Strange Monster Set to Attack Water Protections of Provincial Land Use Planning, Dr. John Bacher

Another important original article:
January 6, 2019

Strange Monster Set to Attack Water Protections of Provincial Land Use Planning
Dr. John Bacher

The name Bill 66 seems like a science fiction monster akin to Godzilla, which emerged out of the debris of nuclear contaminated post-war Japan. A similar scary beast has come forth today out of the fiendish populism of Ontario Premier, Doug Ford.

Image by Danny Molneck

While Godzilla picked people off the streets and hurled them around, the scary Bill 66 is being prepared to throw its might against the landscapes protected by a variety of provincial planning measures and laws. These include the Greenbelt, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and the Source Water Protection Act.

From the dirty muck of a Populist brew like cheap beer, OFB-ZBL has emerged out of Bill 66 to despoil Ontario’s countryside. The term is an acronym for Open For Business Planning By-law, which through a combination of municipal approval and ministerial consent, repeal zoning provisions designed to protect water.

Godizlla was a black and slimy beast, akin to the dangerous development that threatens to foul water sources protected by current provincial legislation. Bill 66 threatens to likewise put grease and slime over previously protected watersheds, possibly creating havoc from Georgian Bay to Niagara Falls.

When walking around Lake Ontario on a sacred Water Walk with an Ojibway community and Mohawk elder of the Turtle Clan, Danny Beaton, I saw an example of what Bill 66 threatens to unleash. We were stunned to see near the sacred shores of Lake Simcoe, the type of development that was the norm before it was curbed by the water protecting legislation Bill 66 threatens to crush.

We Water Walkers were stunned to encounter a black stream, without the usual life forms of insects such as water gliders. Then we walked a bit ahead and discovered why the stream was black. Its blackness came because it was downstream from a sewage release meadow built to accommodate a development built in the 1960s before provincial land use planning. In the middle of the meadow were steel spray pipes, of the sort usually used to spray water. Instead here it sprayed raw sewage from a development on the shores of Lake Simcoe.

Photo by Les Stewart

The sewage release sprays are a good indication of what the monster, the Bill 66, may soon unleash if it is actually approved by the Ontario legislature. Let us hope that reason prevails and this devouring monster being developed in the strange laboratories of Premier Doug Ford will not be set loose.


Retired Provincial Planner Victor Doyle Wins Victory at Crucial Time by Dr. John Bacher

Another important original article:
November 12, 2019

Retired Provincial Planner Victor Doyle Wins Victory at Crucial Time
Dr. John Bacher

At a crucial time when the land use planning policies he forged under three different parties over 25 years are under attack by the newly elected government of Premier Doug Ford, veteran land use planner Victor Doyle won a major victory. It is of great significance which may help in reversing a planned assault on Sothern fragile ecosystems. They are imperilled from a proposed loosening of land use planning regulations. This threat was announced with great fanfare at a November 8, 2018 meeting at Toronto’s MacDonald block, which was supposedly on the Ontario Growth Plan.

On October 27th, 2018, the Public Service Grievance Board of Ontario, ruled in Doyle’s favour in response to a grievance he had filed with it in response to his dramatic demotion. Doyle went from effectively directing land use planning in Ontario to studying the cars of the distant future. The Grievance Board ruled that that this action by the provincial government was a breach of “duty of procedural fairness.”

Doyle spoke out to the Globe and Mail in May 2017, when the Cabinet, responding to what Doyle found were inaccurate claims by developers, was debating land use policy changes. Developers’ apologists claimed that the province’s policies were creating a residential land shortage and driving up housing prices. Such rhetoric, although at odds with reality, was building up pressure to gut land use planning controls. Doyle responded using a barrage of well documented facts to show there was a massive oversupply of such lands. He warned the province to appease developers was risking “unsustainable sprawl, congestion and skyrocketing infrastructure costs.”

Although in the end the Cabinet did not back down, Doyle was punished for speaking out. He was sealed away in a manner to reduce his influence on the public service. Doyle was put alone on a floor in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) Bay Street building. He was denied access to normal digital information sources available to public servants. No other Ministry employees were given offices on his floor. Several months before his scheduled retirement he was told to confine his duties to research driverless cars.

