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A time for celebration, but also a time for preparation

We must celebrate! Last week, Highland Companies – the corporate potato farmers providing cover for the world’s ninth largest hedge fund, Boston’s Baupost – pulled the plug on their plans to build North America’s second-largest quarry just north of Toronto.

This would have been no ordinary quarry. It was to be a hole that would bury an area equal to 60 per cent of our riding,  20 stories below ground.  It would have required 600 million litres of water to be pumped – per day. It would have sent 7,200 trucks full of aggregate headed to Toronto – per day. And it would have required us to look much further afield to find about half the potatoes we eat in this city.

From one perspective, nothing’s changed – the status quo prevails.  Moreover, it was a fight that consumed the time and challenged the faith, patience and good humour of thousands.

But, it was also a fight that inspired. Twenty-eight thousand people showed up to Foodstock in Melancthon Township in the fall of 2011 to be fed local fare by the Canadian Chefs’ Congress. Almost 40,000 flocked to our riding last month for the same in the form of soup. And for another week or so, the fascinating and clever mega quarry-inspired posters of OCADU students will hang on the walls of my office.

This was a campaign that generated energy – creative energy – not exhausted it. So what’s worth celebrating is, in part, that success is not just possible but that issues can be won using art, food, humour, a little bit of skin (yes, some posed near-naked for the cause), intelligence and optimism – an unrelenting optimism.

What’s worth celebrating, too, is that common ground was discovered – not scorched – through this campaign.  Too often, it seems, even the broadly like-minded fall apart in the heat of campaigns. We get divided in too many ways and even sometimes, depressingly, by equally rational but contradictory positions.  But this time happily, urbanites and farmers found common cause on the issue of sustainability. The East Enders who rode the bus with me to the Headwaters to see for themselves were greeted with such warmth, appreciation and camaraderie by those who have made a living from growing our food for, in cases, generations.

And so we have hope – the hope that we have started something new here and forged a lasting coalition for sustainable urban growth. Urban sustainability looms as an enormous challenge. With somewhere between 70 and 80 per cent of Canadians and 50 per cent – and growing rapidly – of the global population living in cities, the equation is simple.  Global sustainability is not possible without sustainable cities.

Some of what we must do is not particularly sexy. It’s about transit, we know. But it is also about the design of our communities and the energy efficiency of our built environment. In spite of gridlock, record commute times and the prevalence of transit deserts in Toronto, it is the heating and cooling of our buildings that is responsible for 60 per cent of the greenhouse gases emitted. So, it’s also about amendments to our National Building Code and the completion of our National Energy Code.

But urban sustainability stands before us as a great opportunity for us to embrace, one that we must embrace. It means better serviced neighbourhoods, healthier neighbourhoods, greener neighbourhoods, better connected neighbourhoods, thriving neighbourhoods. It means complete neighbourhoods.  And our federal government needs to do something about this.

I hope you’ll come out and participate in my effort to get us to that place. Craig Scott and I host the East End Sustainability Network on the last Saturday of every month.  Your thoughts, ideas and energy will be more than welcome. Call 416-467-0860, email Elaine at matthew.kellway.c1a@parl.gc.ca or check out facebook.com/matthewkellway for more information.

5 Responses »

  1. It is great to see you moving forward with this effort and yes, lets make sure the threat the Mega Quarry posed for rural and urban communities is remembered, it won't be going away.
    Thanks again for your attention to this important matter.

  2. Good morning Matt and Elaine,
    Great comments Matt, I did not know you had it in you to write so well. :-) All kidding aside, I have learned so much from you, clear and focused thinking, truly working for your constituents and for the bigger picture, even so the Mega Quarry issue was not in your riding. Yet you committed to help, and help you did indeed. If more of our MP's would act like you and Craig do, and even step up and help ridings that are not represented by the colours of the NDP, truly seeing the bigger picture, Canada would clearly be moving forward. Thank you so much for all you do, we will not loose touch,

    Carl Cosack
    Chair
    North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce

  3. By all means celebrate our win but don't linger on it, the REAL work has begun. Be on notice that Highland is waiting in the bushes to unload another assault on our farmland. As the saying goes it's not IF they will carry on but WHEN. They still own the land upon which they hope to "farm" limestone in Melancthon and will not quit until the Ontario Government puts a permanent stop to their plans and makes them move on to other areas for their mining.
    We need to gather our forces again and urge our MPP's to work on the overall scheme of protecting all farmland and quarry operators notice that they must look outside the protected farmland for limestone.
    In Europe, because it has been developed for centuries, farmland is protected from development in virtually all countries. When we travel to these countries we find it strange to see how quickly the transition from countryside to urban towns/cities takes place. Farms can be right next to homes and the co-existence has worked for centuries. We must stop developing farmland for housing and other venues such as quarries. We are very fortunate in Canada to have so much land to mine for aggregate, farmland notwithstanding.

  4. The Melancthon Mega Quarry issue divided the Honeywood/Melancthon community.. but more importantly it also united the community and brought forth leaders who would not have otherwise assumed these roles. Carl Cosack, Dave Vanderzaag, Ralph Armstrong just to name a very few. The countless hours they gave to protecting our valuable farmland, time spent travelling to interviews in Toronto, time spent at community events, and endless meetings. Time away from the work they love best, farming.
    We are so grateful for the time and energy that these leaders and hundreds of others
    gave for a cause we all believed in. Honeywood is just a small dot on the landscape but it will from now on be linked with a spirit that will be recalled over and over when other communities have envoronmental battles to wage.

  5. Hi Matthew, thank you so much for your wonderful help towards stopping the mega quarry. I enjoyed very much meeting you on the day that Donna Tranquada came to
    tell us all about the big proposed mega quarry.

    May I echo Carl's words about your clear and focused thinking.

    It was wonderful to see how people from all walks of life came together and made great things happen !

    Best Wishes for your future accomplishments !

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