STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Friday 22 November 2019
The committee met at 0900 in the Holiday Inn Peterborough-Waterfront, Peterborough.
Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019
Consideration of the following bill:
Bill 132, An Act to reduce burdens on people and businesses by enacting, amending and repealing various Acts and revoking various Regulations.
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): Good morning, everyone. The Standing Committee on General Government will now come to order. We are here today for public hearings on Bill 132, An Act to reduce burdens on people and businesses by enacting, amending and repealing various Acts and revoking various Regulations.
Citizens Against Melrose Quarry
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): I will now call upon Citizens Against Melrose Quarry to please come forward. Pursuant to the order of the House dated November 7, 2019, you will have up to 10 minutes for your presentation, followed by 20 minutes for questioning, with eight minutes allotted to the government, 10 minutes allotted to the official opposition and two minutes allotted to the Green Party independent member. Please state your name for Hansard, and you may begin.
Ms. Sue Munro: Good morning. My name is Susan Munro. Thank you for providing this opportunity to speak to you today. I am addressing schedule 16, which includes the bill’s proposed amendments to the Aggregate Resources Act.
I am the chair of Citizens Against Melrose Quarry, CAMQ. We are a community not-for-profit organization in Tyendinaga township, Hastings county, represented by Mr. Daryl Kramp. I do not come to you as a lawyer or as a professional bearing credentials to review aggregate operations. I am an RN. CAMQ members come from all walks of life.
We were formed in the spring of 2013 by citizens who felt their long-standing concerns about the proposed Melrose quarry were not being heard. Opposition began in 2004, when residents first objected to the plan being brought forth for official plan amendment to add a second quarry adjacent to the existing Long’s quarry.
In December 2010, prior to the approval of the OPA, the proponent submitted an application for an ARA class A, category 2 licence, below the water table. In early 2011, residents responded with formal opposition to the then-MNR. Nine years later, this application is now coming under review at LPAT: MM180027. I believe you all got the handout, did you? Okay, thank you.
Fifteen years, and residents’ fears have not been addressed.
Our group promotes responsible, equitable and sustainable resource use. Tyendinaga is primarily zoned agricultural and rural residential. Our community, like many others in Ontario, relies on groundwater to meet domestic, commercial and agricultural needs, as we have no municipal water supply. This is a community that falls outside the scope of protections by the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The aquifer in the area around the quarry is classified as highly vulnerable. To date, there has been no study to review the cumulative impact. Since 2004, there have been multiple new home builds. There is also a recreation centre and a public school in the vicinity that rely on well water. Our nearest municipal water supply, should an untoward event happen, is 20 kilometres away in Belleville.
On March 2, 2017, Danielle Emon and I, on behalf of CAMQ, made a submission on Bill 39, Aggregate Resources and Mining Modernization Act. Our presentation is still available on the standing committee transcripts. Our requests were simple, and we were thrilled when the committee was able to act on one of them: that section 12(1)(e) be amended to specify that there shall be regard to any possible effects on ground and surface water, including “drinking water” sources. This was a change from “municipal water.”
Some 18% of Ontario’s total population relies on private wells, with their water being excluded, as noted, from source protection plans. We are painfully aware that much of the responsibility for well maintenance falls to owners. Government-initiated actions such as aggregate extraction below the water table pose increased risk to these well owners, and stewardship must lie beyond the control of the individual property owner and in the hands of government and the proponent. Contingency planning for what to do when something happens is not precautionary.
Other points we addressed in 2017 are still relevant. We need to improve openness and transparency within our ministry, and better cross-communication. All legislation supporting sustainable use of water needs to be structured to protect rural water supply as well as municipal.
The MNRF must consider other ministries’ requirements and non-compliance records when evaluating aggregate licences for approval. When assessing cumulative impacts on groundwater, please consider large-volume water-taking and residential needs, coupled with research on climate change.
We ask that for an ARA application, you consider that the aquifer can continue to tolerate a broad range of uses, with limited abilities to recharge, and we want to know how pumping billions of litres of water affects highly vulnerable, weak-recharge environments. We ask that ARA licences be time limited.
