Tuesday, 7 July 2015

City Council and Ramsey Lake

Glenn’s Rant
Well another 4 ½ hours spent in Council Chambers at TDS. Again, it was a planning meeting but this time there was no joy to be found at least among those friends and fellow travellers that I tend to hang out with, metaphorically speaking.
I was there for two reasons. One was regarding all those solar plant plans for which seem to have suddenly showed up all over Valley East. Those in the know, mostly by accident, and who have expressed their disapproval not about solar energy per se but of the locations they seemed to be planned for. With all the possible sites that most of us could agree that would be appropriate, most chosen were judged by us to be inappropriate. Ruining a beautiful forested wet land where species at risk were known to reside, another right up against two of Ward 5’s largest sub-divisions, and another on a land that could be considered ideal for development sometime in the distant future are three examples.
The subject was widely discussed amongst the Planning Committee Members and as well as our two Valley East Councillors, both of who were in there swinging on our behalf. Nobody was happy with the process dictated by the Wynne Government and the worst part of the whole thing is no matter what anybody says, those installers of solar farms are able to rough shod over everybody. No doubt about it, more direct action will need to be done by the citizens of Greater Sudbury. Today it may be the ‘Valley’, tomorrow it could be in your back yard.

And speaking about your back yard, if your back yard is anywhere the university be prepared to be bombarded with heavy trucks and earth moving equipment, as it would appear that there is no legal way the proposed development on Keast can be stopped. The city is requesting some more changes to the developer’s original plan, which, if the developer does agree, will probably go ahead. If the developer does not agree then he will probably go to the OMB.
While the Planning Committee did all they apparently could to protect Lake Ramsey from the ills emanating from said development I could see no way any of this could happen, other than by the goodness of the developer’s heart.
We’ve talked about a water shed study for years and even when the previous council did agree on having one, nothing happened, which kind of identifies that dysfunctional bunch pretty accurately I must say. So now we have budgeted a measly $ ¼ Million per year for this very important issue and while it is acknowledged by most everyone knowledgeable in this area that this is a lake in trouble, we seem to have to be stuck in a place by a set of rules made before even this day of short-sighted environmental enlightenment.
WHY! How can we proceed regardless what a 10 year old document says when we know that it is both out dated and even more important, inappropriate. One of our councillors spoke out passionately to the citizenry that if we don’t agree with the rules, work hard to change them. I’ll start, NO DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT A WATERSHED STUDY. There, I’m only about the 250th person that has said this recently.

Did I mention that Ramsey is the drinking water source for about 40% of our population?
Glenn Murray, Sudbury Chapter, Council of Canadians, July 6

 Elaine’s Rant
The Planning Committee members worked hard to be on top of the complex issues related to the Keast Dr. rezoning approval at today’s meeting.  However, what they said about their concerns and their decision did not match.  Councillor Landry-Altmann outlined a possible doomsday scenario for the lake in the future and made the connection between a healthy lake and the welfare of those living on the lake and the larger population dependent on it for drinking water.  Then, she joined the others in approving  the zoning application and subdivision with only one stipulation.

The planning committee did add an important proviso, that the stormwater management and lift station be taken out of the flood plain.  However, the committee handed over the project to a city manager and the developer with only impassioned exhortations that both he and the city manager follow the most stringent environmental practices in building this subdivision.   The solution was not imaginative or forward looking even though Councillor Landry-Altmann had outlined a possible doomsday scenario for the lake in the future and made the connection between a healthy lake and the welfare of those living on the lake and the larger population dependent on it for drinking water.  The watershed study was mentioned as a needed tool for decision-making but, since the official plan had not mandated it, no one was willing to take their concerns to that extent.

