Green leader backs review of gravel pit plan

By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor
Monday, April 16, 2012 9:34:03 EDT PM
Read original article at Paris Star Online

PARIS – Members of a grassroots group fighting to get an aggregate company’s 38-year-old licence reviewed before the firm can start a gravel pit north of Paris got support Monday from Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner.

Schreiner, during a lunch meeting at the Brown Dog Cafe, listened while Ron Norris, co-chairman of Concerned Citizens of Brant, and Ken Burns, candidate for the Brant Greens in the 2011 provincial election, went through the concerns of residents about a plan by Dufferin Aggregates Ltd. to open a pit on a 614-acre parcel on Watts Pond Road.

Schreiner signed a petition that is making the rounds of Paris and nearby concession roads calling for the reopening of the licence granted in 1974.

“We have to make sure that a review is done in a way that protects our communities, our farming, our water and the environment,” he told the gathering.

“One thing that is important to me is to make sure people understand that we are not against aggregate. We all need aggregate for many things. But we need to ensure that aggregate does not trump the environment.”

Although the Aggregate Resources Act currently does not force an environmental assessment on project to open or expand pits, Schreiner said it is possible to engage the public in debate over some environmental aspects about the pit, such as water-taking permits and wellhead protection policies.

He also told them not to lose heart over the fact that there is a short period of public comment before the Dufferin pit goes ahead.

“Don’t underestimate the power of the public comment period,” he said.

He referred to the Green Party’s experience in working with environmental, farming and other organizations in their opposition to the controversial Melancthon Quarry, proposed by the Highland Companies and backed by a a U.S.-based hedge fund, which would see a 2,300-acre quarry started in Melancthon Township, north of Orangeville in Dufferin County.

And he related similar information about an eight-year fight by a citizens group against the Flamborough Quarry proposed by St Marys Cement for a farming area north of Carlisle.

“I would be willing to mobilize our resources to help find some solutions,” Schreiner promised as he gave them the names of organizations and contact information.

“The fact that the Aggregate Resources Act is being reviewed right now is a good opportunity for us to have an impact.”

The luncheon with CCOB was just one of a number of groups Schreiner met during his visit to Brant riding.

They included an informal morning coffee chat with local residents in the Halfway Cafe in Glen Morris; a project by teachers and students to get a silver certified eco-school designation for Paris District High School, and a visit to Ogwehoweh skills training centre in Ohsweken.

michael-allan.marion@sunmedia.ca