I also want to address the funding. We know that there is an ability to go to LPAT should we not agree with a decision; however, that costs mega dollars for a community and is cost-prohibitive. We are suggesting that when the MNRF refers an application to LPAT, that it be funded. Our suggestion is that you collect one cent per tonne from the aggregate industry to fund that ability for citizens to have their voices heard.
CAMQ made a submission this month to the ER notice regarding proposed changes to the ARA. We note the intent of the new act to strengthen rural water by a more robust application process. We suggest that you do this by tying the permit to take water and the licence together. This would time-limit the ARA and would consider impacts to aggregate extraction both within and below the water table. We also noted the intent to streamline compliance reporting; again, we believe these two should be tied.
Why does CAMQ believe the aggregate licence should be time limited and tied to the permit to take water? Here is our example, and we know this type of situation is happening all across Ontario. We doubt, however, that this scenario was discussed at your summit last spring.
In 2005, Long’s Quarry was denied a permit to take water by the then MOE. The operator continued to pump water for six years before the Ministry of Natural Resources found out. Apparently, there was no communication between the two ministries. When they were discovered, around the time the application for the adjacent Melrose was submitted, the MOE ordered that the non-compliance be investigated.
The proponent had not kept records, meaning that there was no proof that more than 50,000 litres of water had been pumped from the aquifer. There was no penalty. However, to bring the operator into compliance, the ministry issued a permit for more than one million litres a day. To me, that’s quite a change, from not needing 50,000 to bringing them into compliance with one million litres per day. That was followed by a one-year permit to take water.
That became the subject of an ERT—Environmental Review Tribunal—hearing in 2015, launched by CAMQ with the support of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. It was paid for by cookie baking, community funds and private donations. As a result of the 2015 recommendations, the subsequent permit to take water provided language for low water conditions, i.e. drought. In the very first year, the proponent violated those terms. We addressed it; the ministry discussed it with him. After a second violation, an investigation was launched by the MECP. To date, we have not heard of a penalty. This is unacceptable.
There are several other non-compliances with this operator, both with the MECP and the MNRF. We learned that information is kept in a silo effect. Cross-communication between these two ministries is essential, and having a time-limited ARA licence tied to the permit to take water is straightforward, cuts red tape and affords ordinary citizens protection.
Finally, climate change provides yet another reason for the permit to take water and the ARA licence to be tied. A new licence for aggregate may allow for continued extraction and billions of litres of water pumped annually for upwards of 100 years. Is it reasonable to predict the future health of a vulnerable aquifer for generations to come based on today’s conditions? We believe there should be a moratorium on all new licences until you, our government, get a better handle on this situation.
Other agencies will come before you and address Bill 132, schedule 16, in a much more eloquent way. However, on behalf of this rural community in eastern Ontario, I respectfully have two requests:
—that the ARA licences be time limited and tied to the permit to take water; and
—that annual compliance reporting be combined with the aggregate licence and the permit to take water for improved communication between the Ministry of Natural Resources and the MECP.
Again, thank you for allowing me to address you today on behalf of Citizens Against Melrose Quarry.
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): Thank you very much for your presentation.
This round of questions will begin with the official opposition. MPP Fife.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Ms. Munro, I have to say, you were pretty eloquent in your presentation. The paper that you presented is well researched. You have excellent references that support all of your claims.
We heard yesterday from other groups who are at the beginning of their journey, so it’s pretty discouraging to hear that you’ve been working so long. I’m sure that it has been a test of your resources and your patience, and you quite rightly point out that it should not come to that. But Bill 132 and the proposed changes by the PC government will not solve the problem. Do you agree with that?
Ms. Sue Munro: I’m coming before you as totally non-partisan, because in our group, with CAMQ, I have members who come from every political party, and I want to depoliticize this. I agree that, as the act stands, it does not address the concerns of rural citizens.
Ms. Catherine Fife: That’s all I want to say. I don’t want to get into the partisanship. But if we’re looking to solve the problem, which is what this committee is tasked with, and to try to change this bill and make it actionable and responsive to the very issues that you’ve raised, there are a few things that have to change that are in the schedules.
