Statement from Environmental Defence’s Executive Director Tim Gray on Ontario’s proposed “Open for Business” Bill 66

Toronto, Ont. – Ontario’s proposed “Open for Business” legislation repudiates Premier Doug Ford’s promise not to touch the Greenbelt, threatens drinking water, undermines evidence-based city planning, and removes protection from toxics chemicals for Ontario residents. It takes us back 40 years and means the provincial government will become deeply involved in many individual development decisions.

Bill 66 promises provincial intervention to advance development proposals on the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, within Source Water Protection Areas, and in formerly protected areas within the Lake Simcoe Watershed.

This will mean that the current process of identifying appropriate places for new developments within municipalities would be sidelined and developers could get the provincial go ahead to develop in sensitive areas that have been put off-limits to development to protect farmland, drinking water, natural values and transit corridors.

The Greenbelt is the anchor of smart land-use in southern Ontario and protects almost 2 million acres of farms, natural areas and water sources. Opening it to development will set free rampant land speculation by developers, resulting in a loss of farmland and the disruption of farm communities. And, it will undermine smart growth planning that’s aimed at increasing density to facilitate affordable housing and public transit access.

The Walkerton tragedy occurred due to a lack of protections for our sources of drinking water. Seven people lost their lives. To make sure it never happened again, we developed source water protections but this Bill will give developers a pass on keeping drinking water safe.

New developments would be exempt from drinking water source protection plans, and could be built regardless of their risk to water.  They’d be able to do the same for rules that protect our Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe from environmental damage.

Finally, the implementation of the Toxics Reduction Act will be suspended and the law will be later repealed. This Act was enacted in 2009 to prevent pollution by reducing the use of toxic chemicals in industrial sectors, and to help inform Canadians about the presence of toxic substances by labelling consumer products.

The Ontario government has promised early in its mandate to “come down heavy” on polluters. Removing the key law that was designed to help companies reduce their pollution sends the wrong signal to big polluters to continue to dump toxic chemicals into our environment.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca) Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence; 416-885-7847; skohls@environmentaldefence.ca