uptake, and lead the way by retrofitting all municipal buildings with air source heat pumps.

We cannot afford for this plan to gather dust. With less than six years to cut emissions by 50% CAM calls on the District and municipal governments to move forward with the utmost urgency and looks forward to working with elected representatives and staff on next steps.

Climate Action Muskoka is an inclusive, non-partisan Muskoka-based group formed in 2019 whose mission is to collaborate with individuals, businesses, groups and all levels of government to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.

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Huntsville General Committee meeting – February 28

Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) delegated to the Huntsville councillors Wednesday to express community support for real climate action that will drive down fossil fuel pollution. Having been invited to delegate, CAM reviewed why escalating climate impacts require urgent action. 

CAM also presented results from two climate surveys – one carried out by the District of Muskoka and the other an International Gallop Poll (see above) – that show citizens are demanding that their governments act to lower climate-heating greenhouse gas emissions and, surprisingly, that they are willing to pay more taxes and even to contribute personal income to get the task done!

Thank you to the 50+ community members who came out to support our delegation.

Climate Groups Decry Move to Override Climate Positive Ontario Energy Board Decision

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has ended the subsidy for methane gas pipelines in new residential developments. The OEB is an arms length body that protects customers from utility price gouging. Minister of Energy Todd Smith says he will override this decision through legislation. 16 Climate groups, including Climate Action Muskoka, have responded to this threat to arbitrarily overturn a win-win-win situation for new homebuyers, for existing gas customers, and for reducing carbon pollution.  Read the detailed letter to Energy Minister Todd Smith.

Letter to Minister Smith – v2.docx (climateactionmuskoka.org)

CAM to District Council! Set up a Climate Change Reserve Fund and Hire Staff to Implement the Upcoming Community GHG Reduction Plan.

Open letter to Muskoka District Council

Good morning, Chair Lehmann, Mayors and members of Muskoka District Council,

Pursuant to the discussion that took place at the December 7, 2023 Committee of the Whole on the 2024 District Budget with respect to climate change, we would like to highlight the results of the District’s own recent GHG Public Survey (2023) on climate action and climate spending (see stats below). During the discussion, councillors made multiple comments suggesting that it is the community that needs to lead with respect to climate action. We disagree.

Results of the survey clearly indicate that the public wants and expects you, our elected leaders, to act on climate to increase our local ambition in “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner” as agreed to today by nearly 200 countries at COP28 in Dubai.

The results of last summer’s survey indicate that a significant majority of the Muskoka citizenry is not only ready to spend their own money on climate initiatives, but also wants to see local governments spend more on climate initiatives in line with holding global heating to no more than 1.5C. We need to see Muskoka District Council “Tackling the Change”. Once again Climate Action Muskoka requests that you: 

  • set up a specific Climate Change Reserve Fund in the 2024 Budget as called for in A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy initiative from 2020
  • fund the hiring of one, better two, full-time staff who have climate experience and training to support the Climate Initiatives Coordinator in rolling out the upcoming District community GHG reduction plan promised for early 2024

Results of Muskoka’s Public Greenhouse Gas survey Summer, 2023:

  • 368 surveys completed
  • 68% of participants are extremely concerned about climate change in Muskoka in the future.
  • 85% of participants think it is important for the Muskoka community to act on climate change
  • 85% of participants are willing to spend their money on a climate change related initiative
  • ***65% of participants think that local governments should be spending more taxpayer money on initiatives related to climate change***

Video: GHG Public Survey – The Results Are In! | Muskoka Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Initiative | Engage Muskoka

Regards,

Sue McKenzie, Gravenhurst
Len Ring, Gravenhurst
Tamsen Tillson, Bracebridge
Linda Mathers, Port Carling
Lesley Hastie, Huntsville
On behalf of Climate Action Muskoka


Dec 18, 2023 – Update


The following resolution was passed by District Council

Muskoka District Council
December 18, 2023

Moved by: P. Johnston

Seconded by: P. Koetsier

THAT a ‘Climate Change Reserve Fund’ be established;

AND THAT a one-time allocation of $1,000,000 be transferred from the ‘Environmental Reserve Fund’ to the newly established ‘Climate Change Reserve Fund’;

AND THAT staff report back regarding how to finance annual contributions to the ‘Climate Change Reserve Fund’;

AND THAT additional resources be considered to support the New Leaf Climate Action Plan, the Muskoka Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Initiatives, and other Climate related initiatives.