You’ve pointed out that your efforts have been funded by bake sales and fundraising. The government is repealing the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre, which was brought in in 2017 to help groups like yours because there was a great sense of frustration, under the former government, that groups needed support to navigate all of these appeal processes, and not every group can lawyer up. They’re repealing this, which we don’t support because we think there’s a power imbalance that I’m sure you’ve come up against over and over again.
Ms. Sue Munro: May I just speak to that briefly?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Yes, of course.
Ms. Sue Munro: I came before the standing committee, as I noted, in 2017, with the then Liberal government. My concern at that time was that that office might be a start to help navigate but that doesn’t answer the problem. When you go before an LPAT, you need $100,000 in your pocket. How are you going to get that? Yes, it’s nice to have that office to help navigate—and I agree it maybe shouldn’t be taken away—but that isn’t enough, and I argued that before. What we need is for the aggregate resource industry to pony up. We would not be going to an LPAT had they been able to resolve the differences with the community. We would not be in this position had they not put us there. So rather than getting into the “individual person up against” and getting into all the biases, I firmly believe that one cent per tonne goes into a contingency thing—I would ask that this government start right away with maybe $1 million, or pick a figure, to put in a contingency fund to start, so that when your ministry, as a government, refers this to an LPAT, we’re not left behind the eight ball.
Ms. Catherine Fife: But you wouldn’t even need to get to that point if the government followed through on one of your recommendations to have ARA licences be time limited. What do you think the aggregate community would think about that, Ms. Munro?
Ms. Sue Munro: I think the aggregate community will have a problem with that, because it’s realistic and it needs to happen.
I’ve given you a good example of how things fall through the cracks. This is going into 2020. The acts go back to the 1970s—in 50 years, with climate change—a lot of things have happened. It’s time for the tail to stop wagging the dog and look at what’s happening with the citizens.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Yes. But just to go back to my point: Bill 132, though, would not address that power imbalance between aggregate companies and citizen groups.
Yesterday, on the Hallman pit, a group that’s just starting this process, they made the point of saying that they’re not anti-aggregate; they’re pro-water. I think that was a very powerful statement, because you have communities that are genuinely concerned—in rural communities where they have private wells but also aquifers—that the risk is not worth compromising the water table, and Bill 132 would still allow aggregate companies to go underneath the water table.
I’m going to pass it on to my colleague here. Thank you very much for your time, Ms. Munro.
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): MPP Arthur.
Mr. Ian Arthur: Good morning. Thank you so much for coming into the committee this morning and making the trip up from Tyendinaga. I’m from Kingston so I drive through your community every week.
You touched a little bit on the siloing that has happened between MNRF and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Can you also touch on the interactions—you mentioned your local MPP was Daryl Kramp. You’ve travelled all the way up to Peterborough, which isn’t too far, but is a bit of a trip to come before this committee, and this is the first bill that we’ve had an opportunity to actually travel and hear from citizens across Ontario. Would you describe a little bit your interactions with your own MPP and if you feel that there are adequate avenues in place for these concerns to be addressed?
Ms. Sue Munro: Well, I’ll be honest. I haven’t talked to Daryl Kramp. But way back, since this has been going on for so long, I did talk to Todd Smith and in those days—I don’t want to belabour this committee because this has to do with the aggregate.
But you have to know that the official plan for this was put on the table—the public meeting was May 2004. People objected. Hastings county sent it through to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing without any supporting documents. That fall, the ministry wrote Hastings county back and said, “It’s beyond the 48-day process. We suggest you repeal this motion”—I have the emails to support all that—they did not.
So seven and a half years later—now remember, this is before Internet and all that—in comes the proponent with the consultant reports; we’re now talking 2009, which they still are currently outdated, but that’s what we’re dealing with.
Hastings county sent it through to the ministry in those days and they started the process, but they never had a second public meeting. Those people who went there were well recorded, that they were there and they were interested. Not one of those people was notified that this was back on the table.
The official plan was passed without any citizens knowing that it happened. The next thing we knew was when this aggregate—we said, “Well, how did that happen?” Seven and a half years is a long time for somebody to follow whether something’s going to go through, and I don’t know why it wasn’t revoked, but this is where I go with silos all the way along, not in one place.
