Elmira Independent editorial
If one thing is clear with Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act, it’s this — the current system is not working.
Members of Provincial Parliament heard this time and time again on Monday, as the ARA review hearing made its way to Kitchener.
Both gravel pit proponents and opponents alike expressed concern about various aspects of the Act.For the proponents, the focus was on how long it takes to actually get approval for a gravel pit, while for opponents, the focus was on how rarely the controls on these pits seem to be enforced, and how there are no regulations that could prevent a pit from being placed relatively close to residential development.
Understandably, the two groups are coming at it from vastly different angles. Strangely, in some ways, they are both right.
Gravel pit applications are lengthy and costly, and require a duplicate approval process — one conducted by the Ministry of Natural Resources, while the other is conducted under the province’s Planning Act, with individual municipalities approving — or not approving — the zone changes required for the pit. It is confusing, costly, and often seems to lead to one place — the Ontario Municipal Board, where decisions are ultimately made. This increases the time and expense, and does not always lead to a good outcome.
At Monday’s hearing, many valid, well thought out arguments were presented on the need to revise the Aggregate Resources Act.
Woolwich Township presented the need for an increased tax on aggregate — currently, municipalities receive 11 cents per tonne of mineral aggregate extracted, which works out to an average of $37,000 annual income. In contrast, a single Ontario Municipal Board hearing could cost up to $250,000. The Waterloo Federation of Agriculture presented its concern about the potential for permanent loss of viable farmland, and suggested it is next to impossible to restore finished gravel pits to their former agricultural state. Arguments for increasing the recycling of aggregate — although, not necessarily at rural sites — to reduce the province’s overall consumption of aggregate, and reduce the need for more gravel pits, and to put some overall limit on the size of pits (think the mega-quarry in Melancthon).
All of these suggestions are worthy of consideration. We hope that when it comes time for the provincial government to enter the next step of the review and draft new legislation, they take all of these views seriously.
The Aggregate Resources Act needs more than a simple “tweak.” It needs and deserves a complete overhaul.