Aggregate Resources Act amendments raise red flags in Puslinch

ABERFOYLE – “There are a lot of red flags here and I am very concerned for Puslinch and its future,’ says Mayor James Seeley in regard to proposed amendments to Ontario’s Aggregate Resources Act.

On Oct. 2, councillors here raised concerns over proposed amendments to the act.

A recent EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) posting note proposed changes to the Act are “to reduce burdens for business while maintaining strong protection for the environment and managing impacts to communities.”

“Its certainly not good news,” said councillor Ken Roth. “Its going to affect the township in a not-so-good manner.”

At the same time, Roth was uncertain what the township could do to implement change. “It might be an exercise in futility, but we should do something.”

Mayor James Seeley added TAPMO (Top Aggregate Producing Municipalities of Ontario) executive committee has a conference call scheduled to discuss these changes.

A report on that should be ready for the next council meeting (Oct. 16).

The EBR post stated that “in March 2019, the ministry hosted an Aggregates Summit. The Summit was an opportunity for industry, municipal and Indigenous leaders to share their ideas for cutting red tape, creating jobs and promoting environmental stewardship and economic growth within the aggregate industry.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer clarified the summit was an “invitation only” event and the location not revealed until the last minute.

He said as a result there were a lot of people who wanted to attend the summit “… were shut out.”

Of concern to Bulmer were remarks outlining items which to be achieved through changes to the Aggregate Resources Act.

He stated “I read the Act and all the proposed amendments and many of them are not going to happen.”

He anticpated some may be achieved through changes to policies, procedures or standards “but those are not available for review.”

Seeley then invited Bulmer to participate in the TAPMO teleconference call.

Councillor John Sepulis said he suspected the changes will eliminate the township’s ability to reviews of pit changes or the impacts to greenlands and wetlands.

CAO Patrick Moyle said when the township recieved a copy of the amendments, he first read them, then contacted AMO which has a taskforce working on this same issue.

“They are bringing forward an analysis to their board. We are a member of AMO so we might as well take advantage of this work.”

Moyle also contacted ministry staff, “but a lot of the details of this are being left to regulation.”

“The devil is often in the detail of these things,” Moyle said. “… and the regulations do not go through a public process.”

Moyle suggested one of the recommendations should be an explanation how these proposed amendments would be implemented “so that we would have the whole picture before we are commenting.”

He used the example of the provision of additional notice – with no description of how that would happen.

Moyle said there were statements that the public would be more involved regarding new aggregate operations, but how that would be implemented is through regulations.

Another point which concerned Moyle is that of haul routes. “Haul routes are an important part of the decision making process because it is the municipality which supplied the haul routes.”

Moyle said the current situation involves agreements set up between proponent and the municipality.

“The way I interpret the proposed amendments is that that will no longer be required.”

He said proponets can still voluntarily enter into arrangements with municipalities, but is no longer a requirement.

“That is a pretty significant change to the way things are working now.”

Moyle noted he spent a fair number of years working for a municipality heavily engaged in the aggregate business.

“Hopefully I can bring some of that experience to this.”

He intended to bring a report to the Oct. 16 meeting in time for council to make comment.

Councillor John Sepulis was pleased the CAO was forward thinking on the matter.

He suggested Wellington County also be contacted.

Seeley noted he already had communicated with Wellington County director of planning and development Aldo Salis.

Seeley said “This has also raised a lot of red flags at the county level. It appears there will be more things within site plans we cannot enforce.”

He noted that when he was at the recent AMO conference he attempted to speak to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry on the issue but was told it was not the right time.

He asked fellow councillors if he should reach out to start that conversation.

Council agreed.