Glengarry County farmer Shawn McRae describes himself as a "conservative-minded free-enterprise advocate with a deep commitment to our landscape, the people who own it, and our Canadian values of freedom, justice, and ethical democratic governance."
Itís not that Shawn is particularly cocky. He was asked to put together a blurb for the Raisin-South Nation Source Protection Committee after being appointed to it and thatís part of what he came up with.
A few weeks ago, he resigned from that committee after working on it for about five years. He felt he was left with no choice because he failed in his implied goal to protect the freehold interests of farmers and other rural landowners under the proposed Source Protection Plan.
Shawn is a dedicated and outspoken rural property rights advocate. To give him his fair due, he tried hard to work within the Source Protection process to implement clear financial protection for farmers and other owners when their land is set aside for the general public good, in this case to ensure water quality.
I know his contribution canít be seriously challenged because Iíve been a member of the same committee from the outset and witnessed his steadfast dedication, both to bumping up water protection standards, and to the compensation cause.
Shawn saw the task through to the final proposed Source Protection Plan developed by Raisin-South Nation and released Aug. 15. Itís been submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Environment for final approval and eventual implementation at the municipal level.
"I simply cannot approve the document in its current form," McRae wrote in a letter of resignation to committee chairman Claude Cousineau. Similar in structure, composition and mandate to several other regional committees charged with the same task across the province, Raisin-South Nation encompasses all of Eastern Ontario from rural Ottawa east to the Quebec border.
Calling it a collaborative effort, Cousineau said the plan managed to "strike the right balance between practical strategies and results."
"I thank you for your forbearance of my core issue...compensation for injurious affection to private lands and to the rural families who own those lands," McRae told Cousineau.
If the Source Protection process was truly locally driven, McRae believes there would be compensation. However, final approval and implementation of the plan is governed by MOE.
Compensation is a problem foreseen and denied by the authors and implementers of the Ontario Clean Water Act guiding Source Protection Plans now being finalized across the province, McRae noted.
In his letter, Shawn recalled being elected in 2007 to represent farmers on the committee because he spoke of property rights and of the principle that "an individual citizen should never be deprived of his or her use and enjoyment of privately owned real property without fair and timely compensation."
Elected at the same to represent agriculture on the committee were farmers Bill Smirle and Brian Powell, who share McRaeís sentiments; Smirle resigned some time ago over a technicality unrelated to the compensation issue.
McRae plans to carry on the campaign for compensation with the Glengarry Landowners Association to which he donated $1,000 reflecting per diems and mileage received during his work with the Source Protection Committee.
He expressed respect for Cousineau and his committee and doesnít blame them for the outcome because they filed in 2008 a request that the Clean Water Act be amended to include the principle of compensation for loss of income resulting from source protection plan policies. No action resulted from that missive.
The committee action was taken after McRae submitted a compensation model for land use restrictions that became the subject of a working group assessment.
"The fact that our provincial government is intractable and irresponsible on this issue is not the fault of this Source Protection Committee," McRae concluded.
He dismissed the actís companion Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program as an "inappropriate remedy" since it has no mechanism for measuring near-term or long term impact where a finalized Source Protection Plan might deny the best use of private property or limit income generation potential.
McRae is also concerned that a force of risk management officials will become "enamoured of their new powers" to the detriment of families who own affected properties.
"Iíve witnessed this with building officials, electrical inspectors, septic inspectors, OSPCA officers, conservation authority agents, bylaw officers and many more. There is much rhetoric that the process is a negotiation although I fail to see what leverage the property owner will have."
Resigned or not, thereís no doubt Shawn will be looking hard for and broadcasting whatever leverage is possible.