Global March to End Fossil Fuels — Sept. 17, 2023

Text: Join the Global March to End Fossil Fuels

Climate Action Muskoka, Climate Action Parry Sound and Almaguin Climate Action invite you to join us in Huntsville on Sunday, September 17 at 1:30 pm for a Global March to End Fossil Fuels. We will meet at Flag Park (West Rd., & Centre. St. N.) and together we will march down to River Mill Park. There will be group chants before we set out and some brief speeches at River Mill Park. Bring your End Fossil Fuels signage.

Why Now?

This is part of a global call to action involving thousands of climate action groups worldwide demanding an end to our heavy reliance on fossil fuels. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is hosting a global Climate Ambition Summit in New York City in September in which the “ticket to entry” is tangible action to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Thousands of climate groups worldwide are planning climate strikes on Sept. 15 and marches to end fossil fuels on Sept. 17, including a mass demonstration — March to End Fossil Fuels in New York.

Our Huntsville action is in solidarity with 350.0rg | Fridays for Future | Fight Fossil Fuels | David Suzuki Foundation | Climate Action Network and many more!


Update: September 19

Climate Action Muskoka, Climate Action Parry SoundAlmaguin Climate Action and more than 75 supporters met in the pouring rain at the Flag Park in Huntsville and together marched to River Mill Park on Sunday.

We chanted, we marched, we exchanged ideas, and we, voters and constituents, signed open letters to MP Scott Aitchison and MPP Graydon Smith calling for no new fossil fuel projects, a halt to continued gas expansion in Huntsville, Burk’s Falls and other Ontario communities, investment in community-owned renewables and holding polluters responsible for harms caused to communities.

Thank you to the organizers, and to all of you who came out. This is important work!

Flag Park – photo: Ian Hastie
On the March – photo Tamsen Tillson
River Mill Park – photo: Len Ring

Shame on you MP Scott Aitchison!

Muskoka – MP Scott Aitchison needs to set the record straight. Our MP has reported in some publications and on social media what is either misinformation from his staff or a deliberate misrepresentation of what occurred on June 28th.  

Constituents representing two climate groups in his riding, Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) and Almaguin Climate Action (ACA), were taking part in the nationwide call by 350.org Canada to all federal MP’s to take climate action. Aitchison reported that the climate activists threatened his staff. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here is what actually happened in Huntsville at Aitchison’s constituency office that day. Fifteen local representatives were invited into the MP’s office by his staff and, in his absence, delivered a letter with a call to action. “We are here to call on our MP Scott Aitchison to work with MPs from all parties to call on the Federal Government to immediately end subsidies to fossil fuel companies, cap emissions from oil and gas, and lead a just transition to a clean green economy,” said spokesperson Linda Mathers.

One of Aitchison’s constituents, a grandfather of newborn twins, became emotional. He pleaded his belief that the consequences of inaction to the climate crisis will be dire for everyone on the planet. While gesturing to the room, he said that his grandchildren will die; we are all going to die; you’re going to die.

What this passionate and outspoken climate advocate was calling out was the existential threat to us all. He was not threatening anyone, let alone Aitchison’s staff. To all present, it was clear that this was a grandfather trying to find the right words to talk about an issue he cares deeply about.

Aitchison’s decision to publicly lash out at the group implying that this was a death threat to his staff and calling the group extremists is a shameful misrepresentation of the truth. It is an attempt to discredit our groups and to deflect attention from the real issue, the lack of political will to forge a pathway to real climate action.

CAM and ACA have built relationships and worked collaboratively with all levels of government to push for climate policies; we have worked with other climate groups to educate the public on climate threats and real solutions; we continue to host weekly climate strikes in several communities to raise public awareness of the need for climate action. If Scott Aitchison were more interested in collaborating to find solutions to a climate crisis that he acknowledges is real, he would visit a weekly climate strike and see that our organizations are far from extreme.

