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Stay above the "He says, she says" fray

It seemed for a while this fall that there was a brief flurry of activity on the proposed Flamborough Quarry application by St Marys. This was a dramatic change from the snail's pace of progress to which we have all become accustomed. First, there was the lead-up to and the provincial election campaign, with all candidates appearing at the various debates stating their personal opposition to the proposal. The media reported about a former illegal dump site on Campbellville Road and the potential for toxins to be released as a result of the proposed quarry development. St Marys issued Community Newsletter #5 "to answer commonly asked questions from the Public Information Centre". St Marys then issued Community Newsletter #6 "to clarify the most persistent myths about the proposed development and to clarify key facts". And, in addition an advertorial duel appeared in local papers between Councillor Margaret McCarthy - who has vigorously opposed this application on behalf of her constituents right from the start - and St Marys VP John Moroz.

Some may wonder who is correct in this emerging "he says, she says" debate, to borrow a phrase from the media. Others may ask whether FORCE, on behalf of our Communities, should actively engage in the debate and whether Councillor McCarthy should also refute St Marys material point by point. There is an expression that "figures lie and liars figure". What it really means is that statistics can always be used to make one's point. As an example, some, including Councillor McCarthy and the Community, have used St Marys own projected annual production tonnage figures along with the industry's own Aggregates & Roadbuilding Magazine's "Canada's 20 Largest Quarries - 2004" ranking to suggest that this proposed development, if approved, would become the 8th largest quarry in Canada, based on annual production. St Marys has countered - not comparing apples with apples - but repositioning its proposed development downward. St Marys compares it to other quarries on the basis of proposed hectares for extraction and changed references to 3 million annual tonnes from projected annual production to a maximum tonnage condition. The company has also noted that there are many licenses with unlimited annual tonnage allowances - which is true - but what was being compared originally was documented actual and estimated annual production levels from the industry itself.

This kind of "repositioning" by the proponent has also happened with the proposed groundwater mitigation system. Remember back to the early public meetings where Bob Long - Lowndes Holding Corp's lead consultant - was unable to name a location anywhere in the world where such a groundwater mitigation system was operating. Then Gartner Lee while working on behalf of St Marys, submitted as supporting documents for the groundwater mitigation system test application, third party documents which stated clearly that "No examples of the use of recharge wells as a mitigation measure for quarry dewatering were found in the published literature" (Huxley p13). And furthermore these same studies document the long term failure of these prospective systems due to plugging up. Now, in the fall of 2007, St Marys has suddenly identified the Kirkfield Quarry in eastern Ontario as its example. It will be interesting to compare the geology of the two areas, to understand how similar the technology approach really is, and to look at the data for ongoing operations and long term performance. Because after all it is the data and science that really matter.

As a Community, we suspected when St Marys took over the application for this proposed open pit quarry development from Lowndes Holdings Corp. that we should expect professional, "friendly", and relentless PR in the form of ads, flyers, and other communications. We expected that PR positioning would try to positively position the company and the industry as a whole as leaders and as environmental stewards. We expected that PR positioning might try to divide the community and to negate or discredit the hard work of the Community thus far. We need to continue to be aware of these PR strategies and tactics but as a professional and substantive community, we need to stay above the "he says, she says" fray and to continue to use science and the law to advance our case. It is a waste of Councillor McCarthy's and the Community's time and resources to engage in a figures and positioning debate with St Marys. We need to remain united and keep on our strategic course and our messaging.

So, what should we be expecting for the balance of this year? We congratulate Ted McMeekin on his re-election and ask him to immediately renew his efforts to champion our case at Queen's Park. We must hold the newly re-elected Liberal Government accountable for its commitments to protect our drinking water, to maintain and expand the integrity of the Greenbelt, to update the aggregate resource inventory, and to reform the aggregate licensing process. We will keep working with our champion, Councillor McCarthy, because we also need to keep building upon the strong working relationships and open lines of communication we have developed with her help with the staff and elected municipal government officials who will ultimately be making recommendations and decisions on this land use application. We should expect new hydrogeology material from St Marys very soon now and a second Public Information Centre meeting as part of the Haul Route Study will likely be held before the end of the year. In the mean time we will continue to professionally and substantively raise questions and concerns about the key issues in order to validate our legitimate opposition to this application. People can play with the figures and facts all they want, but common sense will prevail, this proposed industrial open pit mine does not belong here.

Stay above the fray. Stay the course.



Together We Will Succeed!