Transcript: Preserving Duffins Creek Wetland | Feb 05, 2021

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and beige plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

A wall screen behind him reads "Ontario Hubs."

Jeyan says DUFFINS CREEK RUNS SOUTH TO LAKE ONTARIO RIGHT BETWEEN PICKERING AND AJAX, ON THE EASTERN END OF THE GTA. THIS PAST FALL, A MINISTER'S ZONING ORDER GAVE THE GREEN LIGHT TO DEVELOP A PORTION OF IT, WHICH HAS PROMPTED SOME REAL PUSHBACK FROM CITIZENS GROUPS, AND EVEN THE AJAX TOWN COUNCIL. MARSHA McLEOD IS OUR EASTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST, AND SHE JOINS US NOW FROM KINGSTON WITH THAT STORY.

Marsha is in her twenties, with long auburn hair. She's wearing glasses, a mustard yellow blazer and a white blouse.

Jeyan continues WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

Marsha says THANK YOU.

Jeyan says ALL RIGHT. SO CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DUFFINS CREEK WETLAND AREA?

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod. Eastern Ontario Hubs Journalist."
Then, it changes again to "The lay of the land."

A slate briefly pops up under the title "Duffins Creek."

A satellite photograph shows the wetlands and the city around them.

Marsha says SO. LET'S START WITH THE LOCATION. IT'S NEAR PICKERING CLOSE TO THE BORDER WITH AJAX, AND THE SITE THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, THE PROPOSAL IS THAT A VERY LARGE WAREHOUSE IS ON TOP OF THIS SITE AND IT'S ABOUT A 57-ACRE PROPERTY AND MOST OF IT IS PROVINCIALLY SIGNIFICANT WETLAND. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT ALL WETLAND ARE SPECIAL BUT IT HAS A DESIGNATION FROM THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT WHICH SAYS THIS ONE IS EXTRA SPECIAL. THE SITE THAT THE PROPERTY IS RELOCATED ON, EACH OF THAT SITE IS IN THE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT OF DURHAM LIVE. THERE'S GOING TO BE A CASINO, A CASINO RESORT, AS WELL AS A FILM STUDIO. IT'S IN THE PROCESS OF BEING BUILT AND BOTH SITES, THE WAREHOUSE AS WELL AS DURHAM LIVE ARE BEING DEVELOPED BY THE SAME DEVELOPER, TRIPLE PROPERTIES.

Jeyan says IN THAT MAP YOU CAN SEE IT'S RIGHT ALONG THE 401 AND I IMAGINE A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE DRIVING ALONG THAT CORRIDOR PROBABLY MISS IT, ESPECIALLY IN THE DEAD OF WINTER IT MAY NOT LOOK AT VIBRANT. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE ECOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT LAND?

As Marsha replies, a short clip shows the area, covered in which is filled with dry shrubs and a few trees.

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod, @marshamcleod_."

Marsha says ABSOLUTELY. AND THAT'S A REALLY GOOD QUESTION BECAUSE WHEN YOU GO TO THIS LAND, IT DOESN'T LOOK THAT BEAUTIFUL, IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THAT MUCH. I WENT THERE. YOU CAN SEE IT. YOU COULD DRIVE RIGHT BY IT WHEN YOU GO PAST IT ON THE 401. IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT'S SOMETHING SPECIAL. BUT A LOT IS GOING ON. ONE OF THE MAIN THINGS IS FLOOD MISSION. SO ONE OF THE COLLEGES EXPLAINED IT TO ME LIKE THIS. WATER COMES DOWN FROM THE OAKRIDGES MORAINE. ALONG THE WAY WHEN IT MEETS THE WETLAND, THAT REALLY HELPS TO SPREAD OUT THE WATER AND PREVENT IT FROM POOLING IN PLACES LIKE WE DON'T WANT, LIKE PROPERTY OWNERS' BASEMENTS. AND AS WELL THE VEGETATION OF WETLAND REALLY HELPS SOAK UP THE WATER, IT PROVIDES POOLING SPOTS FOR WATER TO REALLY HELP PREVENT SOME OF THAT FLASH FLOODING THAT IS BECOMING MORE COMMON AMID CLIMATE CHANGE AND RISING TEMPERATURES. AND IT'S PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT BECAUSE RIGHT ACROSS THE 401 ARE TWO COMMUNITIES THAT THE TORONTO AND REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY HAVE SAID ARE AT VERY HIGH RISK OF FLOODING AND IN FACT HAVE A LONG HISTORY OF FLOODING. THE OTHER THING THAT WAS MENTIONED IS PROBABLY ANOTHER ECOLOGIST EXPLAINED TO ME IS THAT WETLANDS REALLY PLAY A HUGE ROLE IN CLEANING WATER, BOTH IN TERMS OF THEIR PLANTS AND THEIR SOIL. SO IT REALLY PROVIDES A LOT OF BENEFITS TO THE PEOPLE IN THE SURROUNDING NEIGHBOURHOODS.

Jeyan says SO FOR YOUR LATEST FOR TVO.org, YOU LOOK AT THE MINISTER'S ZONING ORDERS, ALSO KNOWN AS MZOs. HOW ARE THEY AFFECTING THINGS WITH THIS DEVELOPMENT HERE?

The caption changes to "The Minister's Order."

