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!

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A Joke … or a Gag?

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

So they set up special committees to review the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) and Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), announced ‘public hearings’ and asked for citizen input, appearing as if they would seriously consider all submissions, and make revisions accordingly.

Some people happen to have spent a couple of decades studying the issues and are as close to being an ‘expert’ as can be. So they asked to appear before the ARA committee to make an oral presentation, and made written submissions.

Were they invited to appear or were they ignored?

They were ignored.

There were several more hearings scheduled so they politely asked once again.

Again they were ignored.

WHY?

Did those in charge really want to hear from knowledgeable people, or just from those they might agree with, or who can more easily be dismissed?

We may never know.

The hearings are finished and the committee is supposed to be carefully considering all the submissions, both oral and written, that were put before it.

That’s how it was supposed to work, and that’s what we’re paying for!ratsleave ship

But our Premier and his party have abandoned ship, taken the whole crew with him, and sunk the good ship ‘Legislature’.

So – What is happening to all the recommendations submitted in these two reviews?

– What is being done to remedy the many current problems with the way the current ARA is being administered by the Ministry of natural Resources (MNR)?

– What is being done to head off the threat that existing pits and quarries might be used as industrial recycling plants and potentially toxic landfills?

– What is being done to expose the distortion contained in the SAROS reports, where it suggests we are in the midst of an aggregate crisis.

– What is being done about questionable or non-existent justification for the industry-biased ‘close to market’ and ‘no questions allowed regarding need’ provisions of the current PPS?

– How can we protect ourselves from erosion of the Oak Ridges Moraine Act, Greenbelt Regulations, and Niagara Escarpment legislation that might permit ever more aggregate to be mined in these ‘protected’ areas?

In short, how can we get our high-priced ‘representatives’ to go back to work and actually earn their keep?

Are we being ‘gagged’ or is this just a bad joke?

Subsidize Me !

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

There are few industries in the Province of Ontario that are as heavily subsidized as the Aggregate Industry.

How do we subsidize thee? Let us count the ways, or at least a few of them …

1)      The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) requires that Municipalities identify and map all aggregate deposits in their areas. This of course, will be paid for by the Municipalities, or taxpayers. This would be akin to the Federal government (taxpayers) inventorying all gold and oil deposits, so that private companies would not have to spend their money and time to complete these very expensive tasks themselves. An example – the Town of Caledon completed this exercise in 1999 to 2001 at a cost of approximately three million taxpayer dollars.

2)      Municipal and provincial roads take a pounding from massively heavy gravel trucks that traverse them. This seems to be “the bone” of contention that the mayors of TAPMO are chewing on. The municipalities and province do not receive enough in “levies” per ton to cover the cost of repairing the damage the aggregate transports do to our roads. So, again, the taxpayers end up building and repairing the roads so the industry can move their goods. truck5The most bizarre point in this scenario is, our government wants cheap gravel, so they don’t raise the per ton levy, but when the roads need repairing because of these trucks, we must buy more aggregate product. So not only do we allow our roads to be destroyed without fair compensation, we give this same business more profits by building and repairing the roads with their product. We can’t even think of an analogy stupid enough to compare this to!

3)      To protect aggregate resources, the PPS does not allow homeowners to subdivide their properties, thus preventing a real source of income and wealth for property owners. Even land that is inaccessible by proper transportation routes, and therefore unable to be mined, has been set aside for the preferred industry. Who gets hammered again? – individual landowners and taxpayers. But, when the aggregate operator sees the potential to sell off his pit land for a nice profit, whether the pit is depleted or not, no problemo! (the Brampton Esker for example)

4)      When an aggregate owner applies for and announces the application for a pit or quarry, the properties around that area lose their value. The reductions can be anywhere from a 2.5% loss on a property some distance from the pit, or a massive write-down of property value if the property ends up being surrounded by the mining operation. And as usual, the taxpayer, or property owner must “eat” the loss! In addition, the resulting loss of tax base must then be absorbed by the rest of the taxpayers in the municipality! Fair? Only to the aggregate industry!

5)      There was a farm property purchased in Caledon, and an application to mine the property for gravel was submitted. The application ran out, so a group of private citizens decided to try and purchase the property. We understand the location was purchased in 2004 for less than $1million. The new asking price, with zero improvements, is now $10 million. Market Value Assessment is supposed to mean taxes based on what a property is worth on the open market. Do the taxes on this property reflect the new value, established by the owner himself? NOPE! So, again, the taxpayers lose, by the aggregate companies not paying their fair share. Why do these companies not pay a realistic tax on a realistic value of their properties?

The bottom line is very clear. The citizens/taxpayers of Ontario exist largely to provide the aggregate industry with a better bottom line!