Toronto – At noon today, over 100 people from across Ontario brought their concerns – and their local drinking water – to a rally at Queen’s Park. They gathered there to tell Premier Dalton McGuinty that they want their water protected from polluting industry, unsustainable business-as-usual development, and from the newly proposed ‘Open for Business’ and ‘Water Opportunities’ Acts that will make matters even worse.
Speakers included Maude Barlow as well as Josh Garfinkle of Earthroots, and Debbe Crandall of the STORM (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine) Coalition—our two partners in organizing the rally. “The reality is that land use legislation for the Oak Ridges Moraine can’t protect this critical landform without a new provincial approach to protecting our common water resources”, explains Debbe Crandall, technical advisor to STORM (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine) Coalition. “Because of gaps and loopholes in moraine protection, we are fighting against a proliferation of roads, pipes and utilities, as well as trying to stop precious moraine water servicing new greenfield development off the moraine. How this is possible with all these new anti-sprawl statutes is beyond me – this is not what anyone thought ‘protection’ would mean.”
Other speakers included Stephen Ogden, one of our fellow activists at Site 41; Fred Hahn of CUPE; and Erin Shapero, a city councilor of Markham who has been tirelessly working hard to protect the local water resources.
The Ministry of the Environment has been failing to enforce their own legislation such as the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. An underlying message from the organizers of the rally was that this is unacceptable and people from all over Ontario will come together to protect their water because the provincial government is not doing so. Josh Garfinkel, senior campaigner for Earthroots, puts the issue in a provincial perspective. “A government that truly wants our water protected would look at the big picture, which means quantifying how much water is available, and how much is being lost to sprawl, climate change and pollution. There is an urgent need for a Provincial Water Strategy with teeth and the leadership necessary to enforce it.”
After the speeches, people were invited to come up to the microphone, introduce themselves, and hold up their water bottles that they brought and tell the crowd about the water they were going to protect. Mark Calzavara, our very own Ontario-Quebec Regional Organizer started by standing and saying “I am Mark Calzavara and I am going to protect my Toronto tap water!”
As more people came to the microphone, it was incredible to see where everyone was from and the local issues they were working on. We saw local chapter members from Guelph, Grand River, and Toronto who came out in spite of the rain.
“There is a global water crisis happening right now and Ontario is already feeling the impacts”, said Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “We need real protection for our water more than ever.”