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'Unprecedented, united front': Lake Simcoe watershed councillors call for federal funding to protect the environment

'This is an unprecedented, united front of municipal leaders calling for the federal government to fulfill and in fact exceed promises made in the last two elections to protect our watershed,' says Bradford councillor
Lake Simcoe
L-R: Councillor Jonathan Scott, Councillor Dave Neeson, Mayor Margert Quirk, Councillor Scott Crone, Councillor Shawn Scott in Jackson's Point

Municipal councillors across the Lake Simcoe watershed gathered Saturday to announce their support for a motion calling on Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to fulfill commitments to fund a significant investment to protect Lake Simcoe in the upcoming federal budget.

“We are all part of Lake Simcoe's watershed so it only makes sense for all of us to work together for its protection. However, we can’t do it alone and we are looking to the federal government to make good on its election commitments for Lake Simcoe funding,” said Georgina Mayor Margaret Quirk.

Bradford West Gwillimbury Councillor Jonathan Scott and Georgina Councillor Dave Neeson first proposed the motions, and they have now passed unanimously in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Georgina.

“This is an unprecedented, united front of municipal leaders calling for the federal government to fulfill and in fact exceed promises made in the last two elections to protect our watershed,” said Coun. Scott. “It’s exciting to see councillors of all political stripes across the lake coming together once again like we did in the fall to push for the phosphorus recycling plant. We’re unified in saying that our lake and rivers need significant federal funding to restore shoreline habitats, clean up contaminated sites and reduce discharges from wastewater, all so we can protect the future vitality of the Lake Simcoe region.”

“It really is inspiring to see this many councillors from all across the region – from Newmarket to Orillia, Brock to Bradford – standing up for our Lake,” said Coun. Neeson. “This is about the future of our children, and so we have access to clean drinking water, recreation and tourism, and to ensure the watershed as a whole remains vibrant, helping in the fight against climate change and honouring our commitments to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples like the Chippewas of Georgina Island who call the lake home since time immemorial.”

Said East Gwillimbury Coun. Scott Crone, “We know we have to deliver sustainable development so that the growth in our region does not negatively impact our lake, and to do that we need the federal government’s financial resources for a significant investment into our watershed.”

“The Lake Simcoe watershed provides nourishment and life to the ecosystem of Newmarket and our neighbouring communities. It is our moral duty to protect and preserve it,” said Newmarket Coun. Christina Bisanz. 

For his part, Oro-Medonte Councillor Shawn Scott said, “Our municipality is committed to being responsible, proactive stewards of the lake and we are hopeful that this resolution results in significant federal funding aimed at improving and sustaining the health of Lake Simcoe.”

In a letter to Deputy Premier Christina Freeland last week, Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer reminded both local Liberal and Conservative MPs ran on the promise of restoring and exceeding funding that used to exist to help protect Lake Simcoe under the auspices of the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund.

"You yourself made such a commitment of a $40-million fund during the 2019 election in Barrie," said Keffer. "The commitment to a billion-dollar Freshwater Action Fund, which would include funding for Lake Simcoe, is in the Hon. Steven Guibeault's mandate letter as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

"We ask that funding greater than previous commitments be invested to protect the Lake Simcoe watershed in this year's budget. Such funding should be over and above previous commitments given that funding for the Lake has been in hiatus since the previous fund expired in 2017, and due to inflationary pressures," said Keffer. "Our region, and Bradford West Gwillimbury in particular, is growing, and so we need to take environmental mitigation and restoration efforts seriously, alongside a federal partner. "

Coun. Crone has introduced the motion in East Gwillimbury, Coun. Scott in Oro-Medonte and Coun. Bisanz in Newmarket, as have Coun. Rob Nicol in Innisfil, Coun. Jay Fallis in Orillia, and Coun. Mike Jubb in Brock and Coun. Sergio Morales in Barrie will bring forward the motion at their councils.