Aitchison is right on one count. We can’t let extremes win. If we let the extremes of climate heating win, the Earth becomes uninhabitable. The matter is urgent and the matter is important – in the extreme

For the record, the climate groups have twice requested, in writing, a meeting with Aitchison to discuss the issues, both on the day of the visit, June 28, and a week later in a second letter hand-delivered to his staff. There has been no acknowledgement from Aitchison to date. We await confirmation of a meeting with him in which we will continue our call for real, collaborative climate action.

JUNE 28 NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION – CANADA IS BURNING!

Our MP needs to hear from you! Join us this Wednesday.

HUNTSVILLE: 11 am at MP Scott Aitchison’s office, 1-15 Northland Lane, beside Alban printing and Bowman’s Fuel. (isn’t that ironic?)  contact: chrlauffer@outlook.com

PARRY SOUND: 11:30am James/Mary St. Intersection

Bring gas or face masks, signs, and friends as we push our representative to muster up the courage to combat the climate crisis. There are record-breaking wildfires burning from coast-to-coast. We know why those fires are raging and the air is unbreathable. It’s time for our federal leaders to stop fuelling the flames of climate chaos with fossil fuel subsidies. 

Almaguin Climate Action (ACA), Climate Action Parry Sound (CAPS) and Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) are demanding: 

  • An immediate end to subsidies, hard caps for oil and gas emissions, no new projects, and no more industry influence over our politics. 
  • Enact a Just Transition: Urgently shift us to 100% renewable energy while generating millions of unionized jobs, following Indigenous leadership, and rapidly decarbonizing in line with climate science.  

First-ever Muskoka EV Show comes to Bracebridge Fairgrounds – May 27, 2023

See and test drive electric vehicles. Get your questions answered.

Bracebridge, April 13, 2023 — Muskoka Conservancy and Climate Action Muskoka proudly announce the first-ever Muskoka EV Show, coming to the Bracebridge Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 27 from 10:00am – 1:00pm.

“The future is electric, and the faster we can get there the better,” said Peter Love, an energy consultant and Muskoka Conservancy board member who instigated the idea. “Muskoka is well-positioned to be a leader in this revolution.”
“Private vehicles are responsible for almost 70% of all community greenhouse gas emissions in Muskoka,” said Lesley Hastie, lead event organizer for Climate Action Muskoka. “Switching to electric promises to make a huge difference here. People are excited to see and test drive and learn about electric vehicles. The Muskoka EV Show will help them make that move.”
The show—so far—includes:

  • New EVs from Cavalcade Ford, Tesla, Muskoka Nissan and Hyundai of Muskoka
  • New electric bikes from 171 Electric Bike Company
  • An electric launch conversion from Stan Hunter Boatbuilder
  • Park-and-Display area with electric cars and bikes and their owners, ready to answer
    your questions. Some may opt to take visitors for a ride along or a test drive.
  • Presentations and information from the Electric Vehicle Society, enVgo, Lakeland
    Solutions, PlugNDrive, reThinkgreen, and keynote speaker Steve Lapp, an expert on EVs
    and low carbon energy technology system design and education.
  • Admission is free. Donations appreciated. Bring your own water bottle

Learn about electric vehicles and find out what EV ownership is really like. Test drive an electric vehicle and see for yourself how well they perform. Visit climateactionmuskoka.org for further details.
If you have an electric vehicle or are an electric vehicle dealer interested in participating in the show, or if you are available to volunteer, contact Lesley Hastie at climateactionmuskoka@gmail.com.
Muskoka Conservancy is a charitable organization that works to conserve and protect natural spaces in Muskoka for future generations.
Climate Action Muskoka is an inclusive, non-partisan grassroots group whose mission is to collaborate with individuals, businesses, groups and all levels of government to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis

Notes from Meeting with Graydon Smith, January 19, 2023

Group outside Graydon Smith's office in December 2022

Ever wanted to know what is actually said in meetings with politicians? Here are the notes from the meeting between Ontario Minister for Natural Resources and Forestry and Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith and representatives from several climate action groups, at Minister Smith’s Bracebridge office, Jan. 19, 2023.