Right now, we’re before an LPAT, and I don’t want to get into the details of that because it hasn’t come forward yet, but one of the things that the proponent’s lawyer wants taken off the table is compliance. He doesn’t want us to talk about compliance. Well, you’ve heard about this—anyway; sorry. I don’t know if that answers you or not.
Mr. Ian Arthur: Yes. Sorry. They don’t want compliance to be part of the discussion?
Ms. Sue Munro: No, on our issues list, one of the things they wanted off the list was compliance. We are arguing it. I don’t want to get into that specific case. I want to speak for rural Ontario, and this is the kind of stuff that we’re going through. And I’m going back to your comment about aggregate being important. Well, you know what? Skunks are important, too. Skunks are very important, but when they show up at the garden party and don’t behave, you don’t want them there, right?
Mr. Ian Arthur: Thank you, Sue. Jennie, do you have anything?
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Absolutely nothing, but thank you for coming today.
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): You have one minute left. No further questions?
Mr. Ian Arthur: No further questions for now.
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): Thank you.
We’ll now turn to the independent Green Party member, you have two minutes.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: Thank you, Ms. Munro, for coming in. I’ve met with so many citizens’ groups going through what you’re going through, and I know how hard it is.
Regardless of the particulars around the removal of the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre for citizens, would you agree that some sort of support centre and, even more importantly, a fund for that centre to assist citizens’ groups, is essential to democracy and also to your ability to speak out your concerns?
Ms. Sue Munro: I did contact that centre. However, we were before it, because I’m going back—I predate that. We have had the advantage of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. I don’t know whether any of you here know how high that bar is to actually get their involvement.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: Very high.
Ms. Sue Munro: It’s very, very high, and it has to be a very vulnerable aquifer. Nonetheless, we’re still fighting and baking cookies and having yard sales.
The short answer to your question is, anything is a help, but it’s not enough.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: I agree. Also, one of the concerns is that this bill takes away municipalities’ ability around land use planning and aggregates, and water protection and aggregates. The government at times has said that rural communities don’t have the resources at the municipal level to do that. Would you agree with that statement?
Ms. Sue Munro: I think there has to be municipal input into what goes on in your own municipal community, but I also believe that there needs to be provincial oversight.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: So we need both.
Ms. Sue Munro: You need both.
Mr. Mike Schreiner: Great. Thank you.
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): We’ll now turn to the government. We’ll begin with MPP Harris.
Mr. Mike Harris: Thank you, Ms. Munro. It’s nice to meet you. I know we had a couple of minutes to quickly chat before committee resumed this morning.
Obviously, with your specific application being before the LPAT right now, I don’t want to get into too much about that.
Ms. Sue Munro: No, I can’t.
Mr. Mike Harris: I can’t either, as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
But there are a couple of things that you brought up that I wanted to address. One of those things was that siloing effect. This is one thing that myself—and I’ve got the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment sitting right beside me today—we’re really trying hard to break down some of the barriers that have been put up over the last 15 years within these ministries.
Our ministry works very closely, and our minister works also very closely, with the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Rest assured that there is communication going on, and that we’re trying to rebuild those bridges and break down those silos, so that there is better communication.
I think that’s one of the things that our government is really trying to do when we talk about red tape. Obviously, what this bill is all about is being able to streamline some of those things where you don’t need to have redundant duplications between ministries; where you don’t have to try to force that communication and you’re able to just have that openly and freely; and where, instead of having to deal with two, three or four different ministries, and you’re getting that broken telephone game going on, we’re able to do that within one ministry or two, and be able to have those streamlining effects.
So, rest assured, that is happening, and it is something that we take very seriously.
Again, I don’t want to get into too many specifics about your specific issue, obviously, with the Melrose quarry. But there are a couple of things within this bill that we’re really trying to actually strengthen: what’s happening when it comes to environmental assessments, when it comes to vertical zoning and when it comes to applications below the water table.
You obviously come from an area where you don’t have a lot of municipal oversight. It definitely is important that we have the province involved in what is happening with vertical zoning, because there is a disparity across the province. You have areas—I said this yesterday—that do aggregate very well; you have some areas that, unfortunately, don’t.
