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Great Lakes Article:

Protester greets buyers of properties on moraine
By Jonathan Fowlie

As prospective home buyers were ushered into the newly opened Aspen Ridge Homes sales office by a security guard yesterday, David Donnelly looked on in frustration, able only to stand by and hope his "Save, don't pave, the Oak Ridges Moraine" sign would sway the opinion of those looking to buy houses on the environmentally sensitive land.

Mr. Donnelly and other members of Environmental Defence Canada said they plan to keep a vigil on the Oak Ridges Moraine until Dalton McGuinty's Liberals take over government on Thursday.

This week, after a speech to about 1,000 members of Toronto's business community, Mr. McGuinty warned developers planning to build 6,600 houses on the moraine to stop work immediately or face government action when he takes office.

Last night in a speech to Liberals, he reaffirmed his commitment to protect the moraine.

The moraine is considered a valuable environmental feature of the Greater Toronto Area because it provides a wilderness corridor north of Toronto and contains about five dozen rivers and streams that run into Lake Ontario.

Yesterday, Glenn De Baeremaeker, president of the moraine advocacy group Save the Rouge Valley System, called the announcement "one of the most profound environmental victories of this decade."

"When you get past all the hype and people arguing back and forth, [Mr. McGuinty's promise] means clean water in 65 river systems in Southern Ontario for the next hundred years," he said.

However, Mr. De Baeremaeker and others wanting to protect the moraine are worried about the damage that could be done before Mr. McGuinty takes office.

"If they're bulldozing, they are destroying an irreplaceable terrain," said Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby, who represents Environmental Defence Canada.

Yesterday morning, bulldozers worked on the moraine as staff at Aspen Ridge Homes prepared to open a showroom this weekend.

"What they are doing is exploiting a little [gap] in our democracy called the transition, where there is a vacuum of power," Mr. Donnelly said.

The developers said they signed an agreement with the province and expect to continue the work that has been approved.

"There was an agreement defining the lands that could be developed and lands that the province would acquire by a swap for land in Pickering," says a statement issued yesterday by Lebovic Homes, one of the firms looking to build on the moraine. "We expect the province to honour the agreement."

In 2001, Municipal Affairs Minister Chris Hodgson announced a deal to swap the lands then held by developers for less sensitive, provincially owned lands off the moraine in North Pickering.

Opponents of the construction say the deal protects far less land than the amount provincial officials at a Ontario Municipal Board hearing said should be saved.

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