Part of Doyle’s effectiveness is that he would work closely with respected native elders, notably the Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, Danny Beaton, with whom he met in a Toronto gym. Beaton gave him sacred teachings on natural law, such as the need to respect water from the abuses of the earth. One such meeting followed Beaton’s shocking encounter with a cruel slashing of an old growth forest at French’s Hill.

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(l) Author Dr. John Bacher and Mohawk Elder Danny Beaton at Waverley Uplands clear-cut. Photo by Les Stewart, Sept 2015

The French’s Hill Forest of great Sugar Maples is on top of an aquifer which contains the world’s purest water. Following Beaton’s traumatic encounter with destruction, Doyle lectured Simcoe County officials over their dangerous contempt for the sacredness of the natural world.

Working with Beaton, Doyle emerged as the guardian of what the Mohawk elder called the Peacemaker’s World. Doyle stood up to powerful corporations such as the Geranium, with its plans to dangerously ring the Minesing Wetlands with 10,000 new homes in Midhurst. This threatens to unleash a flood of polluted storm water onto a wetland which is a refuge for rare wild species. These include Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, the Sturgeon, the Trumpeter Swan, Sandhill Crane, Bald Eagle, and several turtle species, now all designated as species at risk.

Doyle’s warnings of an assault on threatened wildlife from sprawl are especially relevant in the context of the supposed consultation now underway on the Growth Plan. At the MacDonald Block Forum a disturbing proposal was made by developers’ agents. This was that a large area of Class One and Two farmland between the Green Belt and the urban zoning boundary of Greater Toronto have a change in designation. All references to agricultural value would be swept away and the area designated under the Growth Plan as an “Urban Reserve.”

Doyle’s warnings to the press sounded an alarm against the proposed rapid urbanization of what planners call the White Belt. Doyle warned that water quality in streams in this area was at risk of contamination which would kill wildlife such as fish, turtles and frogs.

What makes Doyle’s courage in standing up so heartening today is the way the October 8th Macdonald Block Forum was packaged. The facilitator appeared to be the auctioneer at a fire sale of land use planning policies, rather than part of the public service. She indicated that all of the facilitators were members of the Ontario Public Service, OPS. There were at least 23 such OPS facilitators in the Room, since my own designated Table was Number 23.

Danny trunk

Mohawk Elder Danny Beaton: the scale of the original maples at Waverley Uplands, Photo by Les Stewart, Apr 2015.

Considering the ecocidal reputation of Sir John A. MacDonald it was appropriate that the Growth Plan consultation should be held in government building named for him. The worst of the formal government proposals actually had nothing to do with the Growth Plan. They have to do with the proposed abolition of the requirement in the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) under the Planning Act that urban boundary expansions only be permitted every five years under a comprehensive municipal review.

The whole premise of the MacDonald Block circus was residential land shortages which Doyle’s writings carefully denied. The ten- second pleas to the Minister of MMAH had little to do with the Growth Plan. One plea was to abolish the Niagara Escarpment Commission, a backbone of the Greenbelt. Another was to abolish the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal. Thrown into the toxic mess was a call to have wetland offsetting, opening up for destruction some of the most important habitats for vanishing wildlife species in southern Ontario.

The backward thinking of the MacDonald Block Growth Plan Forum coming from a building named after a Prime Minister who arrested and hanged Cree chiefs and elders should be a warning signal to those in the OPS who care about ecosystems and wildlife threatened by sprawl. Let us hope that more follow’s Doyle path and work with native spiritual leaders and speak out in defense of Mother Earth.

Re-dedication Ceremony of Coronation Park, Toronto, Canada


Coronation Park was the work of the Canadian Chapter of Men of the Trees, created as part of a successful effort to restore vanished forest cover to southern Ontario.

Ominous Meeting Begins Growth Plan Consultations, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article:
November 9, 2018

Ominous Meeting Begins Growth Plan Consultations
Dr. John Bacher

On November 8, 2108 the newly elected Ontario government began a rather ominous process to revise land use planning process in Ontario. The setting was the “Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Stakeholders Forum” which was held at the Ontario Room of the MacDonald Block at 900 Bay Street in Toronto on November 8, 2018.

Photo shows Thundering Waters wetlands where offsetting scheme was tried in past. Development advocates at recent Growth Plan consultation by province urged wetland offsetting be permitted by change to provincial regulation.

