Because what the proponent is trying to do is wrong.
It is wrong because they would not honour the commitments they made to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment as part of the competitive process through which they were awarded this development opportunity.
The proponent is unilaterally reneging on major and significant promises. All changes would be negative impacts to the environment and to Bala, and would only be for the convenience or increased profit to the proponent. The proponent is being allowed to do whatever they want, ignoring the required procedures in place for both their selection and for assessing the environmental impacts of this proposed project. Indeed, allowing the proponent to continue would make a mockery of the process and show the environmental assessment to be a farce. For example …
- The proponent said they would be “creating opportunities for recreation” and “not generally diminish the public’s enjoyment of the area for swimming, boating, fishing, picnicking and hiking.”
• But their development would not be safe for boaters or for people in the water. The Bracebridge Falls generating station has a 110′-long concrete breakwater to protect boaters, but the proposed Bala station would have nothing, even though it would have more than three times the flow.
- The proponent committed that they would not impact Portage Landing.
• But they would cut down all the trees on portage landing, drive trucks through it for two years, and then just leave it “seeded with native plants”. It would be up to the Township to figure out (and pay for) what to do with the barren wasteland left behind while the developer and investors go on to enjoy their profits from taking over 90% of the water from the Bala falls.
- The proponent said they would provide a rooftop viewing platform.
• But they now say they would provide a rooftop viewing platform only if they were able to cut down all the trees on Portage Landing and use it for construction purposes.
- The proponent showed that the footprint of the proposed building would be 401 m², and stated this would be the “largest building size required”.
• However, the proponent now shows that the building would be 48% larger than this.
- The proponent said they would build a more discreet building than the 16′ x 16′ station that used to be on the site. The proponent said the roof of their building would be below the level of Muskoka Road 169 – this is important so passers-by could see down the Moon River to be enticed to stop and visit. The proponent said their development of the site would include “tree plantings, improved maintenance of public green spaces and the addition of floral gardens, walking trails and rest areas furnished with benches and waste receptacles”.
• But the proponent would fill the entire 70′ x 100′ Crown land site with concrete and therefore block the Bala Portage and there would be no tree plantings or anything else desirable. Their proposed building not be below the road, it would be more than 20′ – that’s two to three storeys – above the road.
- The proponent said that even during construction, they would ensure continuous flow over the Bala north falls, as it required by the Muskoka River Water Management Plan and as is required for the critical Walleye habitat there.
• But the proponent would entirely block this flow for ten months, which would result in stagnant water.
- The proponent said that during the proposed construction, their upstream cofferdam would result in the loss of 840 m² of aquatic habitat.
• However, without environmental approval, three times this area of aquatic habitat would be destroyed.
- The proponent said that during the proposed construction, their cofferdams or other construction work would not impact the Walleye spawning habitat.
• However, they would build a temporary access ramp adjacent to this, which would destroy the habitat up to the location of the silt curtain. And the proponent does not have environmental approval for this temporary access ramp or silt curtain.
- The proponent said they would start in-water work after July 15, as required by the MNR to protect warm-water species reproduction.
• But they have requested to start in-water work more than a month earlier.
The MNR and MoE requirements were in place to comply with well-justified competitive and environmental needs.
But there has been no public consultation, there has not even been any public notification for these changes. In fact, the proponent has made these changes in secrecy without the information being available to the general public. They are hoping to “get away with it” without being caught. This is the unnacceptable behaviour of a self-serving private developer trying to take more for themselves of the public resource of land and public water to increase their profits.
Through a formal procurement and environmental assessment process, the proponent made commitments. As this was a competitive process, and as there was good reason to require these commitments, the proponent must be required to honour these commitments.