541,691 Clams?

clams

Once used as currency in ancient times!

Now …. we ask, what would 541, 691 “clams” buy you these days?

You know, clams, shekels, greenbacks, aces, cucumbers, bucks or let’s get back to the modern equivalent … dollars!

Well historically I’m sure we can all remember when “Two could dine for $1.99” at McDonald’s.

That would would mean you could have bought 270,845 happy meals!

That, my friends, is bang for your buck!!

But now-a-days, up north of our Toronto, what with inflation and all, it seems that all you can get with that type of investment is 8+ years of effort by the Caledon Town Council, and perhaps the Ministry of Natural Resources!

Kind of a sorry state of affairs.

In the minutes and proceedings of a recent Council meeting we learned of some disturbing things.

What we’re talking about here appears to be an unrelenting, irrational and possibly illegal drive by the staff and Council at the Town of Caledon to work with a gravel pit developer to open a so-called ‘wayside pit’, that would allow the operator to access millions of dollars of gravel they could not get to otherwise without applying for a proper license.

Now you may ask, “Stone, how can you make a statement like that without any proof?

And we would answer, “Good question.”

We became aware of the situation a few weeks back and have had time to review the documentation.

Let’s look at the FACTS as they appear.

For more than 8 years the Town of Caledon and their collaborators:

  • Pushed for the development of a dubious ‘wayside pit’ for the multi million dollar benefit of an aggregate company.

  • Were looking for “wiggle room” to avoid rules and regulations that would stop the project.

  • Have cost the Caledon Taxpayers, from the numbers that have been ascertained, a loss of $541,691.00

  • And have stonewalled their citizens from getting pertinent information regarding these dealings, including financial accountability.

You can review some of the questions that, according to material submitted by a concerned taxpayer, were asked at the July 10 Caledon Council meeting, here …

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So, getting back to our original question……

If the choice is, the Caledon Town Council doing favours for their friends at taxpayers expense, or happy meals for 270,845 hungry citizens ($561,691.00) which would you prefer?

We’d like ours with ketchup and mustard and extra pickles on the side please!

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The “PITFALLS” of Recycling

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

 

To anyone who attended the hastily scheduled Aggregate Resources Act reviews, it was abundantly clear that the new “catch phrase” from the Ontario aggregate industry and many others is “RECYCLE”!

This should be a good thing….right?

Well, be careful what you wish for.

As recent pit applications have identified, the aggregate industry wants to turn gravel pits into Industrial Operation Zones! And forget about notions of “interim use” and “rehabilitation”.

This will mean more trucks, more grinding, more crushing, more fugitive emissions (them’s fancy words for crap in the air), more noise and serious risks of groundwater contamination.

Asphalt residue, roofing shingles, concrete, steel and other materials, possibly contaminated with all sorts of unidentified waste, could be coming to a neighbourhood near you, all courtesy of  the Ministry of (Un?)Natural Resources.

The time is now to contact your local Councillors and city Officials to have them establish proper standards should “recycling” become your new neighbour.

Recycling is great, but it’s all about “location, location, location”!

Waking Up to New Realities

We’re wondering if a ‘tipping point’ has been reached. Is the era of government/industry gangs doing whatever they please coming to an end? Will those who have been spending/wasting OUR money finally be forced to consider OUR views and priorities?

There are some hopeful signs.

Take for example the noises being made in opposition to the poorly-thought-out wind farms debacle. Our Ontario government has piled onto a ‘green’ bandwagon, apparently without sober consideration, and signed long term contracts that will mean excessive expenditure of taxpayers’ and hydro customers’ money for many decades into the future. At the same time there will be very little if any benefit to our environment or economy. In fact when all the detrimental effects are considered – to human health, endangered species, and property, to name a few – the negatives far outweigh any alleged positives. It appears that our provincial politicians have signed us up for an experiment that will cost us dearly, with an increasing likelihood that the promise of abundant green energy will prove to be an economic nightmare rather than the anticipated dream-come-true.

A hopeful sign is that a number of municipalities are passing bylaws to try to introduce a measure of prudence and caution to the picture – the ‘measure’ being in many cases a 2km setback from homes, and a number of fees to pay for things like decommissioning and property value losses. Another hopeful sign is a law passed in Denmark where 551 compensation payments have been made to people living next to wind projects with an average amount of 57,000 kroner per household. Real estate agents say the amount is often far below the actual property value loss, while politicians see it as a step in the right direction. The loss-of-value clause was passed by parliament in 2008 at the urging of Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and gave neighbours to wind turbines the opportunity to seek financial compensation for lost property value.

As you can see, internationally, others are way ahead of Ontario. Here, the government set an artificial price on renewable energy, and then slapped a 20-year guarantee on that price. This price-setting structure is called the Feed-In Tariff program (FIT), and the World Trade Organization has struck it down as an illegal subsidy that violates international trade law. Problem is the politicians are playing with OUR money. If their decisions were to turn out correct we will pay MUCH higher prices for energy. If they are incorrect we, and/or our grandchildren still pay, in the form of penalties and lawsuits!