Attendees

  • Graydon Smith, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka
  • Landon French, assistant to Graydon Smith
  • Linda Mathers, Climate Action Muskoka
  • Sue McKenzie, Climate Action Muskoka
  • Kevin Logie, Climate Action Parry Sound
  • Stephen Todoroff, Almaguin Climate Action

Introduction — Linda Mathers

Minister Smith, we are not here as protesters. We are here as your non-partisan, deeply concerned constituents. We represent wide and deep opposition to this legislation. We request that you hear us out on these concerns and solutions we bring to you. We ask you to take them to your caucus, your cabinet and Premier Ford and bring back a response at a follow up meeting which we would ask to schedule at the end of today’s meeting.

In our riding, while we speak directly for our climate organizations, our points of opposition are on the same page as countless other organizations as well as everyday citizens in our communities. In Parry Sound Muskoka, opposition is coming from housing and poverty advocates, municipal leaders, spiritual and community organizations, business leaders, environmental organizations, health care groups and the broad base of scientists in organizations such as the MWC, Friends of Muskoka Watershed, Muskoka Conservancy, Georgian Bay Biosphere to mention only a few. We also speak for so many folks in our riding who think their voice doesn’t matter. They will go unheard.

We, all of the above, are very worried.

We represent not only this broad cross-section of opposition within your constituency but we are also part of a large global voice. The impacts of climate change are in the news multiple times every single day. People now recognize that rapid, transformative decarbonization around the world is absolutely essential to keep the planet habitable for humans. It is coming.

While municipalities, cities and states around the world are embracing this rapid transformation, in Ontario, Bill 23 is widely and deeply opposed as a failure to urgently address both our real need for affordable housing and our need for real climate solutions. That’s why we are here.

In a limited time frame we can only bring forward a few of our shared concerns. We will each take five minutes to share points of concern, then we are open to discussion on these matters. Our hope is to come to common ground, some proposed solutions and a path forward to withdraw parts and re-write other parts in this Bill.


Sue McKenzie Presentation Notes

Yesterday, I asked my children if they had any message they would like me to deliver from their generation to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. This was their response: “The future is here. It’s time to change the way we look at everything.”

The same day the Secretary General of the UN spoke to the World Economic Forum: “And we are looking into the eye of a Category 5 hurricane. Greenhouse gas emissions are at record levels and growing.”

So, it is from this space of urgency that I am here today to ask why Ontario is bringing in policies which will ensure those emissions will rise even further?

I will speak to how Bill 23 impacts Muskoka and the unanimous commitment of its municipal leaders to reduce GHGs 50% by 2030 reaching zero by 2050. Minister, you were on two of the councils which put those goals in place. There is climate work to be done by both your generation and mine.

The New Leaf Community Working Group has just completed a year-long Climate Vulnerability and Risk Assessment and developed a Climate Adaptation PlanThe Climate Mitigation plan will be developed this year.

The Federation for Canadian Municipalities says:

  • Municipalities influence more than half of Canada’s emissions.
  • They go on to say: Municipal power to act on climate is vital to meeting our promised targets, through deep energy retrofits of public buildings, active transportation infrastructure, zero-emission vehicles and public charging stations, building codes that drive down emissions, densification, natural climate solutions and, most importantly, reduced reliance on natural gas for heating.


The loss of municipal power and governance through policy changes in Bill 23 severely restricts Muskoka’s ability to quickly implement our Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Plans.

Site plan controls provide the best vehicle for achieving decarbonization of the building sector and the transport sector. They have been a significant municipal planning tool in designing our local communities and protecting our lakes from over-development.

Leading Toronto architects and planners state: “… design (through site control) is directly related … to climate change mitigation …and in delivering safe, healthy, affordable, socially and environmentally sustainable communities to the people of Ontario.” https://www.kpmb.com/news/response-to-ontarios-proposed-bill-23/

Your government says we must expand urban boundaries and build sprawling subdivisons which build in car dependency and rising GHG emissions for decades to come to provide enough housing.

