Ajax mayor calls on Ontario candidates to protect Carruthers Creek headwaters

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Published March 24, 2022 at 11:32 am

Carruthers Creek Watershed Study Map via Toronto and Region Conservation.

Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier formally asked all candidates running to represent the town in Queen’s Park this summer to commit to environmental protections for the Carruthers Creek headwaters.

Carruthers Creek is an important watershed running through Pickering and Ajax toward Lake Ontario, though the Headwaters sit in Pickering. The Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan found development in this area could result in up to 113 per cent more flooding in Ajax.

Adding the headwaters to the Green Belt came up in the 2018 provincial election with then-candidate Rod Phillips agreeing the addition in a debate, saying “It’s unclear why the headwaters of Carruthers Creek weren’t included in the Green Belt in the first place.”

Phillips was elected as the Ford Government swept into a majority and was assigned as Minister of the Environment, a position he held for nearly a year. The creek remains outside the Green Belt, even as other areas of Durham in Clarington were added.

The current Environment Minister David Piccini, whose riding includes Durham’s eastern reaches, has not moved to include the headwaters in the Green Belt amid calls to do so.

Carruthers Creek became a flashpoint of debate again last fall with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath coming to Ajax in October to announce her party would immediately add the headwaters to the Green Belt if elected in June.

Weeks later, Phillips reiterated the support he voiced three years prior for the Green Belt addition via a Facebook post. Oshawa MPP Jennifer French later waded in and brought the issue up in Question Period.

After she felt he questions were “brushed off” she said, “Rod Phillips, the MPP for Ajax, broke his promise to get this done. And today, Doug Ford’s ministers brushed off our questions, and refused to make any commitments.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner also called on the Ford Government to add the headwaters November 16. “These vital wetlands protect the region from flooding and are a crucial source for fresh, clean water. Giving developers the greenlight to pave over the wetlands is a direct invitation for flooding disasters,” he said.

Phillips resigned the Ajax seat in February, leaving the town unrepresented in Queen’s Park until the next session of provincial parliament. Patrice Barnes was later tapped by the the Progressive Conservatives to run for the seat.

Meanwhile the NDP tapped former mayor Steve Parish to run this summer. Parish, a longtime supporter of environmental protections in Ajax, voiced support for expanding the Green Belt in the announcement of his campaign.

However, Parish candidacy proved short-lived and he exited the race weeks later amid controversy for naming an Ajax street after Nazi naval commander Hans Langsdorff. The NDP have yet to announce a replacement.

Now Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier is calling on the candidates from each party to support including the headwaters of Carruthers Creek in Green Belt.

“The matter is of great concern to Ajax voters due to the potential downstream impacts that development in the area (north-east Pickering) would have on Ajax residents. We are also in a climate crisis,” Collier said, “Urbanizing agricultural land is costly on the taxpayer, leads to a loss of local food, increases flooding and impacts the natural environment.”

Collier has sent letter to Barnes, Liberal candidate Amber Bowen (the first to declare candidacy in May 2021) and None of the Above Party candidate Frank Lopez. Like the NDP, the Green Party has not yet declared a candidate.

The provincial election is scheduled for June 2.

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