Town of Ajax - Council Office 65 Harwood Avenue South Ajax, ON L1S 2H9 905-626-1916

Sad State of Affairs…,

…, when the province interferes with the local planning and public consultation process.

Many of us are experiencing a new appreciation for the outdoors and green space during COVID.  We all understand that life is about balance, and enjoyment of the outdoors gives us that balance.

As the GTA grows, balance is just as important for our creeks, watersheds and wetlands which are increasingly stressed in their ability to function due to development. Complicated further by Climate Change or unusual extreme weather.

Our natural systems have value, they are our “natural capital”.  They prevent flooding protecting property and lives, clean our drinking water, provide tree coverage for clean air and provide wildlife with a place to live. 
They are irreplaceable and costly when tampered with.

To date, the Province has initiated 33 MZO’s (Ministers Zoning Order), more than the previous government did in their 15 yr term. Six were for industrial/commercial, distribution centres.

What’s an MZO and why are they so popular?

An MZO takes away the planning authority from local municipalities and places it in the hands of the province to fast track development. Historically used in emergencies such as in Elliott Lake to replace their grocery store which was lost in the collapse of a mall.  MZO’s circumvent the planning process and public consultation process.  Cutting the “RED TAPE” promised by this government during the last election.

Developers understand the message the province is sending. They can build without approvals. Don’t have to worry about public concerns, road access, traffic issues, infrastructure or protecting the environment. Hence the popularity.

However, development comes at a cost for taxpayers when good planning practices are ignored.

An MZO was requested by Pickering on behalf of the land owner of the Durham Live/Casino lands.

Prior to the Minister approving the MZO, the Province discussed the importance of entering into agreements with the landowner for the Region of Durham and Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

While the Casino development is progressing it’s 15 months late than it’s anticipated opening of  April 2021. Zoned to facilitate this “Tourist Destination” on the Casino lands east of Squires Beach Road, the MZO now includes a high rise development of over 1600 residences and a film studio.

On lands to the west of Squires Beach Rd. the MZO includes a distribution centre , paving over 57 acres of Provincial Significant Wetland(PSW) , protected by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). The Minister of MNRF requested that TRCA come to an agreement with the landowner for compensation costs of developing the PSW.  However, only the Minister himself can declassify the importance of a PSW to negotiate compensation. Currently there is no compensation for PSW’s as they’re off limits. If the Minister declassifies the wetland and the developer agrees to compensation, then the site plan would come back to TRCA for Board approval.

The TRCA is the approval authority for the permit to develop. Or so we thought until the province introduced the Recovery Bill 229 giving greater power to MZO’s and taking away Conservation Authorities powers to protect important environmental lands.

The Province will remove amendments to the Conservation Act and Planning Act related to planning, permitting and, enforcement.

The only thing standing between the TRCA and the Ministers compensation agreement was the ability to decline the permit for development on the wetland Seems the province has found a way to get around this. This suggests that development is the road to recovery through destruction of this PSW complex, woodlots and habitat.  Literally paving the way to recovery.

I will continue to oppose this new challenge and hope that you take the opportunity to voice your concerns to MPP.

I truly appreciate the thousands of emails I’ve received in support of saving the wetland! 

Thank you,

Joanne Dies

Timeline of Events

May 13, 2020- Pickering requests a Ministerial Zoning order for the Durham Live lands.

July, Aug, Sept- Ajax continued discussions regarding traffic issue and concerns.

Sept. 2020- Region of Durham supported the MZO Request and entered into negotiations for an        agreement with Ajax, Pickering and the landowner.

Oct. 23rd– Toronto and Region Conservation Authority enters into an agreement for compensation of the Provincially Significant Wetland if  the MZO is approved and if the Minister of Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry declassifies the wetland to allow for compensation.

Oct. 26- Ajax motion opposes MZO

Oct. 28- the Region approves final agreement omitting Ajax at the request of Pickering and the landowner.

Oct. 30- Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing approves the MZO

Nov. 5- Province tables omnibus Bill 229- with proposed amendments to conservation Authority Act permitting, enforcement and planning. Gives the Minister the power to take over decisions on permits .