However, land is not the issue in addressing the housing crisis, according to your own government’s task force. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario says over 285,000 approved housing units exist RIGHT NOW across 19 large municipalities.

Land is not the issue in Muskoka either. Currently, there are 5,843 draft subdivision lot approvals which can move forward. Only 419 of those lie outside urban boundaries.

Developers ask for extensions to these approvals over and over. Your government could require these be built in a timely fashion using low carbon materials and non-fossil fuel heating, quickly increasing a much-needed supply of housing in the District while reducing GHG emissions from the housing sector.

Research shows that municipal costs to service sprawl (more hydro, water, sewer, paving, public services, schools) are super high. As well, sprawl destroys important carbon-sequestering wetlands, farmlands and forests.  It is incumbent upon us to densify already-serviced areas.

The changes to development fees, community benefit charges, permit approvals and the requirement to spend 60% of reserve funds annually can only result in increased municipal taxes and the inability to pay for and to save for big infrastructure projects and new climate infrastructure. These increases are already appearing for 2023 budgets as municipalities begin to grapple with the “unintended consequences” of Bill 23. Can we also find some common ground amidst those “unintended consequences”?

And finally, I must address the elephant in the room. Your government is expanding fossil gas plants and infrastructure across the province – even right here in Muskoka and Almaguindespite the call from 34 Ontario municipalities, including Bracebridge, for a Gas-Fired Power Phase Out.

Gas is not low carbon. It is a fossil fuel which releases methane all along the supply chain. To promote expansion of fossil infrastructure in the face of a climate emergency is appalling! We have modern heat pump technology which is clean, available and can provide numerous Muskoka jobs as we address our housing crisis.
In a business context, in Ontario our 92% emission-free grid provides an extremely appealing opportunity to companies looking for places to locate which allow them to decarbonize their operations. That appeal will disappear with a grid which is becoming dirtier through provincial policy.

If there is one message from your constituents that I want you to take back to the Premier and Caucus, it is this: Addressing both the climate crisis and the housing crisis MUST go hand-in-hand. The solutions to decarbonization of the economy are also the solutions to the housing crisis; they are fiscally responsible; they represent a HUGE economic opportunity for Muskoka and Ontario into the future.

Minister, you have been given a huge personal opportunity to influence the future in your role as Minister. It is not too late to change direction, to leave the subdivisions and highways of the 60’s behind, to live within our existing urban and planetary boundaries, and to decarbonize the Ontario economy asap.


Kevin Logie Presentation Notes

Representing more than 30 climate Action folks in Parry Sound.

Climate Action Parry Sound started in 2018, was derived from Fridays for Future of Greta Thunberg – Frank Thompson, Merry Brydges, Ken and Judy Christenson. Climate strikes every Friday in front of Norm Miller’s office, then downtown – various actions on designated days (coming up Climate Strike 03/03/23). We are seeking the greater good and well-being for all in Ontario.

Opposition to Bill 23 in widespread among those I spoke with in Parry Sound: The need to preserve and protect local farmland, the sense that once it is paved over, we cannot get it back. Growing frustration around lack of provincial government leadership regarding the crisis issue of climate change. Examples; fighting the carbon tax, removal of home energy retrofit subsidies, withdrawal of support for solar and wind power development, removal of EV subsidies. Ontario is being left behind in greening economies.

Lasting legacy

  • Many excellent submissions made around Bill 23, i.e. Georgian Bay Biosphere, housing groups, AMO which you previously chaired.
  • I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do know the importance of asking the legacy questions. As our Indigenous brothers and sisters would ask, what are the implications of this for the next seven generations?
  • Legacy of the Greenbelt. Some of your own Conservative Party predecessors were a part of its establishment.

Climate Crisis – the need to go in a different direction, learning from mistakes of the past and urban sprawl and development. Climate emergency – mitigation versus wrong direction – more of the same only adds to the climate change problem rather than working to solve it.

We need to restructure our society. We need to move to localized economic structure: where people live and work where they reside – local food movement – and fledgling efforts here in Parry Sound Muskoka – reliance on Greenbelt for local foods – serious issues of food security faced by many – growing costs environmentally of transport of food – 880,000 jobs in food sector – cannot afford to diminish these further.