The not-so-hopeful sign is that the affected companies aren’t accepting this situation without a fight. In Ontario we’ve seen threatening letters trying to put a ‘chill’ on local councils. We can be certain that more will follow, and in more industries besides the wind developers.

A recent example of just how successful and profitable this ‘pay us either way’ tactic can be for a developer has occurred in the Aggregate Industry. Not long ago a government Ministerial Zoning Order put a stop to a proposed open-pit quarry application near Carlisle Ontario. The applicant, St. Mary’s Cement, threatened to sue and it cost Ontario taxpayers $15million to settle. So WE paid $15M – a nice profit for St. Mary’s without shipping any stone – and what did we get for our money? Nothing but higher taxes and debts …. and McGuinty avoided facing a subpoena!

As one of Ontario’s top aggregate producing municipalities, Caledon needs to be alert to these developments. Our municipal politicians need to forcefully  get on board with these new realities!

So the ‘new reality’ is that people are beginning to wake up and demand that their governments – servants of the people – start to actually serve them! The concept of ‘Full Cost Accounting’ is being actively discussed as a requirement for industrial development proposals, so that only those activities that are environmentally, socially, and economically viable will proceed.

To allow continued industrial develoImagepments to proceed where they are not wanted or economically and socially justifiable, while being heavily subsidized by taxpayers, ratepayers, municipalities and property owners, not to mention the uncalculated costs to environments and species at risk, is just not going to be acceptable any longer. Politicians who don’t have their head in the sand must recognize these signs and see them as an opportunity to provide leadership in the direction we are already heading.

Rage Against the Machine

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

We received another provocative email the other day from some friends of ours. We love it when we get emails that get our blood boiling. Keep ‘em coming!

It seems that although the legislature was shut down by McGuinty, some of his Ministries are still hard at work ignoring the ordinary people of Ontario.

Minister Gravelle from the MNR has decreed, with full support from the Aggregate Industry, (and now the Niagara Escarpment Commission!*) that recycling is just a rubber stamp away from your local pit and quarry.

(*You can reference the changes made by the NEC in this link, pages 9 and 10.)

This change is being justified as ‘something the public demands’.

Recycling of aggregate materials is supposed to reduce the “need” for more pits producing virgin material. But when ordinary citizens ask if more pits are actually ‘needed’ they are told that they simply can’t ask such questions … it’s against the law according to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)!

So first, let’s review some facts, and how our now-absentee masters are being led by the nose down the gravel road …

1.      We have over 6,500 pits and quarries in operation in Ontario right now. Allowing recycling is supposed to reduce consumption of ‘virgin’ materials. So do you suppose this might stop the opening of new pits and quarries? Hardly. The PPS is under review, and must change to take into consideration our current abundant supply of materials. But asking the ‘do we need more’ question is still prohibited!

2.      Recycling is an industrial operation that does not belong in a mining environment.

3.      Because of the potential for mis-handling of the various materials, recycling will require oversight, something the MNR has proven they will not, or cannot do, given their current mandate and personnel resources. So again, it will be left up to the aggregate mine operators to police themselves, something many of them have repeatedly done very poorly.

4.      Dust control in pits and quarries is always an issue. Do we really believe that increasing the polluting fumes from machinery, and toxic dust from the operations is a good idea? Processing more material – some of it possibly very toxic – in facilities and under conditions that were never intended for such, seems simply foolish, or worse.

5.      Leachates from asphalt and other contaminated materials will make their way into our water table. It is unavoidable when you drop this tainted rubble two meters from the aquifer, on porous soil.

6.      Furthermore, who will be inspecting the materials coming in for recycling? We know the MNR inspectors can’t do the job. Then who? Where are the regulations and rules designed for this new policy? It’s all left up to the Aggregate Resources Act, which was never intended to deal with industrial recycling facilities.

7.      When applying for a license to open a new pit or quarry, the operator and MNR agree that it will be an ‘interim land use’. Adding a recycling operation will obviously increase the life span of a pit. It seems this creates another way to extend an operation indefinitely and avoid rehabilitation, virtually forever.

To characterize the push for recycling as something the Ontario public wants is a bit of a stretch.

Does ‘the public’ want more recycling?   …. Absolutely.

Do they want expanded industrial operations, with more huge trucks coming and going from their neighbourhood pit forever?  …. Absolutely not!

So we’ve asked just how it’s been determined that industrial recycling in gravel pits represents ‘the public’s wishes’. The only answer we’ve heard is that there are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and special interest groups voicing their opinions.

Well, DUH … is it any surprise that the Ontario Stone Sand and Gravel Association (OSSGA) might lobby the government, claiming to represent ‘the public interest’?  But …What about input from groups like Gravel Watch, who more genuinely represent the public interest – and WITHOUT the taint of ties to Industry! Have they been heard? Apparently NOT.

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Industrial recycling operations should be located in industrial areas, not in open pit mines that are often located in rural residential areas.

But recycling is just one part of a bigger picture. It must be implemented with a comprehensive and well thought out plan. As it impacts the future of aggregate mining, it must deal with questions of ‘need’, resource life-cycle management, transportation, alternative materials, and full cost financial accounting . To hand recycling responsibility to the MNR and their aggregate industry friends without such thorough consideration is dangerously short-sighted.

