Day 3 of the Ostrander Point ERT appeal — Dr. Paul Catling on alvars
[Day 2 of the ERT appeal was a site visit of the Tribunal party to Ostrander Point. Nothing significant to report.]
[Following is a report on Day 3 written by Orville Walsh.]
Examination-in-chief and cross-examination of PECFN expert witness Dr. Paul Catling
The only scheduled activity for the third day of the hearing was the testimony and cross-examination of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists’ expert witness Dr. Paul Catling.
Dr. Catling received his doctorate in plant systematics from the University of Toronto in 1980 and has worked as a Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) ever since. He is the Curator of the Agriculture Canada herbarium, Canada’s largest plant collection, with over a million flowering plant specimens. Dr. Catling has authored over 200 refereed scientific articles and co-authored several books. He is internationally known for his work on the classification and ecology of plants and insects, and is widely recognized as an expert on hybridization and pollination biology.
Much of Dr. Catling’s work at AAFC has involved economically important plants, particularly aquatics, forages, berry crops, and invading alien weeds. He has also worked towards the protection of economically important threatened native Canadian plants, and has participated in national and international committees concerned with plant conservation.
Dr. Catling was qualified by the Tribunal as an expert on alvar vegetation.
After being sworn in Dr. Catling used a PowerPoint presentation to explain his primary witness statement. In his statement he concluded that:
1. Much of the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block is an alvar, and they are globally imperiled ecosystems,
2. Studies done by the proponent for their Environmental Impact Study were insufficient and not enough data had been collected, a significant number of vascular plants (approximately two thirds) that probably occur on the site were missed,
3. Serious and irreversible damage will be done to the alvars at Ostrander Point by the project, the loss of alvar would be greater than the 6 hectares estimated by the proponent’s consultant and would more likely be a minimum of 50 hectares.
The entry of Dr. Catling’s testimony took the hearing to the lunch break. Many in the gallery commented that they were both impressed and appreciative of the testimony of Dr. Catling. PECFN had certainly found an expert witness to inform the Tribunal and coincidentally remind and educate the rest of us on the biodiversity of the south shore and what could be lost.
After the break the cross-examination of Dr. Catling by the MOE lawyer, Sylvia Davis commenced.
Ms. Davis asked a series of questions directly related to Dr. Catling’s presentation and intended to discredit or minimize some of his observations or conclusions. Later Ms. Davis proceeded to a line of questioning about the presence of invasive plant species on the site, European Buckthorn and Honeysuckle were mentioned repeatedly. She also attempted to overstate the current utilization of the site by recreational users and their impact on alvars.
Throughout Ms. Davis’ cross-examination, Dr. Catling replied confidentially and remained committed to his conclusions that the proposed project would result in serious and irreversible harm to the plants and biodiversity of the site.
The cross-examination by the MOE took the hearing to 5:00 p.m. and the proceedings concluded with scheduling discussions.
Thursday March 7th is scheduled for the video or teleconferencing testimony or presentation by presenter Mr. Ian Dubin and the PECFN expert witness Dr. Barclay. The video conferencing will take place at the ERT offices in Toronto.
After March 7th the next date for a hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Monday March 18th. It is anticipated that the hearing will resume at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall. At this next hearing, the cross-examination of Dr. Catling will be concluded. This date will also be used for the presenters, Chisholm, Hudson, Goddard-Hill and the participant Wind Concerns Ontario.
Please keep in mind that the dates and venue may be changed.
Approximately 75 people were in the gallery at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall at the beginning of the day. Not everyone’s schedule permitted them to observe for the whole day but there were also people who took the opportunity to join the gallery later in the day. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend and support the appeal.