This is the same developer who is not willing to abide by the conditions that were set down by the city even after the city had bent the rules to accommodate the broad outlines of his development plans.  The city manager has been put in charge of stickhandling this project through to the end with a developer who has run out of money and a city that is trying to keep down its staff levels.  This is a formula for bending and misshaping the rules, not adding more and better ones.  We are giving the hen house to the foxes. . . or is it to a developer whose wolf call is the OMB?
Elaine Porter, Sudbury Chapter, Council of Canadians, July 6

July 7, Letter to the Editor, Northern Life

They Missed the Boat
City Council’s Planning Committee turned away from making the right decision yesterday. Despite its own concerns for the protection of the City’s drinking water with Ramsey Lake providing 40 % of that source, it approved the huge development of 147 homes along its pristine shores to compromise part of the lake’s watershed.

There was some handwringing yesterday as the Committee churned through its decision-making, but not enough because they recommended approval for it anyway. Regrettably, all those concerns for Sudbury’s potable water fell by the wayside as they also ignored the fact that those 147 units will crowd the shores of our lake with people, lots of people who will salt their driveways, wash their cars, fertilize their lawns and add to the flotsam of surface water that will leak into our lake. Other construction projects are sitting by, waiting for approval and Council will be hard pressed to refuse the others. So our future generations may well see our lake crowded and polluted by urban development. And who knows what the pending watershed study will tell us at a later date. What to do when its tells us, “well, you shouldn’t have done that”. Let’s see what brave soul will call for expropriation when that day comes.

If they hoped to dissuade the developer from appealing to the OMB by supporting a somewhat reduced 147 dwellings rather than the original 174, it seems the developer is appealing anyway and now he has the tacit approval of the Committee to support his plea. Eight hours of committee meetings over the last two weeks was a revealing civic experience. They fixed 42 conditions to the proposal. Wasn't that an indication this proposal was a bit sour? As our politicians struggled to do things right with this proposal they neglected to do the right thing. The timing was right to protect our lake – but they missed the boat.

André Clément, Chair, Sudbury Chapter, Council of Canadians

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The First of Four

The Sudbury Chapter’s Benita Hart, Glenn Murray, Ron Tough, Toni Chezzi and Andre Clement met with NDP MP, Mr. Claude Gravelle on the issue of Canada’s health program. We were well received despite Mr. Gravelle’s busy agenda covering both ridings of Nickel Belt and Sudbury. This pre-election meeting was generated by our concern for the Prime Minister’s intent to dismantle Canada’s universal coverage and our interest in confirming the NDP’s position on these health related issues. Although this last week was part of the Canadian Health Coalition’s national lobby on health, the Council stood alone to represent the interests of the Council and both the OHC and CHC during this meeting.

We reiterated our health priorities to include protecting and improving the public health care system with
·      Equal access regardless of ability to pay
·      A new health care accord
·      Reversing current funding cuts. 

·      A national drug plan that is public, affordable and safe 

·      High quality long-term care at home and in facilities for seniors that also include palliative services

Mr. Gravelle indicated the NDP and he were aligned with these priorities, but cautioned that the final drafting of the party’s platform for the forthcoming election was yet to be fixed and rested largely in the hands of the party experts. 

We asked him if he were to be re-elected, if he would work to stop the privatization of pubic health care and commit to supporting integrated care strategies that
o   Integrated services at the home and facilities?
o   Were universal
o   Included long term, respite and palliative care, and
o   Provided pharmacare?
… and would his efforts include enforcing the standards in the Canada Health Act to ban extra-billing and user fees, and enforce the provinces’ reporting requirements? Mr. Gravelle agreed with these initiatives, but refrained from indicating the priority of health issues for the forthcoming election. In response to how he personally would support these, he indicated he was in the process of contributing to the party’s platforms.

Mr. Gravelle emphasized the need to open dialogue with the provinces to re-shape Canada’s health accord – something the Prime Minister has refused to do. We agreed that funding health care could likely be provided by Canada’s reduced investments in corporate tax cuts and warfare and that amending the Canada Health Act should include compelling more accountability by the provinces for their expenditures from the federal transfer of health care funds.

Our MP indicated that he saw care for seniors as the highest health priority for the Nickel Belt and Sudbury ridings.

