By Mike Anderson
A dozen Georgina residents made the four-hour trek to Ottawa on June 14 to protest against the controversial Baldwin East Aerodrome, which is slated to be built on Old Homestead Rd in Pefferlaw, and could see 1.2 million cubic metres of fill dumped on environmentally protected lands.
Despite a steady drizzle, the group, led by Karen Wolfe and Jim Keenan from Pefferlaw Area Residents (PAR), were happy to be protesting on Parliament Hill.
After meeting up with York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson, they spent several hours waving signs that said “Stop the Aerodrome,” “Protect Wetlands,” and “Aerodrome Equals Dump Site” while handing out pamphlets to MPs walking by.
“Grassroots demonstrations like this have an impact on MPs. And it’s great to hear so many positive comments from MPs,” said Wolfe, who has been leading lobbying efforts against the project.
“We’re happy to be here, and we’re happy to meet all of these MPs that are going to help us get this aerodrome overturned. That’s the goal. And we’re not going to quit until we get there.”
The other protestors echoed Wolfe’s commitment.
“I’m here to protect our lake. We’ve been working to protect Lake Simcoe my entire lifetime. And I’m just going to continue to do that,” said Brenda Draper, who owns a farm adjacent to the aerodrome site.
“It’s basically across the street from my farm. It’s going to increase traffic on rural roads. It’s going to impact our farmland, our livelihood and severely impact the water quality in the lake; all the runoff from that area goes directly into Lake Simcoe.”
Wilma Bunnik was also adamant the aerodrome must be stopped.
“I drove here because I’m shocked that somebody can buy 350 acres of good prime land four kilometres from Lake Simcoe and decide they’re going to put a medium-sized aerodrome there,” she said.
“A little creek goes to Lake Simcoe on that property. And the water tables are high there, and all the aquifers would be affected. It’s not acceptable. We’re all here to protect the lake.”
Joanne Coxworth, who took the day off to be at the protest, added that no community is safe if the aerodrome is allowed.
“This can happen in anybody’s backyard. The way the federal regulations are now, it can happen anywhere,” said Coxworth, concerned that contaminated soil could be dumped at the aerodrome site.
“I used to work for a waste systems company. I know what happens,” she said.
While demonstrations are usually held in front of Centre Block, Davidson had the group stand directly across from West Block, where the interim House of Commons is located, allowing easy access to MPs walking in and out of the building.
While the protest was small, Davidson said it got the message out to several Liberal MPs, including the Minister of the Environment, Steven Guilbeault.
“It was good the environment minister saw us there. Because he sees, as a small community, we’re taking this issue seriously.”
While Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was out of the country at a G7 meeting in Tokyo, Davidson and Wolfe spoke to Liberal MPs from neighbouring ridings, including Leah Taylor Roy, MP for Aurora-OakRidges-Richmond Hill.
Davidson said the protest also opened the door for further discussions with MPs who sit on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN), in particular with Vance Badawey, a Liberal MP for Niagara Centre.
“It was important for Liberal MPs to hear directly from my constituents,” Davidson said.
“They need to know, not just from me, how decisions actually affect people.”
Davidson added he would continue to lobby Alghabra to change his position on the aerodrome.
“I’m always hopeful that the Minister will see the light and do the right thing. But, I think we got to keep this pressure up.”
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