Ajax Council supports unsheltered residents during COVID-19 pandemic

News Release Town of Ajax

New hub to provide hygienic and referral access for vulnerable community members.

In partnership with the Region of Durham, the Town of Ajax is launching the Ajax Hygiene Hub. A first for Ajax, the hub will serve unsheltered residents at the:

Ajax Community Centre 
75 Centennial Rd.

Linked to a network of supports for vulnerable community members across the Durham Region, the hub will provide:

–        Shower and washroom access; and

–        VHA Home Healthcare on site for information, referrals and supports to homeless residents.

All individuals accessing the hub will be actively screened for potential COVID-19 risk factors, and must follow Region of Durham Health Department protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes practicing proper physical distancing and hand washing procedures. In addition, the space will be subject to additional cleaning and disinfecting measures.


Residents, businesses and community groups wishing to play a role in supporting unsheltered community members may drop off new, unused items to the:

Ajax Community Centre’s
main entrance doors between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
from Monday through Friday.

Please call ahead to arrange, 905-427-8811.

Items include:

–        Non-perishable, individual serving food items – granola bars, juice boxes, bottles water, apples, bananas, hummus and crackers, etc.;

–        New clothing, shoes and towels;

–       Unused hygiene products – shampoo, conditioner, soap/body wash, feminine hygiene products.

Media Contact: Rachael Matheson, Corporate Communications, 905-621-2278

Joanne Dies educates, lobbies, and fights for environmental standards in Durham.

I met Joanne in my late-teen-years while attending a Pickering Ajax Citizens Together to Protect Our Water (PACT POW) event at Rotary Park in 2013. As a young woman in the environmental field, Joanne’s work at the time was incredibly empowering. She is one of the few people I know that has the ability to capture the hearts of young men and women, like she did with mine, and demonstrate the importance of our work and the necessity for all of us to make environmentally minded choices. Having briefly followed her career in the field, Joanne was my inspiration to pursue my love for the environment in a political capacity and through activism.

Her relentless work on PACT POW, meeting with local MPP’s to bring attention to the algae issue, coupled with her earlier work presenting in front of the Pickering Council, encouraging them to become an MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment) free zone, was a testament to me on the revolutionizing force of a passionate individual.

Since meeting Joanne at the PACT POW event in 2013, she has continued to lobby for environmental causes and serves as an inspiration to teens and young children, bringing environmental education to schools. She has worked with the PineRidge Arts Council on projects encouraging high school students to create art from artifacts found when picking up litter and has supported programs of a similar vein at Glengrove Public School. There, Joanne had students bring in household electronic garbage and together, built a robot from the waste which was later displayed at the Pickering Rec Centre in celebration of the Brock West Landfill site closure.

Her work as an educator on these projects was done with the intent of fostering social and behavioral transcendence, framing teens and elementary students as important vehicles of change. In focusing on students, Joanne’s work is likely to have a lasting impact as they reflect on how they can reduce waste by repurposing or re-creating materials in the future.

What makes Councillor Dies work in the environmental field unique, is her lesson that a person need not be a politician or scientist to make an environmental difference.

In the classroom and with her work on the Doors Open project in Ajax, where she helped gather a group of artists to repurpose and paint over old doors, she has demonstrated that creators, artists, and students have the potential to bring environmentalism into their work.

Most recently, Joanne, who is co-chair of PACT POW, recently turned her attention to bringing awareness to and lobbying against the discharge of phosphorus from the Duffins Creek Water Pollution Control Plant. On this issue, Joanne has presented at numerous public meetings to educate citizens on how the Plant is significantly contributing to phosphorus levels in the lake. This work represents one of many efforts made by Joanne to educate, lobby, and fight for an environmental standard in Durham that will lead to the betterment of the community and its ecologies.

Through her work rallying around globally significant projects like Stop the MAI, taking part in local activism with PACT POW, serving as an artist and creator with students, acting as a community educator, helping establish the St. Andrews Community Garden, and volunteering in Adopt-A-Road cleanups, Joanne has continually promoted the protection of the environment in many meaningful ways.