Food Security – locally and provincially – Farmland – learning through COVID of the dangers of becoming too reliant on the global supply system.

Precarious Housing – Affordable Housing – food security -and large portion of limited income on shelter leaving very little for food and the basics of life.

Cannot understand expenditure of considerable political capital in rezoning part of the Greenbelt. High fiscal cost of developing infrastructure in Greenbelt for housing – not fiscally responsible.

The Ontario Housing Task Force found the housing crisis not because of lack of land. Many approvals already here in Parry Sound Muskoka. It is more a problem of labour and getting skilled workers to build the homes.
Challenge of development – sole reliance on private sector – money will go to place of most lucrative return. We see that in how trades people quite naturally will gravitate to high income property development because that is where the money is. (i.e. waterfront condo developments in Parry Sound). How will this bill mitigate this effect and encourage the building of much needed affordable housing?

Local autonomy especially regarding net zero aspirations – heat sources of new homes and moving from our fossil fuel addiction – need to encourage reduction of emissions – how does the bill do this?
Shell game of claiming Greenbelt development lands replaced by adding other lands to it.

Appreciate moves in the bill to allow more high-density housing such as triplexes. We need to go further in this regard; i.e. four storey walk-ups. One thing I have come to appreciate about Parry Sound is the variety of options (many homes with apartment options, live across the road from the Hub – even though they are clearly not enough to meet demand).

Questions – What do you see as the biggest climate issue the Bill will impact?

How will the bill seek to address solutions to the climate emergency instead of adding to the problem?


Linda Mathers Presentation Notes

I will frame my comments around the “Big Picture.” With the passage of Bill 23 and the changes in regulations across a number of ministries, we are failing to PROTECT that which PROTECTS us. Wetlands, shorelines, forested areas and agricultural lands, the very things that ensure clean water, clean air and a source of food are impacted. I will speak to the re-evaluation of wetlands and the dismissal of shoreline protections and how that compromises our climate resiliency and ability to address our commitments to emissions’ reductions.

The implications of this legislation are of particular concern to us in Muskoka where our environment and our economy are deeply connected. We live in a part of the province that is mostly lakes, water, trees and rock. As Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, this is your opportunity to protect these essential natural spaces and places for your children and their children.

I wish to zero in on how this bill undermines both provincial and municipal decision-making by changing the rules to enact policies around land use, and watershed-wide planning that will ensure we protect those assets that protect us especially in a climate in crisis.

I too hope we will find some common ground in the unintended consequences of Bill 23 to Parry Sound and Muskoka. We must look for the opportunity to protect those systems in our natural world that protect us. We must do everything we can to keep our planet habitable. The consequences of our failure to do so are overwhelmingly negative.

With the More Homes Built Faster Act we are failing to PROTECT that which PROTECTS us.

Instead of building resilience and mitigating climate change we are placing Ontario at greater risk.

Changes to the Ontario Wetlands Evaluation System (OWES) under Bill 23 all but eradicate the protection of wetlands and changes to Site Plan Approvals under Bill 23 will remove our ability to protect shorelines, essential for climate mitigation.

1. HOW wetlands, forest ecosystems, natural infrastructure in general, PROTECT US and therefore why it is critical to PROTECT these systems. We are a region of lakes and forests. Hugely important natural infrastructure here and for the whole province.

Critical natural infrastructure that wetlands in particular provide:

  • carbon sinks that hold the carbon we so need to keep carbon out of the atmosphere; nature’s intricate carbon capture system. Bull-dozing them will release significant GHG’s especially methane and act as a carbon bomb
  • flood mitigation giving record amounts of rainfall a place to be absorbed and released slowly,
  • drinking/groundwater protection filtering, cleansing including debris and run off from spills, construction sites,
  • critical species habitat and the essential need to protect biodiversity (Outcome of recent COP 30% by 2030 for planetary survival) (Use personal classroom examples of interdependence of species, habitat protection and the web of life he learned as a student growing up in Muskoka Reference George Anderson and Yearley)

