Remember the huge groundswell of popular support to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine back in 1999? Thousands of residents of Toronto, York Region and other parts of the GTA attended public meetings, wrote and phoned their MPP and sent enthusiastic letters to newspapers, including this one. Media attention and public outrage fuelled each other, until there was no possible chance that the outcome would be anything other than the complete protection of the Moraine. It was, and still is, one of the best examples of the power of public engagement to shape government policy.
In the years since, however, the shifting government approach to the Moraine has illustrated another fact of public policy: the unfortunate truth of “out of sight, out of mind.”
Among other things, the Moraine is southern Ontario’s so-called rain barrel, the source of drinking water for more than 250,000 people. Yet, despite the area’s ecological importance, in the 15 years since the passage of the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act, the level of government support for the area has steadily eroded. In 2001, the province quietly weakened the Act, and then, apparently not wishing to alert the public to the area’s growing vulnerability, the government ignored a legislative requirement to review the policy in 2012, pushing the task back to 2015 (after the next provincial election).
Worse still, last month the province approved the first of several large wind and solar projects proposed on the Moraine. The first project, a 10-megawatt wind farm known as Sumac Ridge, will feature five of the largest wind turbines ever erected in Ontario. They will sit on the scenic hills of Kawartha Lakes, near the Bethany ski hill and just north of the intersection of Highways 35 and 115. Read article