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Federal interest in proposed quarry grows

Environment Minister, MPs tour Melancthon

By Bill Tremblay Aug 01, 2012 - 3:08 PM

The Highland Companies plan to mine aggregate in Melancthon is gaining interest at the federal level. On Wednesday (July 25), four Toronto-based NDP MPs joined about 50 of their constituents to tour the area of the proposed 2,316-acre quarry. The thought of losing that agricultural land and not knowing what the impact will be on the water system there made a big impression on me, said Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash. The proposed quarry issue returned to Nashs riding on Monday (July 30), when the MP held a town hall-style meeting for about 60 of her constituents. Some already knew all about the issue, others had seen signs around and didnt know much about it, Nash said. The scope of Highlands plans surprised those who attended the meeting, Nash explained. People were really shocked at the extent of it and that the government would allow something so extensive without the proper assessments, Nash said. Hours before the town hall meeting, Dufferin-Caledon MP David Tilson, Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, MP for Thornhill, and Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong toured the Highlands proposed quarry area and met with Melancthon residents. We took the minister on a tour just to show him how massive the site was, and explain to him what Highlands has been doing to date, Tilson said. The purpose was so he understands what is being done there, what has been done and what will be done up there. Tilson said the tour helped educate Kent on the seriousness of the issue. There was very little pressure put on him, Tilson said.

No promises were made regarding the possibility of a federal Environmental Assessment (EA). Im doing my best. Im reading a petition a week when the house is sitting and meeting with the minister, Tilson said. I havent given up hope. Im going to keep trying. In September, Nash wrote Kent requesting the federal government conduct an EA. She argued the possible impact on fish and wildlife habitats, water and First Nation communities should serve as a trigger for a federal EA. At the time, the minster wrote back and said he disagreed and didnt think an assessment was needed, Nash said, adding she will continue to make similar requests. Maybe he will be as impressed as I was, and maybe he will reconsider. The federal government has contracted the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority to examine the possible effect the proposed quarry may have on sources of water in the area. Completion of the report is expected by 2013. If they say its serious, well, then I will really be strongly recommending the minister have an Environmental Assessment, Tilson said. Carl Cosack, chair of the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) welcomed the federal attention the quarry has garnered. The goal without a doubt is to have a non-partisan look at the facts in this application and to see where federal involvement is necessary, Cosack said. More scrutiny will be brought to this application. Thats absolutely what we are asking for, more factual scrutiny. Cosack also embraced public interest in the quarry plan from Toronto residents. If the city helps us raise the profile to decision makers, we are extremely grateful. Nash believes the scope of the quarry is what has prompted growing interest among Torontonians.

If this was a small quarry, it probably wouldnt have gotten peoples attention, Nash said. But the scope of it has fostered a coming together of both rural and urban Canadians.