Contributed by Donna T:
One year ago this weekend, the Toronto Star published a four-page investigative article about our fight to stop the Highland mega quarry.
At the same time, a reporter from 'Fortune' magazine was flying back to New York after touring the region to write story about Seth Klarman and the Baupost Group's unusual and controversial investment in Ontario.
A few days later, a U-S business website, ValueWalk, published an article about the mega quarry project, saying Highland had "mismanaged" the proposal from the beginning and it faced "stormy skies." It seems the opening days of 2012 foreshadowed our victory just 11 months later.
As we all know, it has been a most remarkable year and it would not have been possible without the energy, ideas and tremendous commitment of the thousands of people who joined our movement.
Every month we raised awareness about the issue through creative and positive events. Paint-Ins and art exhibits were organized by Artists Against the MegaQuarry to highlight the beauty of the land at risk.
Hundreds of people stopped by the NDACT booth at the Green Living Show to ask questions, show support and sign the petitions.
Graphic design students at OCADU created a collection of mega quarry posters. Stomp the MegaQuarry introduced hundreds of walkers, runners and cyclists to the fertile fields, forests and rivers that were threatened.
Paddle the Grand to Stop the MegaQuarry spread our message west of the proposed site.
The Tater Awards celebrated the stories told by reporters, filmmakers, musicians and bloggers about our campaign.
Students at schools and universities tackled the mega quarry in class assignments and projects.
And, of course, Soupstock became one of the largest and tastiest protests in the country as 40,000 people enjoyed soup for a cause in October.
Much hard work was also done on the political front as we participated in the review of the Aggregate Resources Act by the Standing Committee on General Government last spring.
It was an eye-opener from the beginning.
The aggregate industry was given preferential treatment and access to the hearings.
The review of a complex piece of legislation was given a mere 12 hours in Toronto. (This was later extended to other regions after a flood of e-mails.)
Its chief representative was allowed to conduct private tours of aggregate sites for the Committee's MPPs, yet an offer for a similar tour of the rare farmland adjacent to the proposed mega quarry site was rejected.
We will never forget the "Drive-By Bus Tour" of the most controversial proposed quarry site in Canadian history.
Yet, during those hearings our message about the urgency to protect prime farmland and vital water resources did get through, thanks to the excellent presentations by Carl Cosack, Dave Vander Zaag, Donna Baylis, Christina Wigle, Ron Lehman and other key agricultural stakeholders.
At the end of one long day of testimony, a Committee member said "Clearly, there's an urgent need to protect prime farmland."
He was right.
This will be our focus in 2013.
We may have defeated the mega quarry, but Highland still owns 8,000-acres of the best farmland in Canada and could return in a few years with a new quarry application.
As well, prime farmland is at risk across the province as it is not protected under current land-use policies.
There is much work to be done and we will continue to press for changes to the ARA and land-use planning.
The land that feeds us must be protected.
Stopping the mega quarry was just one of our goals over the past two years.
Creating a lasting legacy for our agriculture and water resources was the other.
Over the coming year, we will campaign for "Food and Water First."
Some of you already have the lawn signs with this message; more will be brought to the city in the spring.
We will be asking our political leaders for their position on "Food and Water First", whether they believe Ontario should protect the vital resources that contribute so much to our economy and well-being.
We hope you will continue fighting the good fight!
So, Happy New Year!
Let's make 2013 as successful and remarkable as 2012!