Big business in our backyard

What it is that makes this place we call home so dear to us?

June 19, 2012 | | Back Issues | Departments | Editor’s Desk | In Every Issue | Summer 2012

There’s a local battle going on in Erin over Nestlé Waters Canada’s renewal of its permit to pump 1.1 million litres a day from its well near Hillsburgh. It’s very likely the citizens who oppose the renewal will lose that battle. However, as Jeff Rollings points out in “Battling the bottle,” this skirmish is another indication that the effects of global economics have arrived in our backyard. Almost overnight it seems, from wind to aggregates to water, very large corporate interests have taken a bead on the natural resources of our green hills.

Perhaps most concerning in Jeff’s report is the plausible speculation that water, not aggregates nor potatoes, may be the real target of the Highland Companies development plans in Melancthon. As part of its application, the company, backed by investment guru Seth Klarman and his Baupost Group, is seeking a Permit to Take Water at the rate of 600 million litres a day, a volume that would make Nestlé’s application look like small potatoes.

Curiously this phenomenon is occurring just as the Headwaters community is redefining itself. After years of embracing pretty much a develop-or-die mentality, which saw great swaths of farmland disappear under developers’ bulldozers, we’ve been collectively reassessing what it is that makes this place we call home so dear to us. Survey after survey puts the natural landscape and agriculture at the top of the list.

These are not just sentimental attachments, they are the golden eggs of the community’s economy, attracting not only tourism but a new breed of settler, people whom planner Richard Florida calls the “creative class” – artists, scientists, technology innovators and other professionals who produce “intellectual” goods. Inspired by the local-food movement, farming too has re-emerged as a key growth sector for the region.

Protection of our natural assets is not just self-serving. They also provide a vital service to our urban neighbours downstream. The Greenbelt along with other provincial legislation commendably recognizes the value of those assets, but it leaves the back door open for intensive resource extraction. As a result, several big boys are muscling in to grab our stuff and take it away. It behooves us to be very wary about what these new kids on our block are up to.

With this issue, we say farewell to Susan Robb. Susan has been our proofreader for more than 15 years and her eagle-eye and sharp pen have spared us many a humiliation. She is retiring for health reasons and we offer her our fond best wishes and very deep gratitude for her long commitment to this magazine.

About the Author More by Signe Ball

Signe Ball is publisher/editor of In The Hills.

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