The forum which had around two hundred participants, had been previously discussed with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, (AMO). It was far more noisy than most government consultations on land use planning with buzzers frequently telling table panels when their time was up. The celebratory tone used by the facilitator resembled that of an auctioneer.

Planners from Waterloo Region appeared to attempt to push discussions in a more environmentally sensitive manner, as they alone stressed issues such as climate change and facilitating conservationist land securement.

Most of those in attendance in the forum were municipal planners and planners who work with the land development industry. I appeared to be the only “stakeholder”, to represent an environmental protection group. While a researcher for the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, (PALS), I seemed to have received the invitation as Chair of the Ontario Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada.

The forum was the basis for launching a new consultation paper on the Growth Plan. While the Growth Plan according to statute must be reviewed every ten years, from the tenor of the discussions at the Forum, it is clear that the time involved in making changes will be less than that. It may take place after two additional consultation meetings in less than a year.

The disturbing aspects of the proposals in the documents are found in the area termed “Settlement Area Boundary Expansions.” These are not explicitly termed government proposals, but more ambiguously called “What we Heard From You” and “What Some of You Proposed.”

Under “What we Heard From You”, the paper wrote the following. “The new criteria and process for justifying a settlement boundary expansion are seen as overly focused on process rather than outcome (e.g. Specifying the number of studies required) and that there are concerns about how long it could take to make new land available for development.”

Under “What Some of You Proposed”, two quite specific proposals are put forward. The first is that, “The process for settlement boundary expansions should be streamlined.” The second is that, “There e the opportunity for some settlement area boundary expansions to occur in between municipal comprehensive review cycles (subject to criteria).”

The proposal that settlement boundary expansions take place sooner than the five year comprehensive review cycle is the most troublesome of those unveiled at the Forum. A major reform in land use planning initiated 15 years ago through changes to the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement n (PPS), was that urban boundary expansions can only be made through a five year comprehensive review. Before this long overdue reform, there was land use planning chaos on the urban fringe. After quite detailed scrutiny through expert testimony and hearings by the Ontario Municipal Board, (OMB), urban boundary expansions that had been debated for decades could suddenly be reversed through a new application. Then the process would start all over again the hope of being heard by a favourable OMB hearing officer.

Ominous darkness in forest reflects gloomy prospect of Municipal Bar (lawyers) demanding repeal of Bill 137 so they can revive bad song and dance of cross examination of experts in hearings. Photo by Martin Munoz, Thundering Water Forest.

A basic principle of the Growth Plan is that is intended to have a land use planning system for the high growth pressure area of the Greater Golden Horseshoe which is more restrictive than the minimal standards of the Planning Act and its PPS. To change this reality would be to dissolve the Growth Plan.

There would be no sense in having a Growth Plan that is more permissive in terms of urban boundary expansions than the Planning Act and the PPS. It would also be a signal for a corrosive change to the Planning Act and the PPS. Sprawl would spread like cancer across Ontario.

Compounding the proposed Provincial government changes at the Forum, were comments from developers and municipal planners .These were made both from the various tables and at the end in ten -second clips which were termed quick comments for the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

A frightening array of suggestions were made by Forum participants. One was to abolish the Niagara Escarpment Commission. (NEC). Such “sun-setting” was suggested as well as a ten second Ministerial plea that the Escarpment Plan be administered by municipalities.

There was no opportunity in the Forum to illustrate the problems of municipal administration of Greenbelt rules in the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Protected Countryside of the Greenbelt, such as illegal dumping, which on the Escarpment Plan area is corrected through NEC clean up orders. Also the much greater success in extending forest cover in the Escarpment Plan area through the NEC plan administration than the rest of the Greenbelt was ignored.

Another call by developers’ agents was the repeal of Bill 137, which created the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal. (LPAT) There was a lament for the supposed good old days of the OMB, claiming the new system gave less weight to expert witnesses. Such claims ignored how the major reform in the LPAT process is the abolition of cross examination of experts. This will reduce the role of lawyers, not experts. The Forum strongly reflected the views powerful special interest group known as the Municipal Bar.

Another cry was raised that the “White Belt” lands adjacent to the Greenbelt be given a new status in a revised Growth Plan. It was urged that these lands be formally designated as an “Urban Reserve”. This would have quite negative impacts of encouraging severe storm water pollution from rapid urbanization of these lands, which are primarily, Class One and Two agricultural lands. Development here could seriously degrade the Don, Humber, Rouge, the Credit, and Carruthers Creek.