While reiterating his and his party’s agreement with the above priorities, he admitted it was too early to divulge details about how the Party would address the issues, given the competing priorities among the Party’s agendas and the need to be assured of the Party’s position before launching into specific details of implementation.

“Get us elected … and defeat the conservatives” were his main response to how we can work together for a strong public health care system in Canada.

The meeting was encouraging in that we felt Mr. Gravelle was taking notes to bring back to the NDP think tanks in Ottawa. Hopefully, this will raise health care in the prioritization of NDP election issues and that we will see more detail about how the Party plans to act on these promises.

The Sudbury Chapter will continue meeting with the federal candidates over the next weeks to read the intentions of the Green, Liberal and Conservative parties and to reinforce national health as an agenda to be supported and protected. Members of our local Chapter are invited to join us. More to follow …

Monday, 23 March 2015


It was a bit nippy this Sunday March 22, this year’s World Water Day. Twenty-eight people showed up to mark the WWD at the CP railway tracks that skirt Ramsey Lake, Sudbury’s pre-eminent water supply. Elaine Porter (Laurentian U.) who is the Sudbury Chapter’s lead on water campaigns organized the rally that welcomed Richard Eberhardt (Federal NDP riding), Lilly Noble (Ramsey Lake Stewardship Committee and the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury) and David Robinson (Laurentian U. and Green Party activist). Members of the Aboriginal community and media representatives also joined us. Regrettably, none of the city’s Council members attended despite repeated invitations.

The speakers talked about the threats to our local waters that included the Gogama Train disaster, the Wahnapitae river train crash, clear cutting at Geneva Lake and Sioux Narrows, the Lac Megantic rail disaster and the high risk of such disasters with the CP rail line skirting Ramsey Lake. The gathering also recognized the global threats to water that are leaving millions in dire, critical need of drinkable water.

The day’s event actually started the previous Tuesday with members of the Sudbury Chapter (Wayne Paulk, Patrick McCoy and Andre Clement) visiting the Gogama CN derailment site to learn about the cleanup from the near-miss accident at Gogama that could have been another Lac Megantic. That same trip included a visit to Geneva Lake to talk to the local folks concerned about the clear cutting scheduled around the lake’s watershed.

The Sudbury Chapter rally was one of many such events cross Canada and the world as people joined to make note of the earth’s water issues.

Cold as it was, the day was sunny and children of the First Nations who sang a song for the occasion very nicely wrapped up the event.  There was a call for City Council to undertake an intended watershed study and, hopefully, to relocate the rail line away from Ramsey Lake.

Media Coop article by Naomi Grant

SUDBURY STAR article by Carol Mulligan

CTV News Northern Ontario by Gord Nichols

The following handout was distributed at the Rally.

