Action Champlain’s motion to appeal an Ontario Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) decision regarding the proposed Colacem Canada cement plant near L’Orignal in Divisional Court has been rejected.
On April 12, the LPAT ruled against Action Champlain’s appeal of a 2017 decision by the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) council, which approved an Official Plan Amendment to permit Colacem Canada to build a cement production plant next to its existing quarry on County Road 17 near L’Orignal. On April 12, the LPAT also ruled in favour of Colacem’s appeal of a 2017 decision by Champlain Township council, which rejected a Zoning By-Law Amendment that was required for the construction of the cement plant.
On June 21, lawyers Ronald Caza and Gabriel Poliquin represented Action Champlain, presenting to Judge Patrick Boucher their reasons for the motion to be accepted, while lawyer Chris Barnett representing Colacem argued the motion for appeal should be rejected. On June 30, Boucher refused the motion for the appeal.
As a result of the rejection of the motion, Action Champlain is also required to pay $20,000 in legal fees to Colacem and $5,000 in legal fees to the UCPR.
The legal options for Action Champlain are now exhausted. On the evening of Sunday, July 4, the organization held an online meeting to discuss using a political approach to try and stop the cement plant from being built.
Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Amanda Simard, and Member of Parliament (MP) Francis Drouin participated in the meeting. Both Simard and Drouin have previously stated their concerns about the cement plant and alleged there were irregularities with the studies done by Colacem on adverse effects, though the project has been approved by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks.
André Chabot of Action Champlain chaired the meeting and urged everyone to write to Ontario environment minister David Piccini to request he intervene to stop the cement plant from being constructed. Chabot urged residents to make the cement plant an issue in future election campaigns at all levels.
MP Drouin supported Chabot’s call to write to the province.
“The Premier of Ontario has the ability to interfere,” said Drouin, referring to how former Premier Dalton McGuinty cancelled controversial natural gas power stations and how Premier Doug Ford cancelled several green energy projects after taking office.
Drouin said the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans can intervene if an agency such as South Nation Conservation were to express concerns over the cement plant negatively affecting aquatic life in the nearby Charlebois Drain.
“There are elections coming. There is time for action,” Chabot remarked. He said he believes legal decisions favouring the cement plant are an insult to local residents because of the unpopularity of the project.
“We’re with you, we’re going to do everything we can within our jurisdiction,” said Simard.
“It’s up to the minister and the government,” she added.
Chabot expressed disappointment in the LPAT decision, but Drouin stated he had told him in 2017 that it was unlikely the appeal to what was then called the Ontario Municipal Board would succeed. Drouin said it is time to move on and defended the democratic process of tribunals and courts.
Simard and Drouin agreed to create a form letter for people opposed to the cement plant to send to the provincial and federal governments.
Action Champlain Supporter Gary Champagne questioned if the federal Minister of the Environment should be persuaded to intervene. Champagne noted the federal government has recently begun an environmental assessment (EA) on an unpopular plan to build a new highway northwest of Toronto.
Drouin explained a federal EA on the cement plant site is unlikely because the quarry output is less than three million tonnes per year and no federally-listed endangered species have been identified in the area.
“If I am going to advocate on behalf of my community, I need to be equipped with solid facts,” said Drouin.
The MP added it is difficult to request a federal EA when no provincial EA has been done. However, Drouin said he would not rule out contacting the federal environment minister as a last resort.