Toronto, Ontario – Ontario’s proposed new Endangered Species Act proceeds to clause-by-clause hearings today at 3:30 p.m. at Queen’s Park. The hearings by the Standing Committee on General Government will consider over 60 motions, submitted by members of the province’s three main political parties, seeking to amend Bill 184.
Ontario’s leading environmental organizations, working together on the Save Ontario’s Species (S.O.S.) campaign, note that the amendments put forward by the Conservative and NDP members would weaken the Act.
 
“Several special interests want to undermine this Bill, and they’ve turned to the opposition parties for help,” says Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for Ontario Nature. “These opposition motions would essentially gut the Act, and they must be defeated.”

The proposed new legislation provides for a science-based approach to listing endangered plants and animals under the Act; but a motion put forward by Conservative members would change this to a politically based approach, giving the Minister of Natural Resources total discretion over which species would be protected or not.
 
“The Conservative motions appear to be aimed at harming endangered species not helping them,” says Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS Wildlands League. “They target the two critical cornerstones of the Bill, science-based listing of endangered species and protection of their habitat.”
 
Bill 184 also requires recovery strategies to help endangered species survive and return to healthy population levels. But NDP motions would weaken these recovery strategy provisions.
 
“The NDP allege that they are friends of the environment, but their motions would undermine the Endangered Species Act,” says Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “In this case the NDP’s actions are completely at odds with its rhetoric.”

This week and last week, the Committee heard dozens of deputations from members of the public seeking changes to the Bill. While environmental organizations have strongly supported the Bill since its introduction in March, they nevertheless identified a number of areas where the Bill still needs to be strengthened. Many of the Government motions respond positively to their deputations.

Once the motions are voted on today, the amended Bill will proceed to third reading in the Ontario Legislature.
”Bill 184 cries out for all party support,” says Robert Wright, Counsel for Sierra Legal. “With this new Act we will have a more effective and more flexible system that will emphasize recovery and substantial funding for private stewardship efforts. The $18 million dollar stewardship fund that accompanies this bill will be key to its success.”

-30-
 
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Robert Wright, Sierra Legal, (416) 368-7533 ext. 31
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Wendy Francis, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404
Janet Sumner, CPAWS Wildlands League, (416) 971-9453, ext. 39