Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Carl Cosack and I am the chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce, or NDACT.
Thank you for giving me the time to speak today and to share our thoughts on the reviewof the Aggregate Resources Act.
NDACT was formed three years ago when the larger North Dufferin community learned about the Highland Companies plans for a massive quarry in the potato fields of Melancthon, just 90 minutes northwest of Queen’s Park.
We have several hundred members and thousands of supporters actively engaged in the effort to save the land and its water. My comments will address Agriculture and Water issues only.
While these hearings are not about the proposed Highland Companies mega quarry, it is because of the mega quarry application that we are here today.
The application for the largest quarry in Canadian history in the midst of a 15,000-acre plateau of farmland has highlighted the ongoing conflict between aggregate and agriculture.
This committee has the unique opportunity to bridge those conflicts because really, aggregate operators and agriculture have much in common.
We all use aggregate, we all raise children, we all eat food and we all need clean, fresh water. Non-partisan thinking will develop better policies for a better Ontario.
Representatives from the aggregate industry argue that Ontario must maintain a “close to market” approach when it comes to aggregate.
That approach is part of the PPS.
The PPS is a policy, not law, and it is within your mandate to improve those policies that are not working for the people of this province.
In southern Ontario, “Close to Market” means “too close to prime farmland”, the very land that is extremely rare, highly productive and a major factor in the province’s economy.
“Close to market” policy should not be restricted to the aggregate industry.
“Close to market” is equally important to the food producing sector of our economy.
You already know that a mere point-five percent of Canada is made of up Class 1 agricultural land.
This is the finest soil in which to grow our food. Of that point-five percent, more than half of it is right here in southern Ontario.
In fact, the farm land at the centre of the mega quarry controversy is Class 1 soil known as Honeywood Silt Loam. It exists nowhere else in Ontario in this contiguous manner.
Agriculture contributes to the economic well-being of the province 100 acres at a time, just like aggregate contributes to the province’s economy one pit or quarry, at a time.
Our prime farmland is a unique resource and it is providing Ontario with tremendous economic benefits. Ontario’s agri-food sector is bigger than the auto sector.
The industry contributes 33 BILLION dollars to the provincial economy each year,and jobs for 700-thousand Ontarians who draw SEVEN BILLION dollars in wages. Our agri-food industry is the largest in Canada.
According to the government’s own figures, agri-food exports hit a record high last year of nearly TEN BILLION dollars. Ontario contributes 22 percent of Canada’s agri-food exports.
We are blessed with land that will always produce crops, fruits and vegetables,dairy products and meat, thanks to our soil and climate conditions.
The land is a renewable resource that will continue pouring billions of dollars into our economy provide jobs and food for as long as humans need to work and eat …..as long as we protect it.
It is vital to our province’s economy, and its citizens.
ARA policy should recognize that we can not support the aggregate sector of the economy at the expense of the agricultural community.
ARA policy should ensure the sector that is renewable deserves at least the same consideration as aggregate does.
NDACT strongly argues that our prime farmland, which includes Class 1, 2 and 3 soils, whether in Melancthon or elsewhere in Ontario, should be protected from all aggregate extraction.
We are not against aggregate.
We need it for our roads, buildings and many other products.
We believe we should pursue other options such as more aggregate recycling, alternative technologies, investigate other kinds of rock to build our infrastructure and other locations which don’t impact prime food-producing lands.
One example, the Ontario Sand, Stone and Gravel Association has some bright people working on research to recycle old concrete, a process that could allow old concrete to be used as concrete again.
Your committee can help create polices that will lever the expertise that is out there to find solutions.
We have the technology today to develop new products. We can develop criteria, a framework, for “Willing Host Communities.”
There is unprecedented public involvement in this issue and unprecedented offers to help find solutions.
As an example, you will receive a written submission, prepared by Garry Hunter for Rutledge Farms, and we endorse most of the technical recommendations it includes.
You can challenge us collectively to do better than the status quo, because we must do better.
In addition to the ongoing threat to prime farmland, there is also the issue of water.
The aggregate industry states that aggregate operations are “not water consumers but water handlers.”
This makes it seem as though “water handling” is a benign process.
We respect that this hearing is not about the mega quarry, yet, the Highland application symbolizes all that is wrong with our current ARA legislation.
A policy that would even consider permitting excavation 200 feet below the water table and the handling of 600 million liters of fresh water daily, in perpetuity is not putting the needs of the people of this province first.
We believe that any application involving below the water table extraction should automatically be referred to a full Environmental Assessment and that Source Water regions and Watersheds should be protected in perpetuity, not pumped in perpetuity.
Any policy that would allow a private company, foreign or domestic, to effectively control the amount of fresh water used each day by 8 million Ontario residents is deeply flawed and at best, reckless and irresponsible.
The Highland Companies application would impact the drinking water of up to one million people downstream - along with fish, wildlife and whole ecosystems.
All would have to depend on this “water handling” to operate without complications, human error or contamination.
As a society, we have learned, through the Walkerton tragedy and other water contamination issues, that our number one priority today, and for our children tomorrow, is to ensure safe drinking water and to eliminate all man-made risks to our fresh drinking water sources.
The Aggregate Resources Act must not allow applications that pose such an enormous risk to the health of Ontarians.
We are not alone in this sentiment.
Last October, NDACT helped organize an eventcalled “Foodstock” and it was held on a potato farm adjacent to the proposed mega quarry site.
28-THOUSAND people came from across the province to enjoy gourmet dishes prepared by 100 chefs using local ingredients.
The slogan of the day was “Save the Land that Feeds Us ”
It is an appropriate motto for all of Ontario’s food-producing regions facing aggregate applications.
In conclusion, I would like to say that NDACT’s position is clear and we thank the committee for giving it careful consideration.
There are additional notes attached to this written presentation which can help kick-start dialogue.
I also thank you for agreeing to travel the province to hear from Ontarians engaged in this critical debate.