Good to Know Letters & Opinion

A Caledon Call For Action

Woman and man with clipboard and petition
Written by Dan O’Reilly

Premier Ford’s Sept. 21st announcement that he was reversing the Greenbelt land removals was a victory for democracy and citizen activism and the public backlash over the Greenbelt scandal, which maybe the largest of its kind in Ontario’s history.

Hundreds of people across Ontario signed petitions, took signs, sent emails, made telephone calls, and went to rallies to oppose that removal. They didn’t buy the government’s bogus narrative that Greenbelt lands were needed to solve the housing crisis.

But even though the province has introduced legislation (Bill 136) which would restore those lands and enshrine protection for the Greenbelt, I don’t think they should be too hasty in removing those “Protect Greenbelt” signs from their properties. Or let their guard down as it applies to this premier.

I believe there is a pressing need for continued activism, especially in Caledon. This community is being is being confronted with a long list of alarming issues and developments which threaten to further erode its already diminished stature as “The Greenest Town in Ontario.”

Some of those threats are locally based. Others are the direct result of Ontario government policies which are also impacting scores of other municipalities right across the province.

MZOs

The provincial government has implemented numerous non-appealable Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZO’s), some of which have been in Caledon. It is attempting to ram through Highway 413, a financial and environmental blunder.

Undermining of Conservation Authorities

As well it is undermining the regulatory powers of conservation authorities to regulate or prohibit development that negatively impacts wetlands, rivers, and streams. That should be of particular concern to residents old enough to remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

Dissolution of Region of Peel

Then there is Premier Ford’s decision to dissolve the Region of Peel. Slated to come into effect on Jan.1, 2025, it has the appearance of a policy based on the premier’s whim rather than in-depth analysis.

As a stand-alone municipality, Caledon will be even more vulnerable to development pressures. In addition we will be most likely be placed in a precarious financial position as Caledon scrambles to provide services that are currently Peel Region’s responsibility.

One-person Decision Making

Layered on top of these issues is some disturbing news at the Town of Caledon offices. Notably Mayor Annette Groves’ decision to fully embrace provincially granted “strong mayor powers”. The wielding of these powers has started an unsettling landslide of departures of key senior staffers at a time when Caledon couldn’t need them more.

When Groves terminated the Town’s CAO Carey Herd in early August, using those powers, she single-handedly appointed former Town of Erin CAO Nathan Hyde in Herd’s place.

During Hyde’s tenure with Erin—in 2020 to be precise—the Canadian Association of Journalists awarded the town of Erin its “Code of Silence Award for the Most Secretive Council in Canada.”

An Erin area paper reported that:

The award – the Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy – went to Erin because the municipality has ignored or refused media interview requests, kept important meetings and decisions quiet from the media and, most glaringly, refused for two years to release details of severance payments made to staff over a specified time period.”

In a news release on Hyde’s appointment, Mayor Groves lauded his achievements in negotiating a deal “to build the largest public works project in the history of Wellington County.”

Although not mentioned by name, that project is the Town of Erin’s now-under construction $114-million wastewater treatment plant. When that town’s population is maxed out, it is anticipated it will release 7.2 million litres of sewage effluent daily into the West Credit River.

Ask people in the Belfountain area in what they think of that project. A key number of very committed area residents are members of the Coalition For the West Credit River. The group has been waging a relentless fight to mitigate the plant’s impact on the river and, in particular, its brook trout population.

It needs to be pointed out that a number of developers are paying the upfront costs. Included in that list is Vaughan-based Solmar Development Corp., which reportedly sold the land for the plant to Erin for $2. This is the same developer which threatened Caledon with a multi-million lawsuit about 15 years ago when the council of the time refused to consider its proposal to build thousands of homes in the Bolton area. Caledon didn’t cave in to those bullying tactics, thanks, in large part, to the courage and fortitude of Marolyn Morrison, the mayor at the time.

Sewage Plant and Blasting Quarry

Consider what else is happening or could occur in northwest Caledon. Residents in the area are almost under a state of siege. Besides the Erin sewage treatment plant, they’re battling a proposed massive housing development and an application by CBM Aggregates to develop an 800-acre blasting quarry. Spearheading a tenacious fight against the quarry is the citizen-led Forks of the Credit Preservation Group.

A Caledon Call For Action

It might be suggested more people in other parts of the town should get off the sidelines. For example, there were very few letters to the editors of the Caledon media insisting the Greenbelt be protected and a once steady stream of letters in opposition to Highway 413 has completely dropped off the radar. Your voice is vital.

So here are just a few suggestions for taking action. Hopefully, readers will come up with some more of their own.

Sign the petition:

An effort is now underway to start a petition asking Mayor Groves to give up her strong mayor powers. Once in wide-distribution, residents who care about the direction this town, and democracy itself, is headed should sign it.

Contact Caledon Mayor Annette Groves:

Residents might want to contact the mayor directly and ask her why she needs Strong Mayor Powers or why she is so confident Caledon make it on its own when the dissolution of Peel Region comes into effect. Another pertinent question is her opinion on Highway 413. While still a councillor, Ms. Groves did take a position against the highway 413, even participating in a demonstration rally in downtown Bolton. Since assuming the mayor’s chair last November she has been strangely silent on this issue. Caledon is one of the few municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area not to take a position on the highway.  Contact the mayor at (905) 584-2272, extension 5130 or email her at annette.groves@caledon.ca

Contact Dufferin Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones:

Let her know how you feel by writing a letter, making a telephone call or through an email. Her contact information is Sylvia.Jones@pc.ola.org or (519) 941-7751. The mailing address is 180 Broadway Ave, Suite A, Orangeville, ON. L9W 1K3.

Fighting The Quarry Proposal and Highway 413:

FCPG members/supporters and other quarry opponents have to be equally vigorous in their opposition to Highway 413. There is a direct correlation between these questionable projects. It will be almost impossible to stop the quarry if the province is successful in ramming the superhighway through. The need for aggregate would be too great. Judging by this province’s penchant for issuing MZO’s, there is very real danger it would order a similar one for the quarry.

Stop Highway 413 Signs:

One of the most effective methods of generating opposition to the highway is to erect a Stop Highway 413 sign on your property. They are provided free from Environmental Defence. To request one email: danoreilly@sympatico.ca

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About the author

Dan O’Reilly

Dan O’Reilly is a freelance writer specializing in design and construction, the environment, and historical preservation. He is also a regular contributor to the Daily Commercial News and Ontario Home Builder, the official magazine of the Ontario Home Builders Association.

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  • On July 21, 2016, then-councillor Groves sided with Mississauga and Brampton by voting against Caledon over planned future development. Records show that all the councillors had public documents in their hand before the vote that made the “saving tax-payers $100M” argument at the time nothing more than a smoke screen. The sole beneficiary of the option voted for–against all evidence and planning staff advice–was Solmar. Why does it seem that the names of Groves and Solmar never seem to be far from each other?