Response to Ottawa's proposed Official Rural Plan

Response to Ottawa's proposed Official Rural Plan
Posted on April 15, 2013 | Jim Poushinsky | Written on April 15, 2013
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Dear Mayor and Councillors,

At the Manotick public meeting it was clear that Ottawa's proposed Official Rural Plan is a bureaucratic strategy that fails to address the planning issues of deepest concern to rural residents. The following subjects weren't on the table at all:

1) The change in the official designation of the rural lands from "rural" to "employment lands". The old rural zoning allowed for a mix of farms and residences and home businesses. The new "employment lands" definition effectively changes most of the countryside into one big industrial zone, with no consideration whatsoever for the quality of life of the thousands of people living in rural residences throughout this area.

2) Ottawa's rural planning strategy appears designed to gradually empty the countryside by making it unsuitable for human habitation. Penalties are proposed for cars, which are a basic necessity to live at a rural address. Roads will not be improved, and will be made even narrower by designating bike lanes and sidewalk areas. Protection from air, soil, and water contamination will be much greater in village residential areas than for rural homes. For example, the 45,000 annual tonnes of city sewage sludge "biosolids" being spread on prime agricultural land must be kept back 450 meters from a home in a residential development, but can be spread 90 meters from an isolated rural home. The standard of protection from the pathogens and toxic chemicals in sewage run-off and stinking aerosols and dust is thus 5 times greater for urban vs rural residents. City staff advised one rural resident made sick by the sludge "the rural area is an industrial zone, if you want to be healthy don't move to the country, move into the city"!

3) Mega landfills for construction wastes, contaminated soils, and garbage dumps that are springing up in every direction, with all the related pollution and heavy truck traffic on our rural roads and through our villages are not mentioned at all. Combine this ever-increasing truck traffic with it's hazardous loads (unmarked 40 tonne loads of sewage biosolids can contain up to 2 million e-coli per 1/2 cup!) with the plan to do nothing to improve roads and instead make them narrower. Then think of the consequences for rural children who take school buses, for the retired elderly who need to get to medical appointments, for the rural people who farm part-time while commuting to day jobs, for fire and ambulance and police response times.

The obvious beneficiaries of this city plan for the rural areas are both the corporations making millions in profits from the disposal of the city's hazardous wastes, and the cash crop farmers who buy or lease the smaller farms people are being pressured to leave by health and environmental and traffic and enjoyment of life concerns. These smaller farms are then combined into large fields from which the buildings are removed, the trees cut, and the taxpayer subsidized monoculture of corn or sod grown in city sewage sludge biosolids instituted. Huge machinery for spreading sewage, tilling, spraying herbicides and pesticides, and harvesting these GMO crops are on the rural roads, and too often illegally blocking them.

Is this really the use of local agricultural lands that the people of Ottawa want to enshrine in an Official Plan for the next 20 years? Why is there no discussion and consideration of the increasing popular demand for organic food, and the necessity of protecting farmland and encouraging small scale farming for this purpose? Why are part-time farmers who are keeping the land productive for diverse agricultural purposes not being encouraged, rather than discouraged?

The treatment of Ottawa's annexed rural population by government bureaucrats under the disproportionate influence of the toxic waste disposal industry and a minority of cash crop corporate farmers is unacceptable in our democracy, as it discriminates against the rural population and renders them second class citizens without the health and environmental pollution safeguards given to the city's urban population. Such a policy is clearly in violation of the Canadian Constitution (see below) and should not proceed. Instead there needs to be a widespread discussion for as long as it takes to come up with a consensus plan that is in the best interests of both rural and urban residents of Ottawa, and makes us all happy to be living here. In my opinion, such a discussion has barely started!

From the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution of Canada
Equality Rights
EQUALITY BEFORE AND UNDER LAW AND EQUAL PROTECTION AND BENEFIT OF LAW / Affirmative action programs. 15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination (!) ....

Sincerely,

Jim Poushinsky (retired MSW social worker and farmer)
RR#1 Edwards, Ottawa, Ontario K0A1V0

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Great letter Jim. I agree that rural land should be maintained as rural land, even if its inside City boundaries. This is especially true for farmland. If we want to build a sustainable city we will need a strong local food industry, which can only happen if we maintain and safeguard Ottawa's rural lands.