I am so incredibly grateful that she has shared with Ajax her concern for issues like water conservation and am even more grateful that she has taken leadership to ensure future use and enjoyment of our lakes and creeks.

In one sentence, what has been revealed through Joanne’s work is the radical impact a person can make when they are driven by their love for the community.

Kayla Ginter

Endorsement from Dr. Romas Stas

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Doctor Stas and the Friends of the Hospital. I’m proud of the accomplishments we have made on behalf of our local hospital.” #ReasonstovoteDIES #JoanneDies#RegionalCouncillorWard3

Blue-green algae in Pickering’s Frenchman’s Bay area Residents warned to protect themselves, children and pets


Algae in Ajax

Large amounts of algae are growing along the Lake Ontario shoreline at Ajax Rotary Park. – Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland



Oct 12, 2018 Pickering News Advertiser

DURHAM — Durham health officials are warning residents to keep away from blue-green algae found in Pickering.

The Durham Region Health Department was advised by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) of the presence of a blue-green algal bloom in a small area of the southwest portion of Frenchman’s Bay, near Sunrise Avenue, in Pickering. Laboratory test results were received from the MECP on Oct. 11. A water quality advisory sign will be posted in the area to ensure that the public is aware of the presence of blue-green algae in the water.

“Blue-green algae are microscopic, plantlike organisms that occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams, and although often blue-green in colour, the algae can also be olive-green or red,” said Laura Freeland, manager of health protection with the health department. “Residents are advised to be cautious around blue-green algae, as some can produce toxins which may be harmful to humans who drink, fish or bathe in the water.”

People can protect themselves, their children and their pets from blue-green algal blooms by not swimming or playing in areas where water is discoloured or where foam, scum or mats of algae on the water’s surface are present.

For more information, visit, or call the Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

Ajax casino will remain open

Oct 09, 2018 Ajax News Advertiser

Ajax Downs

Justin Picov from Picov Downs, Rod Phillips, Ajax MPP, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish and Bob Broadstock, president of the Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario were in Ajax Tuesday morning for an announcement about Ajax Downs remaining open. – Ron Pietroniro/ Metroland

Ajax Downs will be staying open, it was announced this morning.

The Ajax casino, which was slated to close after a new casino was approved in Pickering as part of Durham Live, will be allowed to retain 500 slot machines with a review to happen in 2026.

The casino currently has 800 slot machines.

Stay with for more on this story.

New signs connect cyclists with Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and GO stations in Ajax and Whitby

Cyclists can now easily find their way between the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and the Ajax and Whitby GO stations. Executive Director of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust Marlaine Koehler says they’ve connected two of Ontario’s finest pieces of infrastructure.
“We’ve identified eleven stations and identified a route map and signed it so that cyclists getting off the GO train or arriving at a GO station will know right from the track, all the way to the trail, the safest route to take,” said Koehler. “On the track side, when you come on out [of the GO train], you see the signs, it gets you down to the exit that will lead you to the best road that gets you to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. On the trail side, there’s signage that tells you when you need to leave the trail in order to take this path or that signed road back up to the GO station.”
Koehler is hopeful the signs will inspire commuters to take their bikes to the GO station.
Story from Durham Radio News

Blue-green algae found along Ajax waterfront

News Aug 15, 2018 by Keith Gilligan Ajax News Advertiser

Ajax algae

Joanne Dies and Paul Wealleans, members of Pickering Ajax Citizens Together to Protect Our Water, walked along Paradise Beach Aug. 9. Blue-green algae has been found along the Ajax waterfront. The algae is potentially harmful to people or animals who swim in the water. – Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland

Algae in Ajax

Large amounts of algae are growing along the Lake Ontario shoreline at Ajax Rotary Park. – Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland 1 / 2

AJAX — For years, the Ajax waterfront has been plagued by a form of algae called cladophora.

Now, blue-green algae has been detected and it could be more dangerous than regular algae.