Consequences of these changes to OWES that will re-evaluate wetlands individually rather than as complexes, especially in Muskoka where many wetlands are small but a critical part of larger systems. They will now fail to meet the new criteria and fall off the radar as important to protect. We must not let this happen. The science is clear:

  • Essential to evaluate them as complexes.
  • Collectively they have important ecological functions critical to the Muskoka and Parry Sound landscapes.
  • They work together and cannot be dismissed as inconsequential to protect
  • Wetlands in the watersheds around our hundreds of lakes filter nutrients that if released would contribute to increasing algal blooms (share personal example from Brandy Lake)

Vulnerability of wetlands to climate change (some specific examples here) and therefore increasing need to protect

  • Wetlands are vital because of the way water circulates through them.
  • With changes to this hydrological cycle that we are seeing with climate change (longer and heavier rainfall events and longer dry periods), wetlands will have more stresses and be more vulnerable than ever, including at increasing risk of drying up.
  • Now is the worst time to reduce protections.

2. HOW shorelines protect us in Muskoka and around the province. Consequences of removing shoreline approvals. We have hundreds and hundreds of lakes. Vast freshwater resource.

  • Role of naturalized shoreline protections to mitigate climate events, protect water quality, reduce algal blooms, and maintain the integrity of deeply connected ecosystems.
  • Local planning is being undercut when we need more—not less—oversight. Already challenged by loopholes the developers find (Sugarloaf Island, Brandy Lake shoreline bulldozed as personal example), irresponsible over-development already consequential here. Forests around our towns are being bull-dozed for housing out of reach of most Muskoka residents
  • Failure to have stringent site plan approvals and shoreline protections will ecologically sever lakeshores from terrestrial habitats inland or between waterbodies. Destroying natural ecosystem connections means we are destroying our own habitat for now and the future generations.
  • Climate heating is increasing algal blooms. For example, green paint sludge already increasing on lakes across our riding.

3. We must PROTECT that which PROTECTS us. We cannot reconstruct natural environments. Once gone they are gone. Argument of replacing lands taken from Greenbelt is a smoke screen not a reality.

  • Offsetting wetland creation – easy to say but very difficult to accomplish.
  • Impossible to do for fens and bogs and numerous other wetland types very prevalent across Muskoka and Parry Sound. These will go unprotected in spite of being essential infrastructure, critical to protect with rapidly changing climate.
  • Very difficult to mimic a wetland’s water budget when designing an offset in some other piece of a site (nature didn’t provide the surface-groundwater functions in the offset site for a reason).

Bill 23 takes us on an irreconcilable pathway to increasing emissions and fails to address climate heating mitigation through natural infrastructure. Bill 23 means you will fail to protect that which protects us.


Stephen Todoroff Presentation Notes

My name is Stephen Todoroff and I have two questions for you.

First, as Chair of the Housing Committee for Almaguin Highlands Community Living I am pleased that your government recognizes the dire need for affordable housing. However, I want to make it clear that your definition of affordable, i.e. 80% of market value, is still excessive for the clients we serve. I will give you an example which is all too typical.

A client receives $1200/month on ODSP. They pay $695/month to rent a small 1 bedroom apartment. They pay 58% of their income on rent. CMHC recommends a 30% threshold. If your 80% standard is applied it could reduce their rent to $556 but that is still 46% of their income. Again well in excess of the CMHC’s recommended amount.

1) My first question is, can amendments be made to bill 23 to specifically address the concern that my clients face in being forced to pay well in excess of 30% of their income on housing.

2) Secondly, as a member of Almaguin Climate Action, I am concered with the degradation of our enivironment and more specifically how and why the Greenbelt is being opened up for development.

I will read to you from your government’s Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force’s report dated Feb. 8, 2022:

  • A shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem,
  • Too much land inside cities is tied up by outdated rules,
  • Underdeveloped land inside and outside existing municipal boundaries must be part of the solution, particularly in Northern and rural areas, and perhaps most importantly:
  • Greenbelts and other enivronmentally sensitive areas must be protected, including farmland needed to provide food and food security.

My question then is, why ignore your own task force, which included your former leader Tim Hudak, and open the Greenbelt for development when it is not necessary to do so?


