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LETTER: PCs, supporters need to stand up for environment

Progressive Conservative party has 'deviated from its roots' as environmental champion, says letter writer
Protesters in Orillia demonstrated against Bill 23 in November.

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The COP15 summit in Montreal saw over 200 countries, of tremendously varying political beliefs, agree upon the need for protection and conservation of species and habitat, which goes hand in hand with working on climate change.

Saving the environment and species should not be a divisive issue, pitting one group against another, but rather something that Liberals, Conservatives and other parties all agree upon. It is something that impacts us all and will continue to impact for years to come. We all want a better world for ourselves, our children and our children's children. If countries from around the world can come together to effect change in protecting our world, then we should be able to do the same here in Ontario, and especially here in Simcoe.

Simcoe County is arguably one of the most beautiful in Ontario; blessed with rolling hills, rich farmland, trees, lakes, perhaps the cleanest water in the world, the world's longest freshwater beach. It is also one that is deeply threatened by development and particularly Bill 23, which strips away environmental protection and the power of conservation authorities.

Traditionally, the Progressive Conservative party has been the party of rural Ontario: the farmers, the hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. It was the Progressive Conservatives under Premier George Drew who, in response to concerns expressed by agricultural, naturalist and sports groups, passed the Conservation Authorities Act in 1946 in Ontario. “Leading conservation organizations and many practitioners within the provincial government believed that we could not protect Ontario’s important natural resources from contamination, degradation or depletion unless a more integrated watershed management approach was adopted using natural watershed boundaries,” according to Conservation Ontario.

After the devastation brought about by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, the role of conservation authorities was expanded further to regulate land for the safety of the community. In 1973, Premier Bill Davis took action to protect the Niagara Escarpment from overdevelopment, believing it in the public interest to protect it. He also believed that climate change was one of the greatest challenges facing all of us. He was later recognized by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation for his leadership role in environmental policies. After stepping down as premier, he became Canada’s special envoy on acid rain. The Progressive Conservative party was the party of conservation and solid environmental land-use strategies. It is only recently that the party has deviated from its roots.

All our MPPs in Simcoe and surrounding areas are from the Progressive Conservative party, and they have a majority in Queen’s Park. It is extremely important for all Progressive Conservative party supporters to call or write their MPP to voice their concerns about Bill 23, making it known that while they may be conservatives, they are also conservationists, that opposing Bill 23 is not a matter of party allegiance; this is about doing what is right, ensuring and protecting solid conservation practices for our county, our province and our future. Unless the MPPs realize that their own PC supporters, their constituents, are angry, the very ones they not only represent, but on whom they depend for re-election, they will not be pushed to act.

I urge all people to call, write or visit their MPP and voice their objections to Bill 23 and the devastating impact it will have on our wetlands and water, farmlands and forests, and on our communities — but I particularly implore Progressive Conservative party supporters to demand better for all of us.

Debbie Palmer