Marsha says WELL, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS AN MZO? IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT WE TALK ABOUT EVERY DAY. AN MZO IS BASICALLY A PROVINCIAL EDICT ISSUED BY THE MINISTER OF MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS AND HOUSING WHO IS CURRENTLY STEVE CLARK. AND IT'S A PROCESS THAT BASICALLY BYPASSES LOCAL ZONING PROCESSES AND IN DOING SO IT MEANS THAT CITIZENS DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO APPEAL AND THERE'S ALSO NO BUILT-IN PROCESSES FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATION. AND SO IN TERMS OF HOW THIS IS RELEVANT, THERE ARE TWO PARTS. SO THE FIRST PART IS, IN LATE ONTARIO, AN MZO WAS ISSUED FOR THIS PROPERTY IN PICKERING AND THE CONSERVATION AUTHORITY COULD HAVE SAID, NO, WE RECOMMEND A REFUSAL OF THIS PERMIT BECAUSE IT DOESN'T GO ALONG WITH PROVINCIAL PLANNING GUIDELINES WHICH RESTRICT DEVELOPMENT ON PROVINCIALLY SIGNIFICANT WETLANDS, AND THEY PLANNED TO DO SO, IS WHAT THEY TOLD ME. HOWEVER, IN DECEMBER WITH BILL 229, THERE WAS A SMALL PORTION OF THAT BUDGET BILL THAT SAID ACTUALLY, NO, CONSERVATION AUTHORITIES MUST, IN THE CASE OF AN MZO, ISSUE THE PERMIT AND REALLY THEIR ONLY RECOURSE IS TO NEGOTIATE COMPENSATION WITH THE PARTIES. SO THE TORONTO AND REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY IS NOW REQUIRED TO ISSUE THAT PERMIT.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Jeyan says SO WHAT I UNDERSTAND IS WHEN AN MZO IS PUT IN PLACE, THAT'S IT. THERE'S REALLY NO APPEAL PROCESS.

Marsha says ABSOLUTELY. AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY IN MY STORY I TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT BECAUSE TRIPLE PROPERTIES' LAWYER HAS REALLY EMPHASIZED THAT TO THE PICKERING CITY COUNCIL THAT THIS WILL MOVE ALONG MUCH FASTER BECAUSE THERE IS NOT ANY OPPORTUNITIES FOR APPEAL, NO OPPORTUNITIES FROM ANYONE, HE SAID, AND ALSO YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO THROUGH THAT PUBLIC PLANNING.

Jeyan says SO, MARSHA, UNDER THIS NEW GOVERNMENT THEY'VE BEEN SCRUTINIZED IN HOW OFTEN MZOs ARE BEING USED. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Environment. 'Poster child for destruction': The fight to save the Duffins Creek wetland from developers. By Marsha McLeod."

Marsha says YEAH. I MEAN, THERE ARE A COUPLE OF KEY NUMBERS. SO UNDER THE FORD GOVERNMENT, SINCE 2019, MORE THAN 30 MZOs HAVE BEEN ISSUED, WHICH IS IN COMPARISON... ONE RESIDENCE ASSOCIATION IN TORONTO FOUND THAT BETWEEN 1969 AND 2000, JUST 49 MZOs WERE ISSUED. SO A RATE AT A LITTLE OVER ONE A YEAR. AND PRIOR TO PREMIER FORD, THESE MZOs WERE ISSUED QUITE SPARINGLY AND OFTEN IN EMERGENCIES AND FOR HIS PART, MINISTER CLARK HAS SAID THESE MZOs ARE ISSUED TO CUT THROUGH RED TAPE ESPECIALLY AMID THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF COVID-19 AND THEY'RE BUILDING LONG-TERM CARE HOMES, ESPECIALLY IN AURORA, WHERE THE TOWN SAID THEY WERE PRETTY SHOCKED BY THAT AND WERE NOT PART OF THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS AS THE PROPERTY WAS ON PROVINCIALLY OWNED LANDS AND ALSO MINISTER CLARK'S OFFICE DID TELL ME THAT ALL MZOs THAT HAVE BEEN ISSUED ON NON-PROVINCIALLY OWN LAND HAVE BEEN DONE AT THE BEHEST OF MUNICIPALITIES.

Jeyan says YOU SPOKE TO A NUMBER OF ECOLOGIES AND STUDENTS WHO ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT IT, WHO ARE CRITICIZING THIS DEVELOPMENT AND MZOs. BUT I IMAGINE THERE IS SOME SUPPORT AND SOME RATIONALE BEHIND THIS WAREHOUSE. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?

The caption changes to "Job creation versus conservation."

Marsha says SURE. SO MAYOR DAVE RYAN IN PICKERING, HE SAID THAT THIS WAREHOUSE IS EXPECTED TO CREATE 2,000 TO 3,000 JOBS WHICH ARE SORELY NEEDED IN PICKERING. HE SAID TO ME THAT THERE IS A HUGE PENT-UP DEMAND FOR JOBS IN PICKERING AND HAS EMPHASIZED THAT THESE LANDS ARE GOING TO BE RECREATED ELSEWHERE, THAT THERE'S GOING TO BE AN ECOLOGICAL BENEFIT AFTER THEY'VE BEEN DESTROYED. HOWEVER, ECOLOGIES DID SAY TO ME THAT RECREATED WETLANDS ARE REALLY NOT AS GOOD AS THE WAY THAT NATURE CREATES THEM.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."
Then, it changes again to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Jeyan says SOMETHING WE'LL KEEP OUR EYES ON. MARSHA, I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. THAT'S MARSHA McLEOD, OUR EASTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Preserving Duffins Creek Wetland