Blue-green algae can release a toxin that can be harmful to humans and animals who swim or drink the water.

Testing by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) found the blue-green algae near Paradise Beach (formerly Pickering Beach).

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Laura Freeland, the manager of health protection with Durham Region’s health department, said, “While current test results from the MECP indicate a small amount of blue-green algae in the water at Paradise Beach, we want people to understand that water conditions could change at any time and the health department may not be immediately aware of these changes.

“In particular, these changes could occur with warmer water temperatures, which can help to increased algal growth. That’s why it’s important for people to look at the water for potential signs of blue-green algae, which could include scum or mats of algae on the water’s surface,” Freeland added.

Ward 3 local Coun. Joanne Dies said she’s not surprised the blue-green algae was found.

“No. Way back in 2004, I started reading about it. It was in Quebec. Experts tell me it’s pond scum,” Dies said.

Generally, it needs to be a placid place with not a lot of wave action, she said.

The most famous case of a community affected by blue-green algae is Toledo, Ohio. In 2014, algae got into the city’s treated drinking water and residents were told not to drink water coming out of the tap.

“We were told it can’t happen here. It’s a totally different scenario. It’s here,” Dies noted.

Freeland noted blue-green algae are microscopic, plant-like organisms that occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams, and although often blue-green in colour, the algae can also be olive-green or red.

People should be cautious around blue-green algae as some can produce toxins which may be harmful to humans and animals.

Dies said a number of factors are involved in the algae’s growth, including nitrogen and phosphoros to feed on and hot weather helping it spread.

“It’s the weather, but it also needs phosphoros and nitrogen,” she noted. “Anyone who’s health is compromised is vulnerable to this.”

She noted the region stopped testing the water at Rotary Park Beach a few years ago. The beach was found to be unsafe for swimming 98 per cent of the time because of elevated E. coli measurements.

“Paradise, they consider it the only beach for swimming. They don’t test (Rotary). If you don’t have the research and the numbers, you can’t back it. We need the info,” Dies said. “It’s not good, not good at all. It’s rather scary.”

Paul Welleans, the co-chair of environmental group PACT POW (Pickering Ajax Citizens Together to Protect Our Water), said he’s not surprised.

“I don’t think so. It’s been getting worse for a few years. It’s climate change. Climate change is here. Anyone denying that is delusional,” Welleans noted.

Dies and PACT POW have been working to have phosphoros coming out of the nearby Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant greatly reduced.

Walleans added algae has been forming since early June, “which is early. I’m not surprised. It’s concerning.”

The Ajax waterfront has the “specific problem” of being near the Duffin Creek plant, he said.

“It’s unfortunate, of course,” Welleans added.

Phosphoros occurs naturally in every lake or body of water, he noted.

Walleans added that the Duffin plant “is the main source of the phosphoros” for algae along the town’s waterfront.

“The town’s experts have done a number of studies,” he said. “It shows 98 per cent of the phosphoros is coming from the plant. Durham Region says that’s not the case, that it’s coming from fertilizer and run-off.”

He said ‘tertiary treatment’ would decrease the amount of phosphoros discharged to about one per cent of effluent.

“If you decrease the phosphoros, you decrease the algae,” he said.

In the late summer and early fall, as the algae decomposes, “it’s terribly disgusting” near the waterfront, he added.

The region has said over the whole lake, phosphoros is low, which Welleans doesn’t disagree with.

“When phosphoros goes into the lake, it doesn’t go out into the lake. It stays near the shore,” he noted.

Freehand said people can protect themselves and their pets by not swimming or playing in areas where water is discoloured or where foam, scum or mats of algae on the water’s surface are present. Children or pets should not play in or drink water in areas where a beach advisory posted.

Consuming fish from areas where mats of algae are present or where a swimming advisory is posted is also not advisable, she added.

by Keith Gilligan

Keith Gilligan is a reporter, covering the Town of Ajax for Metroland Media Group’s Durham Region Division. He can be reached at Follow on Twitter and Facebook Email: KGilligan@durhamregion.comFacebookTwitter