Town of Blue Mountains’ Actions are Incompatible with the Needs of Youth

Like so many monster homes, the de rigueur grand entrance and cathedral ceiling is meant to impress. Town of Blue Mountains’ new town hall’s lofty entrance to its 26,000 square foot building is meant to do the same: lots of glass and echo while the Town wastes all that heat so it can look important to the ski and golf crowd.  By wasting public money on frills that will stay around and by not creating a sustainable action plan for future generations, the town ‘leaders’ expose themselves even through the smoke and mirrors. The town’s very expensive “Sustainability Path” 107 page ‘plan’ leaves youth in a vulnerable position by not taking the actions needed to protect their future, just as the UN celebrates on August 12 the start of International Year of Youth: Our Year, Our Voice. “Dialogue and Understanding” is the theme for the world-wide celebration of youth, but the Town of Blue Mountains’ inability to hear youth’s voice is astonishing.

As many people are aware, the Council of the Blue Mountains has voted to accept the Official Plan Amendment for the Terrasan Craigleith Village Community. (What a community that will be: mostly second homes standing empty most of the year as fossil fuels create air-conditioning and in the winter constant heating makes sure furniture won’t get moldy.)  Only Councillors Gamble and Martin opposed the OPA.  Don Kerr, a director with Blue Mountain Watershed Trust had this to say: “This OPA gives about half the protection to the Wetland {Silver Creek Wetland} than was provided in the Collingwood portion of the same Silver Creek Wetland (SCW) in the hearings under the Ontario Municipal Board. The Council voted for the Amendment in spite of our strong demand that the protection should be at least equivalent to what was achieved in Collingwood.”  This ‘village’ is on both sides of the wetland.  Development setbacks are inadequate to protect the wetland’s population from harm. Studies have not been adequately pursued and some species are at risk. Don Kerr continues by saying, “The wider buffers are required to prevent harm to the wetland from residential development for many reasons including herbicides, insecticides, pets, road salt, noise, etc. It is also needed for those species that depend on both wetland and upland such as most turtles, reptiles and amphibians. The threatened Blanding’s Turtle and other sensitive species were found in and around the proposed development. Residential development encourages predatory human-tolerant species like raccoons, red squirrels, crows, cowbirds and grackles that will displace species that prefer quiet non-human environments (wood thrush, warblers, mink, muskrats, rails, etc.)”

It is impossible to reconcile nor justify the huge Terrasan project and have a ‘plan’ for the future.  As of June 29, with only one more day to sign on, only one third (31) of the organizations who initially supported the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan.decided to pledge support in seeing through with its implementation. Reading through the ‘plan’ gives a person the impression that the authors have no stake in its implementation either. Actions and goals regarding biodiversity and habitat quickly get washed away when ‘Village’ developments and the extension of highways 410 and 427 or regional airports are to be considered in getting tourists here. Forget about the idea of peak oil and that we probably will have to do with far less. Meanwhile the words ’science’ or ‘Earth’ never get mentioned in the Environmental Stewardship and Natural Heritage, Conserver Society or greenhouse emission reduction schemes laid out in the ‘plan’.
Out of 11 or 12 people on the plan’s steering committee, no more than two were youth at any given time and only 2 women were part of that committee. At the same time, the Town tells us that 25% of the population is under thirty years of age. Furthermore only elite groups were brought into the process spanning more than a year. The 2.5 hour meeting with community should have been the start of democratically initiated consultations but that was all the time community got from the town. At the same time the Town tells us that they have a dream being put forward in the plan. “We are committed to ensuring that our every action finds a sustainable balance.” The Town can’t even get their greenhouse reduction numbers right: on the website,  www.thebluemountains.ca/community-emissions-invent.cfm the greenhouse gas base line used is 1994 but in the ‘plan’ it’s 2005. Tragically 2005 appears to the base year that emissions will be reduced from.

There is an election coming. For a town that can’t even get an anti-idling bylaw in place but spends millions of dollars on its palace and its 2050 pie-in-the–sky ‘plan’ destined for the shelf, many new caring faces brought to local government might bring the critically needed change youth need and deserve if they are to survive 2050.

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