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Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter seeks to protect provincially-significant wetland from casino development

Chapter activists Sheila Nabigon-Howlett and Roy Brady at a No Casino Peterborough protest.

The Council of Canadians Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter opposes the construction of a casino to be located near Harper Park, a beautiful 150-acre natural park in the southwest corner of the city.

Notably, the wetlands in the park have just been designated as “provincially significant” by the Ontario government.

Peterborough Field Naturalists have noted, “Harper Park and its adjacent major open space lands contain a diversity of habitat types and are therefore the most ecologically significant lands within Peterborough, with high biodiversity and a high percentage of native plant species. Harper Park’s size provides habitat for area-sensitive birds and mammals not normally found within city limits such as Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Snowshoe Hare and Woodland Jumping Mouse.”

In December 2016, The Peterborough Examiner reported, “76 per cent of city residents don’t want a casino, according to a new poll [while] 74 per cent believed a full environmental assessment should [happen]. Meanwhile, 54 per cent were in support of the Ontario Municipal Board appeal against the casino development.”

Chapter activist Sheila Nabigon-Howlett is a spokesperson for the group No Casino Peterborough (NCP), a citizen-led effort to protect families, jobs, and green space from the casino that Peterborough city council wants to build.

In a column published in The Peterborough Examiner, Nabigon-Howlett writes, “I would like to acknowledge and thank the hundreds of supporters of NCP who, over the last four years have informed councilors of the negative social, economic and environmental aspects of a government-sponsored casino, supporters who have been delegations to council, written letters, demonstrated in public and contributed to the Go Fund Me efforts to stop the casino through the Ontario Municipal Board.”

She then states, “I think we in NCP acknowledged that government-sponsored gambling is simply part of the present economic system that manipulates money markets without actually producing anything – except profits for the huge gambling corporations like Great Canadian [Gaming Corporation, the developer behind this casino], and of course more disparity between rich and poor.”

No Casino Peterborough had appealed the proposed casino at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), but has now pulled out due to a lack of funds. Nabigon-Howlett notes, “As engaged citizens who have invested much work and energy at our own expense, I would like to state that the OMB has not been citizen-friendly for us. It is almost impossible for ordinary people to take on an issue of public concern at the OMB. A provincial Review of the OMB is in the works and NCP has made some suggestions.”

The Peterborough Examiner now reports, “For years, [Harper Park’s] wetland was designated by the province as locally significant – meaning it is accorded certain protections from environmental harm. But now that designation has been promoted to provincially significant, meaning it rates among the most important wetlands in Ontario. With that designation come stronger environmental protections, such as wider buffers between the wetland and development.”

City councillors are expected to consider the site plan application and this new provincial designation this spring.