DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, LAND OVER LANDINGS, ONTARIO NATURE, RESCUE LAKE SIMCOE COALITION, SIMCOE COUNTY GREENBELT COALITION, WILDERNESS COMMITTEE
Now that Ontario has passed Bill 229 and its attack on Conservation Authorities, the job of protecting wetlands, forests, drinking water and quality of life falls to ordinary citizens
Toronto, Ont. – Today, the Ontario Government ignored a deafening chorus of expert warnings, to instead reward the worst developers and land speculators by incapacitating the system that protects source water and guards Ontarians against flooding, landslides and other environmental disasters.
Members of the Greenbelt Council, non-partisan regulators, legal analysts, municipalities, NGOs and farmers, together with tens of thousands of Ontarians of all political stripes and walks of life, have warned the government of the dire consequences of “Schedule 6” amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act. These changes will let developers dump, build and excavate largely unchecked in high-risk areas, risking impaired water quality, property damage, and environmental degradation, and endangering public safety across the province.
The most damaging of the changes to Conservation Authorities include:
- Natural Resources and Forestry Ministers (MNRF) can now ignore the science-based work of Conservation Authorities to force through dangerous development applications already reviewed and rejected by arms-length Conservation Authorities
- That Minister can even usurp the entire permitting authority of Conservation Authority experts, making technical decisions about what will cause flooding or landslides through a backroom political process, without the watershed knowledge and specialized expert advice that would make a rational decision possible
- When the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, whose staff have no environmental expertise at all, issues a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) for development, Conservation Authorities will be forced to issue a permit – even if their own experts know it will cause flooding or erosion, and jeopardize human health and safety
- Developers will be allowed to build within key protected ecological areas if they pay a fee, a failed process patterned after the one used in the U.S. often called “pay to slay”
Many Ontario environmental and community organizations will continue to work with the dozens of respected organizations and the more than 50,000 Ontarians who expressed their outrage through letters and phone calls about the damaging changes to Conservation Authorities. Together, we will work to protect natural spaces and stop destructive developments to ensure a better future for all Ontarians.
“The gutting of Conservation Authorities shows that this Ontario government ignores the people. It’s a government for land speculators and the worst sorts of developers,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “This undermining of Conservation Authorities takes the province back over 70 years, to a more dangerous time when we didn’t know better. Now, however, we do know better, and we recognize that Ontarians deserve more, including wetlands, forests and flood plains that are intact and not paved over.”
“Replacing science-based watershed management with politically motivated backroom decision-making is just not smart planning,” said Katie Krelove, Ontario Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. “It puts the province’s last remaining wetlands and the wildlife that depend on them at risk. Ontarians have been rediscovering the health benefits of local nature throughout the pandemic, that’s why so many people spoke up in support of Conservation Authorities and against Schedule 6.”
“It’s shocking how the government has ignored tens of thousands of Ontarians, including prominent figures like David Crombie, who has characterized this whole mess as a “high-level bombing,” said Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature. “There is so much at stake, yet the government has chosen to pander to its developer buddies at everyone else’s expense. Rest assured, we will not forget this affront to the environment and democracy.”
“Ontario has been going down the path of un-economic development whereby the failure to value our intact natural ecosystems has led to policies that consistently degrade our most precious assets,” said Yannick Beaudoin, Senior Economist and Director General for Ontario and Northern Canada with the David Suzuki Foundation. “Applying old economic thinking that has resulted in a global climate and biodiversity crisis and is inflating intergenerational fiscal liabilities, is not a sound pathway forward.”
“If Ontario were genuine about reducing red tape and streamlining planning processes, they would not have done this. They would have had conversations about policy reform with professionals including Conservation Authorities. The fact that they have done the opposite – a sneak attack on the agency that protects Ontarians from flooding – leads me to believe that what they really think is: “People without flooding insurance, environment, and other suckers – you’re on your own! Developers and land speculators, come to our Christmas party,” said Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson.
“Like all watersheds in Ontario, the fate of the pristine waters of the Duffins that flows through the Pickering Federal Lands to Lake Ontario must not be left to the insatiable demands of the development industry. MZOs threaten class one farmland and provincially significant wetlands in Pickering and underline the urgent need for independent arms’ length organizations such as our Conservation Authorities and the Greenbelt Council. We are uniquely positioned to understand the critical imperative of all governmental jurisdictions working collaboratively if we are to weather the coming storms – literally and figuratively,” said Mary Delaney, Chair, Land Over Landings.
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