Municipal input is still part of the environmental assessment process. You now have a mechanism to be an official objector under these regulations. Whether you’re a citizen and/or the municipality, you’ll now have a mechanism to take this to the LPAT, where you wouldn’t have had that before. I know it can be expensive to do that, to be an official objector to an application. That was not a mechanism beforehand. It would have to be launched by, usually, the company, the aggregate operator. If their application wasn’t successful, they would then take it to the LPAT. So you’ll now—
Ms. Sue Munro: Excuse me. I’m going to stop you there.
Mr. Mike Harris: Sure.
Ms. Sue Munro: I’ve been dealing with this for quite some time, and I went back through, prior to this government, and asked how to get this brought forward. Citizens could bring this forward, and I was a registered objector back in 2011. So I won’t argue with you, but I’d ask you to maybe research that.
Mr. Mike Harris: With the vertical zoning piece I’m talking about—
Ms. Sue Munro: Oh, the vertical zoning piece, okay. Pardon me. I thought you were talking about the LPAT application.
Mr. Mike Harris: No, I mean the vertical zoning.
There’s one thing that I am interested in hearing a bit more about. When you’re talking about this contingency fund, tell me a bit more about how you would like to see something like that set up. This is why we are here. We are here to look at making possible amendments.
Ms. Sue Munro: And I appreciate all of you coming. So there are two things. The two ministries are together. I believe the aggregate licence in those need to be tied together so that when you go to get a permit to take water, you’re going to review the licence at the same time. Time-limit both of them and get them together.
To speak to it, there are a couple of different ways that I would suggest that you could look at the LPAT intervenor funding. We all know that no government wants to open up another budget line. Right? None of you want to open up another budget line. So why are not the ones that are creating the issue paying a cent per tonne? I don’t have a plan, but I’d love to sit down with government agencies if you decided to do this, and I’d work right along with you to say, “Here’s one cent per tonne. You’re going to put it into this contingency fund.”
Then when I get this, as I did from the Minister of Natural Resources, to say—we did not appeal Tyendinaga’s decision, because the OPA had already been done behind our back, and Tyendinaga was merely following what Hastings county had done. You know, take your head on a brick wall and stop slamming it—so we said okay. The next thing we get is we’re taking it—the issues have not been resolved. The Ministry of Natural Resources, in March 2018, referred this to—it was the OMB in those days; it got switched, as we know. I was an original objector. I can go and speak to it, and I will.
I also worked with a community group to have CELA get participant status, which is great because now we have a lawyer. I don’t have $100,000 to fight an aggregate industry. I don’t have it.
Mr. Mike Harris: Do you think that could be something that could be rolled into the municipality levy? I’m just talking about the collection of the fees, just to sort of streamline things and make things easier.
Ms. Sue Munro: I think it’s quite honestly better delivered by the province. I think that that’s a provincial thing, because municipalities—and I’m not going into detail with it—particularly in rural ones, you’re going to have patchwork all across the province. You’re going to have this municipality that believes this—we need that provincial oversight by you people, who say—
Mr. Mike Harris: And again that goes back to my earlier comment about some municipalities do things really well and some, unfortunately, don’t.
Ms. Sue Munro: Some don’t. So my recommendation—I would be happy to sit with you—is to charge them one cent per tonne. Put it into whatever kind of fund; you choose the name. And I’d even go so far as to say, okay, if you want community groups to be serious, because you don’t want frivolous stuff—right?
Mr. Mike Harris: Sure.
Ms. Sue Munro: If it’s been referred by the ministry to it—I don’t know, maybe 75% funded? I don’t mind baking $25,000 worth of cookies, and yard sales; I don’t mind soliciting the community—
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): You have one minute left.
Mr. Mike Harris: It’s funny that you brought that up because my wife just baked some cookies for a thing that’s happening at our son’s school, and they sold out like that.
Anyway, that’s it for us. Thank you very much. I appreciate you being here.
The Chair (Ms. Goldie Ghamari): Thank you. Further questions? No. All right.
Thank you very much for your presentation and your time. You may step down.