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© Lora Denis
In its rush to cut “red tape” and ensure Ontario is “open-for-business,” the Government of Ontario is taking a sledge hammer to our environment laws and policies.
First it cancelled cap-and-trade, designed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and meet internationally agreed-upon targets to address climate change. Then it dismantled the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Next it introduced Bill 66, aimed at providing, through Schedule 10, a means for developers to do an end run around protections for water, farmland, natural heritage and species at risk. Though widespread public outcry convinced the government to abandon Schedule 10, it is seeking alternative means to the same end through amendments to both the Provincial Policy Statement and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. And of course, Bill 66 is still going forward; if passed it will repeal the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009, the cornerstone of Ontario’s strategy to reduce the use and creation of toxic substances.
That’s a lot of damage in a very short time. But there’s more to come.
In January, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) announced that it is reviewing the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). Though the review ostensibly is to “enable positive outcomes for species at risk,” the overall thrust of the ministry’s proposals is to reduce “administrative burdens” and “barriers to economic development.” In other words, the open-for-business mantra prevails at the expense of the natural world.
Among the options MECP is asking the public to consider:
Such changes would certainly make it easier to bulldoze and pave over the habitats of Ontario’s most vulnerable plants and animals. But it’s hard to imagine how these changes could do anything to improve their chances for recovery.
It’s time to call the government’s bluff. If MECP really wants to provide “stringent protections” for species at risk, it could begin by applying its sledge hammer to the long list of ESA exemptions for harmful activities associated with forestry, mining, hydro, aggregates, wind facilities, infrastructure development and commercial development that have already weakened the act. According to the Environmental Commissioner, these exemptions have resulted in many more harmful activities and much less protection being provided, all with reduced government authority and oversight.
And while it’s at it, MECP could also strengthen the ESA to ensure that exemptions are never again contemplated if they jeopardize the recovery of an endangered or threatened species.
The government’s rash, short-sighted fixation on environmental deregulation serves no-one’s long-term interests, not even those of business. A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment – a fundamental truth to which many in government play lip service, but little more.
That’s why the rest of us need to force their hand. The power of the people – let’s use it remind our government that we all have an interest in protecting the natural world. As Dr. Justina Ray succinctly states in her insightful opinion editorial, “it is not just the survival of wildlife that is at stake here — it is ours as well.”
Send a message to Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Rod Phillips, urging him not to weaken protections for species at risk.
I have worked with nature in agriculture all my life and have established wetlands and planted thousands of trees. If my thoughts of what is needed from my experiences just acnolage somebody Received this email . Signing an on line petition does doesn’t take any serious comitment.
We are very appreciate and very grateful that you have established wetlands and planted thousands of trees, this is critical and very important work.
You’re right that signing a petition does not take much commitment. However, being devoted to issues that really matter such as ensuring that Ontario’s natural systems are well-protected and do not get trampled by development is vital. By the public signing our and other petitions and by taking action, Ontarians were able to raise concerns that led to the cancellation of the controversial ‘open for business’ bylaw, a section (10) of Bill 66; https://www.manitoulin.ca/due-to-public-outcry-province-to-cancel-section-10-of-bill-66/
Many thanks and best regards,