UN WATER DAY, MARCH 22, 2015 (hosted by the Council of Canadians)
                 Threats to Water Quality in Northern Ontario and Sources of Information
1. Our Addiction to Oil has us going down many slippery slopes.  With increasing concerns over oil spills, how likely is a catastrophic train derailment along Lake Ramsey?
Train derailments piling up near Gogama:
  •  Feb. 15, 2015: CN train pulling 100 rail tanker cars had 29 cars leave the track and 7 caught fire; each tanker car can contain up to 20,000 gallons of crude oil.  The smoke went in a south-west direction away from Gogama and Mattagami First Nation up to 100 kilometers away and clean-up continues in the rivers. 
   • March 7, 2015:30 tankers crash and burn 3 kilometers from town center - a near miss of a Lac Megantic type of disaster in which 47 people died and that will require oil clean-up for the next 3 to 5 years costing at least $400 million; even though these were tankers improved post 2011 they still punctured and caught on fire; all old cars will be allowed to run until 2017 (80,000 tankers in NA).
The Wahnapitae Train Derailment: aging infrastructure & inadequate monitoring:
The Transportation Safety Board found the 12 car bodies and 20 containers derailed due to an aging roller bearing cage which overheated a ball bearing; no safety guidelines had been violated.  Dangerous goods were contained but the bridge was severely damaged. 
Other evidence: Globe & Mail, Eric Atkins, Feb. 24, 2015: Since 2005, the TSB said, rail defects missed in tests have caused several derailments involving dangerous goods; a 2011 incident near Alix Junction, Alta. spilled 900 litres of phosphoric acid..
Decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and re-strengthen the Navigable Waters Protection Act  (Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury); Citizens Climate Lobby http://www.citizensclimatelobby.ca/node/115; Blue Dot David Suzuki project:  http://bluedot.ca/the-plan/
Move the rail lines: Imagine Sudbury Susan Thompson 560-0963 sqt@sympatico.ca
Stop the transportation of dangerous goods through Greater Sudbury. Railroads are allowed to keep information from the general public on which hazardous goods travel through the community. Railroads are mandated by government to haul dangerous goods.
Need for strengthened safety measures and increased governmental oversight but railroad companies get to set their own standards based on its risk assessment which remain private. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada only oversees the industry standards.
Increased Insurance does not a substitute for prevention and how much is enough? In its refusal to release its own analyses of potential disaster costs in Canada, Transport Canada cites commercial confidentiality.
The proposed Energy East Pipeline which would cut across northern Ontario carrying diluted bitumen in former retrofitted natural gas lines poses risks to the environment. For example, in the Englehart accident on Sept. 12, 2009, there was a fire and loss of 3,420,000 cubic metres of natural gas.  Regular inspections had been done but with an improper inspection tool not designed to identify the stress corrosion cracking in the longitudinal seam weld which caused the accident (Transportation Safety Board; for more info., go to Northwatch.org)
2. Pollution of Waters due to clearcutting run-off and use of glyphosates
--- Geneva Lake area clearcutting threatens Dowes Lake and the Spanish River
--- Grassy Narrows faces the same prospects with the threat of mercury poisoning.
3. The Ramsey Lake watershed study results need to be used for decision-making on all watershed, lakeside and on-lake activities, including stormwater management (Ramsey Lake Stewardship Committee; Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance).

Monday, 16 March 2015

PROTEST Bill C - 51
Sudbury Courthouse, March 14, 2015

Along with the Leadnow organization from Vancouver and 70 other communities across the country our Sudbury Chapter rallied over 65 Canadians in front of the Sudbury Courthouse to protest against the passing of Bill C 51.

Our opposition to the bill stemmed from severe criticism levied against the bill by:
Four former Prime Ministers and five former Supreme Court Justices
Over 100 Law professionals (Lawyers and Professors)
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association
David Suzuki
Canada’s Privacy Commissioner
Canada’s official opposition and the Green Party
A former CSIS agent
78,000 Canadians who had signed the petition opposing Bill C - 51

Our Chapter opposed the bill because:
·      The Government is using its Parliamentary majority to ram the Bill through the House
·      The bill presents terrorism and dissent with vague definitions that leave law enforcement open to severe abuses of our constitutional and civil liberties
·      The oversight of the proposed legislation is weak and ineffective
·      The need for the Bill is based on fear mongering about terrorism – just like the Bush administration
·      Canada’s existing Criminal Code and police powers are sufficient to oppose terrorism. There is no need for a 72 page omnibus bill.

Thanks to the social media, we were able to get the word out on short notice and we were joined by members of the Green and New Democratic parties, members of our First Nation community, Sudbury’s media and assisted by Sudbury’s police. Some of the speakers at the event included:
David Robinson of the Green Party
Richard Eberhardt of the NDP
Steve May of the Green Party
Penny Early of the Sudbury Chapter
Andre Clement of the Sudbury Chapter

The protest was orderly and quite lively as most drivers-by honked in support of our message. We gathered 62 signatures for the petition against the bill to be conveyed to the Leadnow movement. People were urged to sign the petition, talk to their friends and families, write to the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party and in the next election – to vote and encourage others to vote in the next election.