Once again, the MNR and Minister Gravelle appear to have demonstrated a lack of understanding of their portfolio responsibilities, and once again, the aggregate tail seems to be wagging the dog.

In short, the MNR’s handling of this issue seems superficial and inadequate, serving the wishes of their cronies at the expense of ordinary citizens!

Is this acceptable? What can be done? Are ordinary citizens willing to do anything about it? Who owns this province anyway? … You? … or the politicians and their ‘insider’ friends?

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So, since you don’t have preferred access to the decision-makers, we suggest it’s time to call, email and write your MPP, to tell them that weakening the Niagara Escarpment protections is completely unacceptable.

Call, email and write Minister Gravelle and all opposition critics. Try to be civil, which might be difficult, and tell them it is time the aggregate industry stopped dictating policy in Ontario – starting with this recycling-in-pits fiasco.

Call, email and write your local newspapers and news web sites. Tell them these sorts of policies are bad for our province.

It’s time for a concerted effort to send the message to OUR elected officials that we will be Silent No More.

After all, they are supposed to be working for US!

More on Gags and Gagging …

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

Our previous post on gags … here … brings to mind the Environmental Commissioner of  Ontario’s 2012 report called “Losing Touch” in which ECO Gord Miller says: “Lately there has been a marked change in the behaviour of some ministries in respecting the rights of the citizens of Ontario under the EBR [Environmental Bill of Rights]”
He goes on to say: “This disregard for the rights of Ontarians has increased to a scope and degree such that I find it necessary to break out this portion of my statutory reporting requirements into its own part, so that Legislators can focus on the implications of the situation.” and: “in recent years, the ministry has increasingly evaded its obligations under the EBR, depriving the public of its established rights.” (emphasis added)
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Because Ontario Government Ministries are avoiding their responsibilities in seeking input from Ontarians via the EBR, the citizens of Ontario are being effectively MUZZLED, or as we say, GAGGED.
But we go even further. We suggest that even when comments are properly sought and received, they are rarely if ever properly considered and incorporated into the legislation or regulations affected.

The ECO concludes that “it appears that elements of the bureaucratic institution called the Ontario Public Service, which was created to support and implement the will of the people’s Legislative Assembly, are somehow losing touch with their role and responsibilities, at least with regard to the Environmental Bill of Rights.”
The Environmental Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association has commented on this sorry state of affairs, where the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources simply ignore their responsibilities. You can read the OBA report here: http://www.oba.org/en/pdf/sec_news_env_oct12_Ministries_Shaw.pdf

The result of all this avoidance and ignoring of citizen input is a sense of futility on the part of ever-growing segments of society. The attitude becomes: “Why comment when they don’t listen anyway! What’s the use?”
This attitude gives the politicians and bureaucrats an opportunity to deceive themselves into thinking that they have the tacit consent of the majority of their constituents, when the truth is that vast numbers of citizens are fed up with the futility of the exercise.
So we should not be surprised when we see more and more public tantrums  organized by people who are fed up with being gagged.
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Is this what you would call a ‘civilized representative democracy’?

Wouldn’t it be better to remove the gags and actually be heard by those we hire (elect) to work for us?

SELF-MONITORING – A dream come true?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

 

Can you imagine a world where you could grade yourself?   AWESOME!

Take me for example. I was a borderline student in school. Just kinda got by.

But if I could have self graded, I would have been a “A” student!

I probably would have had a career, albeit a short one, as a heart surgeon with the education of a shoe shine boy.

If you came to my office for surgery you’d leave in a body bag, but your shoes sure would look nice!

Well, Ontario has a billion dollar industry that can be life-threatening like my fictitious example, but which self-monitors.

Yep, that’s right. All they have to do is fill out a form at the end of each year “GRADING THEMSELVES” on their adherence to all the rules and regulations of running their operation.

Does it work?

Well, let’s talk about Ken Cressey and his late wife Jeanine once more.

The pit operators, who basically contributed to the death of Ken’s wife through their negligence, operated a crushing machine without a Certificate of Authorization, and without any effective dust control measures in place, for three years.

During that time we can only assume that they did not report themselves and their infractions on their self-monitoring report check list.

Then, due to Ken’s persistence, two years after Jeanine’s death the operator was brought to ‘justice’.

They negotiated a deal with the MNR lawyer to plead guilty to crushing without a certificate, and paid a $1000 fine. Never mind the Cresseys. Do you think they saw any money? Ha!

Why did Crain’s Construction take the risk of crushing without a certificate, and possibly falsifying their “self-monitoring reports” you ask?

Their answer seemed to be … It takes too long to apply for and receive the authorization.

So…. for the tens of thousands in profits Crain made during that time frame, they were penalized $1000 for illegal crushing. Not a bad risk/reward ratio, eh?

But what about the three years of lies they must have made on their self-assessment reports?

Surely, you would expect the MNR to interpret that breach of trust as a far worse crime than operating the crusher illegally.