The provincial government’s proposed omnibus bill makes Ontario a very worrisome place to be.
Funding for flood mitigation across the province is disappearing and a critical tree-planting program will soon end. The Government of Ontario is proposing a drastic overhaul of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) through changes put forward in Schedule 5 of Bill 108, an omnibus bill tabled just yesterday. The ESA – once an exemplar of environmental legislation – is being transformed from a series of overlapping loopholes into one giant sinkhole.
All these changes have consequences
beyond the environment. I am the parent of a 9-year-old girl who, because of a
very rare genetic disorder, is visually-impaired, developmentally delayed and
dependent upon a wheelchair. Nature has played a key role in her health and
development since birth.
Regular camping trips and outings to
natural areas have exposed my daughter to birdsong and frog calls that have
stimulated her cognition and helped her develop listening skills. They have also
enabled her to interact with other nature-lovers of all ages, abilities and
backgrounds. I have no doubt that if we can continue our family excursions, she
will have the potential to be a happy, healthy and more independent member of
Even with a disorder whose hallmark is
regression, my daughter has consistently made developmental gains and her quality
of life has continued to improve. Those gains and that quality of life are now
in jeopardy because the health of our environment and the species that inhabit
it has been deemed expendable.
The provincial government is
prioritizing a balanced budget and increased efficiency without considering the
best way to achieve those goals. It costs nothing to leave in place wetlands,
meadows and forests that provide Ontarians with much-needed clean air, stress
relief and recreational opportunities. Not impeding access to natural areas for
caregivers and their charges involves no bureaucratic red tape.
If the Ontario government is truly
intent on reducing costs and stimulating economic growth, it should focus on
measures that improve the health, wellbeing and productivity of all its citizens.
Instead, it is eliminating environmental safeguards and potentially increasing
my daughter’s future reliance on traditional healthcare resources and
government support. This short-sighted thinking frightens me. It should
frighten all Ontarians.
Environmental deregulation has a face:
it is the face of my daughter.
Lisa Richardson is Ontario Nature's Nature Network and Communications Coordinator and ON Nature Associate Editor. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys camping and exploring nature with her husband and daughter.