The most worrisome Forum calls, were the advocacy of wetland offsetting and a greater role for Conservation Authorities in land use planning. Efforts by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority to do this have been recently condemned by the Ontario Auditor General. Her report noted that their studies to justify offsetting at Thundering Waters in Niagara Falls (now under appeal by the author of this article) lacked any field research.

What makes the call for considering wetland offsetting so outrageous is that it was made after the disastrous impact of the Houston USA Flood, where its death toll was intensified by the paving over of previously protected wetlands through offsets. Most of these offsets were outright fraud. Monies for offsets were largely paid to firms to design recreated wetlands, which were never actually constructed.

Buzz bells do not generate good policy. If there is are to be any revisions to the Growth Plan, it should be done only after studies are published which do not currently exist. These should look at matters such as the existing capacity of urban boundaries, and the potential harm that could be triggered by the actual urbanization of the White Belt lands.

Falls development appealed by Allan Benner, The St. Catharines Standard

An important statement of John Bacher’s standing as a preeminent environmentalist:


The St. Catharines Standard
August 23, 2018

Falls development appealed
Letters from ministry never reached council, says environmentalist
Allan Benner

This is an aerial view concept drawing showing the pedestrian lifestyle centre proposed for GR (CAN) Investment Co. Ltd.’s development adjacent to Thundering Waters Golf Club in Niagara Falls. – Special to The Niagara Falls Review

An environmentalist is appealing a decision by Niagara Falls city council in support of a controversial $1.5-billion mixed-use development, while councillors who opposed the May 8 decision are crying foul — claiming information from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry was withheld from them.

Longtime Niagara environmentalist John Bacher has filed an appeal with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, citing inconsistencies between the city’s official plan amendments and provincial policies concerning provincially significant wetlands and wildlife habitat located at the site of the Riverfront Community development formerly known as Thunder Waters.

Despite the opposition to the official plan amendment, Niagara Falls planning director Alex Herlovitch said there’s still a great deal to do before any work begins on the massive development.

He said the official plan amendment outlines the requirements for any future planning applications, such as rezoning, subdivision, condominium and site plan agreements.

“It’s a policy document that they adopted, and whether it’s this developer or any other developer working on plans in the Riverfront Community, they would have to abide by the rules,” Herlovitch said. “There’s a whole series of further reports, applications and decisions that council will have to make before any shovel goes in the ground.”

Meanwhile, he said the wetlands on the site will not be affected.

“There is no development in the wetlands. Those have all been protected by the amendment that council adopted in May.”

Bacher, however, said official plans provide overall guidance for future development, and should protect environmentally sensitive areas from development rather than finding ways to permit it.

They are intended to address “big issues, like what should be safe for nature and what you can build on,” he said.

“It should be addressed in the official plan stage.”

He was also concerned that two letters regarding the development, sent from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to city planning staff on Dec. 11 and Jan. 15 were never provided to councillors.

Bacher said he provide councillors with copies of the letters himself, but that was on Aug. 7 — months after council voted 6-2 in favour of the official plan amendments to allow the project to move forward.

Herlovitch said a letter from the MNRF dated April 30 was provided to councillors at the meeting. But he said the previous correspondence was not provided to councillors because it included MNRF concerns about environmental impact studies that had already been addressed.

He said the letters from December and January were written in response to environmental impact studies, and “many of the concerns of those letters were already addressed.”

Herlovitch said remaining concerns were addressed through 27 recommended changes to policies.

Nevertheless, learning about the missing documents came as a shock to Coun. Wayne Campbell, who joined Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni as the only two councillors who voted against the official plan amendment during the May 8 meeting.

“This was, I felt, very important information,” Campbell said. “It’s unbelievable. I was really taken aback.”

Ioannoni said just the information in the MNRF’s April 30 letter was enough for her to oppose the amendment.

Herlovitch dismissed the concerns as politicking.

“It sounds like grandstanding to me by people who wish to be re-elected in October,” he said.

He said the letters from December and January were written in response to environmental impact studies, and “many of the concerns of those letters were already addressed.”

Herlovitch said remaining concerns were addressed through 27 recommended changes to policies that were being presented by the developer.

