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Rosario Marchese: Local produce or aggregates?

September 20th, 2012 · 5 Comments

By Rosario Marchese, Member of Provincial Parliament for Trinity-Spadina

Part of my job as a Member of Provincial Parliament involves participating on the committees that evaluate the effectiveness of existing laws. Earlier this year, my colleagues and I held committee hearings on the Aggregate Resources Act, the legislation that governs the operation of pits and quarries in Ontario.

Although it may not seem like it at first, the extraction of aggregates is of great importance to places like downtown Toronto. These materials—such as gravel, sand, and crushed rock—are essential components in the construction and maintenance of our infrastructure.

However, these quarries are also a serious threat to our environment and water supply. They are eating up Ontario’s prime agricultural land. And they are being built close to residential and environmentally sensitive areas with little public consultation or municipal approval.

The Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) was created 22 years ago. Despite being amended in 2009, it still does not provide the protection Ontarians need. In fact, the Environmental Commissioner has asked for a review of the ARA 17 times over the past 12 years.

The committee that is reviewing the ARA has travelled to several towns and cities in Ontario, where we heard the concerns of many residents and communities. Several items stuck with me throughout these consultations.

First, Ontario consumes 164 million tonnes of aggregates each year, and this number is expected to increase by 13 per cent over the next 20 years.

Second, we can do much better when it comes to the recycling of aggregate material. Only seven per cent of aggregate material is currently recycled. (In comparison, the United Kingdom manages to recycle 21 per cent.) The remainder—pieces of broken concrete and asphalt—is wasted.

Third, it would be an extremely short-sighted decision to choose quarries over prime agricultural land. Aggregates are a finite resource, and can only be collected once. Farm crops, however, can be grown and harvested annually. One farmer who spoke to the committee pointed out that he can grow lettuce on his land for $18,000 per tonne year after year, while aggregates sell for a mere eight dollars per tonne, and can only be dug up once.

I support measures that would develop a more sustainable aggregates industry in Ontario.  We need incentives to recycle a greater percentage of asphalt and aggregates from Toronto and other municipalities. The provincial government could help cities increase the amount of recycled aggregates that can be used in construction projects. Information could be provided to let consumers actively choose recycled aggregate material.

We should also discuss our local priorities. At the moment, Ontario insists that aggregates be obtained close to market, but also supports produce grown close to home. Although both are desirable goals, the limited amount of space around most of our cities means a choice needs to be made. This is a conflict that is currently playing out at the Melancthon Quarry, and in the communities nearby.

Which would you rather have? Locally grown produce or locally dug gravel? For me, the choice is obvious.

Tags: Annex · News · Editorial

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Joyce R. Clark // Sep 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Great article I agree. Thank you

  • 2 Lauren // Sep 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Yes, yes, yes and yes. Nicely said. I agree 100%. And I work in the new home construction industry.

  • 3 marnie // Sep 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    The choice is obvious. Locally grown produce wins over locally dug gravel!!!!

  • 4 Gene Threndyle // Sep 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    I am completely opposed to this mega quarry but when Rosario Marchese suggests that aggregate does not need to be local then where does he suggest it come from? The condos in Toronto and the building in the sprawl of the GTA unfortunately can’t be built from recycled aggregate alone.
    Mr. Marchese also has told me in the past that he is opposed to local municipalities having a say in green energy projects like wind turbines, solar farms and bio-digesters. I can’t help but feel it is a bit of a double standard to say consult with locals on quarries but not on green energy.
    This mega quarry must not be allowed to go ahead but glib platitudes and hypocricy will not stop it.

  • 5 Norma // Sep 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Our street is under complete reconstruction – new sewers to replace the stone box made of limestone slabs in the late 18 hundreds,new water pipes & new storm sewers. In places they have to dig out three feet of limestone as the new plastic sewer will be much deeper. Before laying the new pipe,crushed gravel is vibrated into place – An enormous amount of gravel is being used. Fortunately,a lot of what is removed is put back in,but still there are many truck loads of fresh gravel.
    And we are not even at the road surface.
    What’s the answer?