More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022

Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act, 2022

Comments on both these proposed Acts from the
Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation, November 24, 2022


Our organization has been involved in work related to water levels, wetlands and their related aquatic life, and water quality as they relate to Georgian Bay. We have financially and logistically supported McMaster U’s Prof. Pat Chow-Fraser and her lab’s team of researchers for now over 20 years. We also have three hydraulic engineers that have been using US Army Corps of Engineers data for Great Lakes levels and flows to determine what is the cause of the ever-increasing range of water levels for Lake Michigan Huron and Georgian Bay. We have funded research on this topic that can be found on our website

It is with this background that we are providing comments on the relevant sections of Bill 23 – (Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act, 2022 – Schedule 10) and the York Region Wastewater Advisory Panel Report.

Our concerns with Bill 23 are as follows:

1) Bill 23 relevant Sections that allow destruction, alteration, redesignation or changes in boundaries of wetlands.

The proposed wetland alteration changes in Bill 23 for development needs is egregious at the highest level. If wetlands – as Bill 23 allows – are delisted and changes made to boundaries for development purposes, this will allow destruction of the most important element of aquatic ecosystems. Wetlands provide essential protected aquatic and terrestrial habitat and filter the water tor remove phosphorus, nitrogen and contaminants and important flood absorption during extreme storm events. Bill 23 changes make absolutely no sense facing climate change since wetlands provide critical climate resiliency. Hurricane Hazel in 1958 resulted in the formation of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and other Conservation Authorities followed. Their oversight and the MNRF Ontario Wetland Evaluation System has protected wetlands ever since. No part of Ontario is immune to the impacts of climate change. We have been lucky. Hurricane Fiona that recently ravaged the east coast, was at one point predicted to move straight north from the Carolinas and cross Lake Ontario. If that had happened, we would have had another Hurricane Hazel hit Ontario.

The concept of wetlands offsetting has been rejected by governments for decades but to now introduce wetlands offsetting into Bill 23 is egregious. The ecological values of a natural wetland can never be replicated by attempts to create another wetland somewhere else. The created wetland becomes nothing more than a duck pond. This concept of paying to slay wetlands needs to be removed entirely from Bill 23.

The relevant Sections of Bill 23 must be removed to prevent destruction of wetlands.

2) Bill 23  SCHEDULE 10

The Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act 2022 purpose is to expedite the planning, development and construction and to expedite the improvement, enlargement and extension of the York Durham Sewage System to convey sewage to the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant.

Certain orders and approvals under the Environmental Assessment Act are terminated, and the projects are exempted from the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993.

Bill 23 Schedule 10 would allow an increased illegal intrabasin transfer via increased sewage and stormwater flows from north York Region to Lake Ontario. (NB see map below showing Lake Simcoe watershed north of Lake Ontario’s watershed.)

A major concern regarding Schedule 10 of Bill 23 is that it essentially allows rapid approvals for increasing north York Region’s sewage and stormwater transfer to the York Durham Sewage and Stormwater Treatment Plant with no Environmental Assessments required. Premier Ford’s associated announcement that this will support growth in north York Region including King Township and that he will not support building a new Sewage Treatment Plant to service the new development proposed south of Lake Simcoe makes us wonder if he and the authors of this so called plan are even aware that this would result in an increase in York Region’s intrabasin transfer of water from the Lake Simcoe watershed  and instead send more sewage and stormwater from the Lake Simcoe watershed down to Lake Ontario across the hydrological divide between Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario.

Lake Simcoe, as the map above makes clear, is within Georgian Bay’s watershed – not Lake Ontario. Instead of staying within the Lake Simcoe watershed, this plan would require twinning the Big Pipe for water and increasing significantly the intrabasin transfer of water outside of Lake Ontario’s watershed across the hydrological divide in King Township just south of Hwy 9 into the Georgian Bay/Lake Simcoe watershed.

York’s existing diversion of water of 19MLD was allowed around the 2005 signing of the Great Lakes St Lawrence River Sustainable Water Resources (GLSLRSWR) Agreement. We had a representative on the Ontario governments Annex Advisory Panel at that time and York Region was called to account for their intrabasin transfer. At that time York Region was told to do everything possible to reduce their intrabasin transfer. Sadly, we note from York Regions website that as of 2019 York has increased their intrabasin transfer to 25MLD.

Any increase beyond York’s existing allowed 20MLD intrabasin transfer under the GLSLRSWR Agreement Chapter 2 Article 200 Section 1) iii requires at a minimum that the proposed increase “undergoes Regional Review and approval process” by the Agreement’s governing body. We have seen nothing that indicates that York Region or the province is aware of or intends to comply with this Agreement. York Region must take the only sustainable water use high road and proceed with building the very high-level Upper York Sewage Treatment plant that Premier McGuinty promised would set an example across Canada since it includes finishing ponds and man-made wetlands so that phosphorus and contaminants would be removed before returning the water to Lake Simcoe. Additionally, York Region has now spent over $100M of tax dollars for the design and implementation plans for this new high level sewage treatment plant south of Lake Simcoe that would keep the water in the watershed and could actually reduce their existing intrabasin transfer.

Now facing climate change and the increased possibility of extreme drought it does not make sense to send all south Lake Simcoe’s watershed stormwater down to Lake Ontario. Additionally, when sewer piping is installed, it is a requirement that groundwater be drawn down below the sewer pipes. This requires installation of perforated pipes underneath the sewer pipes that sucks/removes the groundwater to below the sewer pipe. The area where these new pipes would have to be installed is on the Oak Ridges Moraine and the groundwater is only about 1M below the surface. Sewer lines are typically installed 2-3M below the surface so this would result in significant drawdown of groundwater that could impact wells and agricultural lands. This will increase intrabasin transfer amount. That impact alone on groundwater will impact residential well water use and agriculture communities and ultimately tax dollars since Ontario will have to use tax dollars and their Low Water plans to ship water across the province but just for homes not for agricultural use.

According to Environment Canada Climate Change’s Great Lakes climate change predictions – water levels on Georgian Bay are predicted to decline by 2030 to three feet or a meter below the record lows. Lake Simcoe is hydrologically connected to Georgian Bay but is tiny compared to Georgian Bay. Bill 23 makes no mention of the potential impacts on Lake Simcoe and its watershed of removing ground and stormwater from the south Lake Simcoe watershed. It is time to understand what an increased intrabasin transfer combined with climate change will do to Lake Simcoe water levels.

Unless this proposal to increase York Region’s very significant addition to their existing intrabasin transfer is withdrawn, we will be advising the Governing Body of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement of Ontario’s plans.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Mary Muter, Chair,
Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation
905 833 2020