By Mike Anderson
While Karen Wolfe describes PAR’s recent lobbying efforts as a “perfect storm,” she also admits taking on Transport Canada is no easy task.
Still, she’s hopeful that PAR’s stepped-up lobbying will convince the Feds to take a second look at the Baldwin East Aerodrome and cancel the controversial project.
Wolfe, responsible for PAR’s advocacy efforts, gave about 20 residents an update during the Pefferlaw Area Ratepayers (PAR) Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Pefferlaw Lions Community Hall on March 21.
Wolfe said the e-petition calling on Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to cancel the project closed on March 13 with over 2,000 signatures.
It was tabled in the House of Commons by York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson on the same day as PAR’s AGM.
“The petition calls on the government to prohibit the development of the so-called Baldwin east aerodrome. To date, the Liberals have done nothing to prevent the planned dumping of more than 1.2 million cubic metres of potentially contaminated soil on the environmentally sensitive area within the Lake Simcoe watershed and have ignored the previous involvement of the aerodrome proponents in waste management and illegal fill dumping,” MP Davidson said in the House of Commons on March 21.
According to Wolfe, a joint request signed by MP Scot Davidson, the Town of Georgina and the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation (CGIFN) – who recently passed a Band Council Resolution calling for the project to be cancelled, was also hand-delivered to the Minister, reminding him of his constitutional duty to cancel the aerodrome if it is not in the public interest.
Wolfe also noted that the Sutton Agricultural Society also sent a letter to the Minister, strongly opposing the project.
A motion from Ward 5 Councillor Lee Dale, calling on the Minister to cancel the project, was also unanimously passed by Georgina Town Council on March 1.
Wolfe has also been meeting with officials from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC), which has the power to trigger an environmental impact assessment of the project.
This is significant because new aerodromes are exempted from provincial environmental regulations and municipal zoning bylaws.
According to Wolfe, the proponents were able to bypass a review by IAAC by proposing a runaway less than a kilometre in length, thereby avoiding the threshold that would have automatically triggered an assessment.
Wolfe sent a designation request to the Agency on February 3, asking them to take another look at the proposed aerodrome.
Wolfe noted that Agency has already reached out to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), the Town of Georgina, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the CGIFN for comment, which she believes is a promising development.
She added that once the Agency investigates the merits of PAR’s request, they will make a recommendation to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, and his decision will be known by May 14.
If it’s a yes, the project will receive a full environmental assessment which may take years to complete with full costs borne by the proponents.
Wolfe hopes this delay and expense might cause the proponents to abandon the project.
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