Thursday, June 2, 2011

Feast your intellect with the Root of the Idea

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner; published as "Ecofest an all-encompassing experience"

Ecofest is back – bigger and better than before. This 2-day event goes beyond vendors, entertainment and food with a feast for the intellect at The Root of the Idea Exchange, an interactive, free-ranging panel discussion featuring a wide variety of interesting guests. Moderated by A News anchor Tony Grace and co-hosted by local teen enviro-blogger Bailey Thompson, panelists will address some fascinating current topics you won’t want to miss.

First up, the question of how best to protect and preserve Lake Simcoe, on whose shores Ecofest takes place. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux of the Chippewas of Georgina Island, who actually live within the Lake, will bring perspective on the long-term impacts to health & sustainability of the tremendous historic developments (past, present, and proposed) the watershed has seen. With expert feedback will be Gayle Wood, who has served on the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority for the past 15 years, years that have seen a lot of rapid growth but more recently, the introduction of the Integrated Watershed Management Plan and the provincial Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Her top interest is effective partnerships between business, the community, and governments at all levels.

And government will be well-represented on the panel, including our federal Member of Parliament Patrick Brown, and Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman to bring the municipal perspective. I know Jeff has a lot of exciting visionary ideas, while Patrick hopes to extend the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund with new money, and they will both be taking questions about future plans & developments for Barrie. Speaking from the provincial policy level will be Andrew Miller, Barrie’s Green candidate for Ontario’s fall election.

I am sure Andrew will also share his thoughts on rural economies and the debates around market farms and energy farms, since his Back to Basics projects deal with both food and biodiesel, a form of vegetable-based alternative energy.

From the environmental volunteer sector comes local businessman Mike Fox, active member of Transition Barrie, Living Green, and the Chamber of Commerce BASE3 committee.

It all takes place next Sunday afternoon, June 12th, on the main stage sponsored by Living Green. At 1 pm, before the main panel, see special guest Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, who comes from farming roots and has a deep background in healthy & local food distribution. He’ll describe initiatives to connect farmers wanting to be more sustainable with institutions wanting to offer healthier food in their cafeterias – and how to link local Simcoe farmers with partners like Georgian College, Royal Victoria Hospital, or the school boards. Right after Mike will be artisanal chocolatier Michael Sacco, whose bike-powered ChocoSol operation is both tasty and sustainable. Sweet! See you there!

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

UPDATE: This column generated a response letter from our MPP Aileen Carroll, copied below:

(Re: 'Ecofest an all-encompassing experience' in the June 2 edition of the Examiner)

I take issue with Erich Jacoby- Hawkins' column about Ecofest in which he advises that the Mayor Jeff Lehman will represent the municipal government, the MP Patrick Brown the federal government and Andrew Miller, the Green Party candidate for the provincial election in October will be "speaking from the provincial policy level."

This clearly implies that the Green Party candidate has the authority to represent the third governmental component; that is the Ontario provincial level of government. He most certainly does not.

He may hope to someday, but for now he is one candidate. The Liberal government of Ontario has passed and is implementing the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, which is the most comprehensive watershed-based legislated plan in Canada.

I am joined by several environmental groups in this community in my pride in this accomplishment. Further, my government has committed $20 million to protect the health of Lake Simcoe, improve water quality and restore a coldwater fish community. By working together, we have managed to reduce phosphorous levels from 100 tonnes to 72.

While political intentions are worthy, actions, as ever, speak louder than words.

Aileen Carroll Liberal MPP Barrie

Sorry if you feel slighted, Ms. Carroll, but despite your attempt to change my meaning through paraphrasing, my column accurately described the people who would be on the panel and what each of them would be contributing to the discussion. Andrew Miller does not represent the provincial government, nor did I say or imply that he does - quite the contrary, I clearly & explicitly labeled him as a candidate. However, as a duly nominated respresentative of a registered provincial party, it is certainly within his purview to discuss provincial policy. You don't hold a monopoly on that.

I did not create this panel, I merely wrote about it to generate interest. If you feel that your own government needs to be represented, then it falls to you to ensure that you take part in events like this. Then perhaps your actions could speak louder than your words in a letter to the editor. Certainly no-one can deny that Andrew Miller is a man of action.

Here is another response to Ms. Carroll, carried in the June 21 print edition of the Barrie Examiner:

The future is at stake

On June 12, I watched a fantastic panel discussion, the Root of the Idea Exchange, put together by the organizers of Ecofest Barrie. Citizens brought forward important concerns and provincial Green Party candidate Andrew Miller joined other panelists, including Mayor Jeff Lehman and Patrick Brown, Barrie's MP, in exploring areas of possible action. In doing so, Miller drew upon his experience with launching local initiatives and non-profits, as well as his growing understanding of how provincial policy impacts our food, water, health and economy.
Barrie MPP Aileen Carroll has written that he was misrepresented in Erich Jacoby-Hawkins' recent column as speaking for her provincial government. Having re-read it carefully, it is clear that Miller was accurately described as the Green Party candidate, not a government official.

Perhaps Ms. Carroll believes no one but her should speak about provincial policy. The last I checked, we live in a free democracy, and the Ontario legislature has risen in advance of the next general election.

I am happy our current MPP can point to some prior environmental efforts, but now is the time for all of us to look forward and explore different ideas, as we decide the path of the next four years. Past accomplishments are well and good, but it is our future which is now at stake. I hope she will remember that, ultimately, it is the citizens who must guide our elected officials, and this coming fall, elect them.

Kelly Weedon, Barrie

No comments:

Post a Comment