The Toronto Star
NEWS, Thursday, May 4, 2000, p. A27
turnabout could save moraine
be the big breakthrough? Will we hear today that Queen's Park
is acting to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine?
We live in
hope. If tantalizing rumours about the province wanting to protect
a wide corridor on the crucial Richmond Hill area of the moraine
turn out to be true, the Harris government is acting just in time.
A recent poll
shows 60 per cent of committed Tory voters in Richmond Hill, Uxbridge
and Bolton, three cities on the moraine, would consider changing
loyalties if Queen's Park allows developers to send in the bulldozers.
is a 160-kilometre ridge of crushed rock, clay and sand that soaks
up snow and rain into subterranean reservoirs. It feeds the headwaters
of major water courses, including the Don, Humber and Rouge rivers,
which, in turn, re charge Lake Ontario.
authorities on valleys with rivers flowing out of the moraine
are putting together their own moraine policy. This will be a
challenge to the province.
new report shows farmland below the moraine is turning into a
morass of urban sprawl - and Queen's Park isn't doing anything
So the Tories
would be unwise to count on Tuesday's tax-cut budget overwhelming
the unease people in outer cities feel about the region's future.
Tax cut money will disappear but the moraine will always be with
us - we hope.
So maybe the
Tories have decided they must act. Today, the ministry of municipal
affairs will evidently release a map showing a "corridor,"
on the Richmond Hill moraine. It is rumoured the map is to be
delivered to the Ontario Municipal Board, which is facing developers
demanding permission to build more than 10,000 houses on the Richmond
Hill area of the moraine.
They are not
going to like this corridor. It was supposed to be only 600 metres
wide but the map indicates in some places it will be a lot wider
- if advance word is accurate. The corridor will expand to more
than one kilometre to protect Lake Wilcox, which is so polluted
it has so-called artificial lungs pumping in oxygen.
will evidently take in a dozen kettle lakes created by melting
glaciers at the end of the ice age - and their drainage systems.
These lake are pretty, as well as being delicate environments
and developers plan to build around them. The protected corridor
would keep them away.
would reportedly block development on 50 to 70 per cent of the
land in a packet of large projects planned for the east and west
sides of Yonge St., at the northern end of Richmond Hill.
include almost 8,000 houses. If they go ahead as proposed, the
subdivisions would come close to cutting the moraine in half.
But the map
is just for openers. The ministry is said to be drawing up a protected
corridor right across the 160 kilometres of the moraine. If all
this turns out to be true, it could go a long way toward saving
the moraine - and just in time.
poll in Bolton, Richmond Hill and Uxbridge also showed that 88
per cent of the people who consider themselves Tory supporters
favoured protecting the moraine.
was done by Oraclepoll Research Ltd., which contacted 400 people
by telephone - considered a reasonable sampling. It was commissioned
by Earthroots, an environmental group that grew out of the fight
to save virgin forest in Temagami and now has 10,000 newsletter
subscribers scattered across Greater Toronto.
The nine conservation
authorities that protect rivers flowing from the moraine are working
together - sometimes uneasily - to develop their own moraine policy.
Affairs Minister Tony Clement is expected to follow up the Richmond
Hill corridor by quickly announcing plans to safeguard groundwater
across the province.
authorities will help keep Clement honest.
be backing up what they have to say with experience and scientific
knowledge. We will be able to measure what the government says
it's going to do against what conservation authorities say ought
to be done.
The new study
of Greater Toronto by planner Pamela Blais shows that some of
the country's best Class 1 farmland lies in a belt south of the
Oak Ridges Moraine. But in the 20 years between 1976 and 1996,
60,000 hectares of this farmland - roughly equivalent in area
to the City of Toronto - was urbanized.
What do we
do for an encore?
Blais is a
highly respected planner whose work on urban sprawl became a source
for Anne Golden's task force on Greater Toronto.
study is one of half dozen reports commissioned by the Neptis
Foundation. Next week, Neptis will begin releasing reports that
will provide a fascinating new picture of the way in which Greater
Toronto is growing up and out.
So our knowledge
is expanding and concern about the future is crossing party lines.
The Tories could not pick a better moment to take action on the
But then again
. . .
States they say, 'I'm from Missouri, show me'," says Toronto
Councillor Dick O'Brien, who is also chairman of the Toronto and
Region Conservation Authority.
from Etobicoke. I'll believe it when I see it."