He said he couldn’t speculate on whether the vote might have been different if council had access to the earlier correspondence.

Coun. Joyce Morocco said the documents likely wouldn’t have changed her mind.

“Based on the information, I don’t believe it would have changed my decision. We can’t land-lock all of that land,” she said.

Morocco said she also made it clear to the developer that if all 27 recommendations are not met, “then don’t bother coming back.”

“It’s really a tough balance when you have people coming in that have invested and bought private land — it’s not that it was city-owned — it was private land and the intention was to develop,” she said.

Environmentalist Owen Bjorgan said the letters list numerous concerns about the development, including the presence of provincially rare vegetation and threatened wildlife.

“The ministry is still saying, for a variety of scientific reasons and concerns, this development is not ready to go through,” he said. “This is the province using real science, attempting to tell Niagara Falls city council about a major land use change.”

Bjorgan, who has been publicly opposed to the project for the past several years, said the MNRF letters point out discrepancies between scientific data and information provided within the developer’s environmental impact study.

Some discrepancies have not been addressed.

For instance, he said the MNFR pointed out that peer-reviewed scientific literature show bat species found in the area “have a very high level of specific site selection,” which contradicts information in the study.
905-225-1629 | @abenner1




The LPAT Appeal To Rescue Thundering Waters Forest, Dr. John Bacher

Another original article:
August 13, 2018

The LPAT Appeal To Rescue Thundering Waters Forest
Dr. John Bacher

At 9:46 am in the Niagara Falls Clerk’s Department I filed a letter of appeal against Amendment 128 to the Niagara Falls Official Plan. The amendment seeks to pave over about 120 acres of the approximately 500 acres Thundering Waters Forest.

Although most of the Thundering Waters Forest is provincially protected wetland barred from development, much of the Amendment 120 lands known as the Riverfront Community are an unusual savanna complex. It is dominated by a native shrub species, the Dotted Hawthorn.

Canada Geese flying over threatened Thundering Waters Forest. Photo by Martin Munoz.

On Hawthorn Savanna lands nests two Species At Risk birds, the Wood Thrush and the Eastern Wood Pewee. It also contains habitat for a spectacular Threatened wildflower, the showy purple Dense Blazing Star. On the savannah flourishes a regionally rare flower loved by butterflies, the blazing orange Butterfly Milkweed. Both iconic wildflowers, characteristic of prairie-savannah environments, are important for insects that are valuable plant pollinators.

The richness in insect pollinators is one of the reasons that the Hawthorn Savannah area, which dominates most of the OP Amendment 128 lands, provides summer foraging habitat for the Threatened Barn Swallow. Other areas of such habitat have vanished because of agricultural pesticides. Here they flourish in a landscape not farmed since World War One.

Potential Bat Roosting Area Thundering Waters Forest Photo by Martin Munoz

Although the Hawthorn Savannah dominates the Amendment 128 lands it also has dry forests. These areas, designated by the Niagara Regional Official Plan as provincially significant woodlands, buffer the protected wetlands of the provincially significant wetland (PSW) of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest. Snapping Turtles, a Species At Risk, are frequently found in the pounded ruts of long abandoned roads throughout the Riverfront lands.

In the northern limits are future study areas for possible bat maternity roosting habitat of three species of Endangered bats.The large block of intact forest is also regarded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) as breeding habitat for the Endangered Acadian Flycatcher. According to the current recovery plan there are only an estimated 75 pairs of this specie surviving in Canada.

There are three components of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest which are in close proximity to each other near a railway strip. In the spring spectacular symphonies of mating Wood, Chorus and Spring Peeper frogs can be heard here. These frogs and the Blue Spotted Salamander frequently migrate between these components of the Niagara Falls Slough Forest. Amendment 128’s failure to link these wetlands with protective corridors could lead to massive slaughter of wildlife.

The weirdest provision of Amendment 128 is its call for the “deforestation” of provincially significant woodlands. Among the trees found on these lands is a Species At Risk’, the Kentucky Coffee Tree. The massive deforestation is being advocated on the basis of the anticipated effects in two to five years of mass Ash die off from the Emerald Ash Borer. In this regard Niagara Falls is pioneering in a science fiction approach to land use planning.

The protection of Thundering Waters may take up to three Appeals to win the legal battle.