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Region backs Demand the Right campaign

More than 60 municipalities want ability to decline private landfills

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express 

Regional council has thrown its support behind a movement to give local governments the ability to stop private landfills being built in their municipality.

Ted Comiskey, mayor of The Town of Ingersoll, spoke before council at its latest meeting asking them to join the “Demand The Right” campaign.

Ingersoll, along with four other organizations, have started the campaign with the goal of demanding the provincial government give municipalities the right to approve new landfill sites in or adjacent to their jurisdictions.

Comiskey says that he has been with the Demand the Right campaign for around eight years. He is also the co-chair of a program called “No Waste Oxford.”

Comiskey points out that Canada is among the world’s worst generators of waste, specifically Ontario. He says that the province is filling up landfill sites far too quickly and it is seeking to establish new landfill sites.

The campaign’s website also gives ten reasons why municipalities should back the Demand the Right Campaign, the first of which is that municipal governments in Ontario don’t have the right to approve landfill projects in their own communities. Comiskey says this allows operators of private landfills to ignore any concerns presented by local residents and municipal councils.

The second reason given is that recent switch from the Ontario Municipal Board to Local Planning Appeal Tribunal grants municipalities more authority and autonomy in decision making for their communities, but the ability to approve landfills is not included.

Reason number three is that municipalities already have the right to approve casinos and nuclear waste facilities, and the province also recognizes the value of municipal approval of power generation facilities.

Comiskey says  that Toronto and surrounding areas have a big garbage problem already, and solving this problem is their own responsibility, and not other municipalities, especially those who have already taken measures to reduce their own landfill needs.

Demand The Right argues that unless there is a real effort made to increase recycling and diversion rates a new home for Toronto’s garbage will need to be found, and there are municipalities that are being targeted right now as potential future landfill sites for Toronto’s garbage.

Campaign organizers state that other communities should not have Toronto’s waste forced upon them, and municipalities should have the ability to approve or to reject these projects. They should also be given the chance to assess whether or not taking on another municipality’s garbage would be economically beneficial to them, as well as whether or not those benefits will offset any negative impacts it may have on the environment.

While design of the province’s environment assessment process is meant to identify risks, as well as risk mitigation options, there is always a risk in making a new landfill. Landfills are capable of contaminating watersheds, air quality, and can dramatically increase heavy truck traffic on community roads, Demand The Right argues.

Finally, Comiskey says that municipalities should be considered experts in their own waste management, as they are responsible for waste management within their own communities and have decades worth of expertise in managing waste, recycling, and diversion programs already in-house.

Municipalities such as Sarnia and Mississauga, along with the rest of Peel Region, have endorsed the campaign.

Oshawa councillor Nester Pidwerbecki points out that Durham already has addressed this issue.

“We have a motion passed to have no landfills in the region,” says Pidwerbecki.

However, he also conceded that he believes that every councillor should get behind the campaign.

“I think that you will find that most of us here – if not all of us – support you,” says Willie Woo, a councillor representing Clarington.

Several councillors, including Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster, are worried about the fact that Toronto’s waste already leaks into the Lake Ontario and ends up on Durham beaches during heavy rainstorms.

Comiskey says that this is the reason that Durham must act.

However, Comiskey doesn’t simply want more landfills, he wants to find a different way to deal with garbage altogether.

Currently, liners are being used to keep landfills from overflowing but Comiskey points out they are not always successful.

“There isn’t a landfill today that doesn’t have a liner,” he says. “There isn’t a liner today that doesn’t leak.”

He says that if the people of Ontario wish to get rid of landfills altogether, then it is time for the municipalities of the province to put their heads together.

Comiskey shared that approximately $800,000 has been invested into researching the type of facility that will be needed in order to deal with every single piece of garbage that comes through Oxford County. He says that the building will be constructed in the next two to three years, and that it will redirect all waste in Oxford County.

Comiskey hopes that these types of facilities will become common place around Ontario.

Comiskey’s request is up for final council approval at today’s meeting.

“I’m not going to stop until I have enough municipalities supporting this,” says Comiskey.

“We should not put this on the shoulders of our grandchildren and say ‘how are you going to deal with this now?’”