Written Notes Provided to Graydon Smith

Thursday, January 19, 2023 10-11 am at the Bracebridge Constituency Office

Presented to MPP Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry at the meeting between he and the Parry Sound Muskoka riding climate groups: Climate Action Muskoka (CAM), Almaguin Climate Action (ACA) and Climate Action Parry Sound (CAPS).

Follow-up questions for which we respectfully request answers. Please share with the Premier and the Caucus.

  • What do you see as the biggest climate issue the Bill will impact? How will the bill seek to address solutions to the climate emergency instead of adding to the problem?
  • Will you withdraw the changes to the Ontario Wetlands Evaluation System (OWES) in order to protect these critical ecosystem infrastructures acting as carbon sequestering sinks, providing clean water and offering protections from flooding and drought?
  • Will your government revise Bill 23 to reinstate site plan approvals for builds in all areas of the province?
  • We request that you and your government apply the following suggestions which address the climate imperative and also provide solutions to the housing crisis in Ontario when implementing your housing agenda.

Your government could:

  • Build hundreds of thousands of modest, affordable homes for everyday working families that were limited to 900 – 1200 square feet with 2-3 bedrooms and one or 1 1/2 bathrooms
  • Build these homes into existing neighbourhoods with existing infrastructure: public transit, schools, water, sewers, community centres, village squares and 15-minute, walkable services and active transportation networks
  • Use mixed housing models of rentals, multiplexes, low-rise small apartment and shared seniors housing built into existing neighbourhoods
  • Require all housing be heated and cooled with non-fossil fuel air- or ground-source heat pumps
  • Require legitimate and tested green building standards for materials for construction of homes and insure carbon zero buildings within the decade, an achievable standard around the world.
  • Create EV infrastructure and electrify local municipal services, including transportation, building heating and cooling
  • Require local smart green grids transitioning every community to renewable sources of energy
  • Set boundaries around urban areas, including town and village centres in Muskoka, Parry Sound, and Almaguin to prevent the clearcutting of forested areas that clean our air, protect the farmlands that feed us and wetlands that provide flood protection and essential biodiversity.
  • Mandate building “in” instead of “out”
  • Require that existing draft subdivision approvals be built in a timely fashion using low carbon materials and non-fossil fuel heating, quickly increasing a much-needed supply of housing in the District while reducing GHG emissions from the housing sector.
  • Cancel current and future rural subdivision (sprawl) approvals (approximately 400 in Muskoka now) which create sprawl – already an alarming feature of new development in Parry Sound Muskoka

Sue McKenzie, CAM, Linda Mathers, CAM, Kevin Logie, CAPS, Stephen Todoroff, ACA

Climate groups in Parry Sound Muskoka sit down face to face with MPP Graydon Smith

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

Jan. 26, 2023 – PARRY SOUND MUSKOKA – Climate groups in Parry Sound-Muskoka had an opportunity to sit down face-to-face with MPP Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, on Jan. 19 following an unsuccessful attempt to do so in December. The meeting was cordial and covered a wide range of issues related to Bill 23 and its climate implications. 

The four representatives from Climate Action Muskoka (CAM), Almaguin Climate Action (ACA), and Climate Action Parry Sound (CAPS) reminded the Minister, that they represent constituents from all over the riding. They raised concerns about Bill 23’s impact on delivery of municipal Climate Action Plans; the importance of “protecting what protects us” through preservation of wetland systems, forest ecosystems, natural infrastructure; and the importance of shoreline site control protections to the future of our lakes and our drinking water. 

They spoke about food security and the Greenbelt “offset”; the inadequacy of the “80% of market value” equation to determine “affordability”; and the appalling climate and economic choice of expanding gas plants and infrastructure in the riding and across Ontario. 

The group also left Smith with a list of questions to which they have requested answers; and a list of solutions which will address the housing crisis and the climate crisis together, without reverting to urban and rural sprawl and highways.  

Smith heard the group out and said he would take the concerns back to Queen’s Park for discussion by the Caucus and suggested a future meeting with the climate groups. 

Read full meeting notes and written submission provided to the Minister.