Let’s At Long Last Put the Health and Economic Welfare of our Communities Ahead of the Short-Term, Growth-At-Any-Cost Greed of the Predators in Niagara’s Development Industry
A Commentary by and Plea from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted May 17th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
“I recently became a great grandmother and in 2051, when my great granddaughter is 29 or 30 years old and I will be 98, and … if I am still around, I would like to be able to look around and see a Niagara that is still green and that we have made the best decisions going forward that preserves what really makes Niagara special.”
Those were some of the final words from Port Colborne Regional Councilor Barbara Butters at a meeting this past May 12th of Niagara Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee.
At the same committee meeting, where options for protecting Niagara’s environmental system were being considered for approval, members of the public urged members of the committee to vote in favour on an option identified as 3C that would provide a higher level of protection for woodlands, hedgerows and other green place, and for water resources like wetlands, both in and outside urban boundaries across our region.
The first citizen speaker was Miriam Richards, a resident of Welland and biologist at Brock University, who informed Regional Councillors on the committee that Niagara only has about 17 per cent of its tree cover left when what is recommended by Environment Canada for our region is 30 per cent.
Richards also stressed that replacing the natural ecosystems we need to maintain a healthy and prosperous life in our communities is “far more expensive” than struggling to replace it when it is gone.
Another citizen speaker, Marcie Jacklin, a resident of Fort Erie and a long-time conservationist and Chair of the Niagara Bird and Tourism Collaborative, questioned why planning staff in Niagara’s regional government would opt for a weaker option for protecting and preserving our natural heritage – an option (identified as 3B) that is more favourable to lobbyists for the development industry.
“Why aren’t we developing for communities instead of developing for developers? It is like the fox is left in charge of the hen house,” Jacklin said.
“Why gamble on our future? The science shows that we really need to embrace environmental infrastructure. It is not time to roll the dice and take a chance.”
Then there was Liz Benneian, a resident of Lincoln and a leader of a large coalition of green-minded individuals and groups called the Biodiversity and Climate Action Committee, who reminded the councillors that the Region’s own climate change report “lists protecting natural heritage and water resources as one of the 6 tops ways “to build resilient communities that are able to withstand longer-term weather impacts.”
Linda Manson, a community activist from Niagara Falls, bottom-lined the decision that was before the Region’s committee this way – “You have one chance to get this right. Follow the science … Follow your conscience. Because we will ALL — have to LIVE — with the consequences.”
At the end of it all, the members of the committee who voted in favour of Option 3C – the highest level of protection for Niagara’s natural heritage – included Port Colborne Regional Councillor Barbara Butters, the Planning and Economic Development Committee Chair and Pelham Regional Councillor Diana Huson, Niagara Regional chair Jim Bradley, St. Catharines Regional Councillors George Dart and Walter Sendzik (Sendzik is also St. Catharines Mayor), Niagara Falls regional Councillor Barbara Greenwood and Grimsby Regional Councillor Wayne Fertich.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. The other half of the committee voted for the weaker, pro-development industry Option 3B, making for a tied vote that left the more progressive, forward-thinking Option 3C falling to the floor.
This coming Thursday, May 20th, our Niagara Regional Councillors, including the 12 mayors from local municipalities who sit on the Region’s council, have one more chance to get it right for our future, and for the future of our children and grandchildren who could face an environmental and climate catastrophe if we allow ignorance, greed and the short-term interests of the development industry get their way.
So this father of a young person and this reporter and Niagara At Larger commentator, who spent decades covering environmental issues, first for The St. Catharines Standard, then for other media outlets, is going to urge you right now to contact your mayors and members of Niagara Region’s council and vote this May 20th for the foresighted Option 3C for the sake of present and future generations in Niagara.
Here is a link to the names and contact information for your members of Niagara Regional Council. Please click on it here and use it to give them a phone call or to send them an email on this critically important matter – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/profiles/default.aspx .
What our Niagara Regional Council decides this May 20th may spell the fate for what is left of our precious water resources and green places for decades to come.
Now I am going to leave you with the complete final message from Port Colborne Regional Councillor Barbara Butters – a message that sums up her long years of experience in municipal affairs and that gets to the heart of what is at stake here –
“What I am left with here,” said Butters at the Region’s May 12th Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, “is something that Mayor (Sandra) Easton (from the Town of Lincoln) said… that the Greenbelt is a gift that they never would have given themselves, and I see this 3C Option as a gift that we can give ourselves, but not just ourselves, but our kids and grandkids.
“When I think of upwards of 180,000 people that are expected to come here and live here (in Niagara) in the next 30 years, I don’t see how we can’t do extra protection of the natural environment system now.
“I think it would be a mistake not to do that, especially when there is going to be a huge influx of people here.
“I have heard people say I like the idea of flexibility within municipalities. I like the flexibility within municipalities too. The downside of that is that municipalities are under tremendous, intense pressure from developers and in all of my years on city council, which I really on here, I never once heard a develop say; “Wow, I am so excited about having a buffer. …. Wow, I can’t wait to have a buffer here.
“If anything, it was the exact opposite and they went to great lengths to have their planner that they hired tell us all the reasons why the buffer should be reduced or eliminated, and more often than not that would be exactly what happened.
So I am not really encouraged by leaving all of that to municipalities that are under such intense pressure to build their communities. … I think we need an oversight here.
“I recently became a great grandmother and I would to, … than in 2051 when my great granddaughter is 29 or 30 years old and I will be 98, and I hope that I know the difference between putty and porridge if I am still around, I would like to be able to look around and see a Niagara that is still green and that we have made the best decisions going forward that preserves what really makes Niagara special.
“Anything less than that does a great disservice to our children and grandchildren.”
Amen, I say, to all of that.
And once again, please use the contact information above to urge your Regional Councillors to vote for Option 3C – the highest level of protection for what is left of the life-sustaining natural resources in our Niagara.
If you want to watch the May 12th, 2021 Niagara Region Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting on this issue, click on the screen immediately below. You can watch the citizen delegations make their cases for Option 3C but pushing the little ball at the bottom of the screen over to about minute 44 into the meeting.
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