Open Letter to Premier: Don't Gut Ontario's Endangered Species Act

Open Letter to Premier: Don't Gut Ontario's Endangered Species Act
Posted on June 21, 2013 | Mike Schreiner | Written on June 20, 2013
Comments
Letter type:
Open

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

In this letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne I call on her to reverse her Cabinet’s decision to gut the Endangered Species Act. Please join the Green Party's letter writing campaign in support of Ontario's Endangered Species Act. There are better ways to address the conflict between humans and wildlife!

Please share my letter with your friends and write, publish and share your own letter to Premier Wynne on Unpublished Ottawa!

Dear Premier Wynne;

I am deeply disappointed in your government’s decision to gut Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA). You have failed your first big environmental test.

It's short-sighted and irresponsible for your government to dismantle protections for endangered species when we are experiencing the highest rate of species extinction since the dinosaurs died off.

In 2006, the Endangered Species Act Advisory Panel warned: “Given the clear and present dangers that threaten species at risk, exceptions provisions cannot be allowed to become loopholes.” Your decision to grant sweeping exemptions to the ESA threatens our natural heritage and the well-being of our communities.

Over 1,000 Green Party supporters agree and have sent letters to your office. Environmental NGOs and community groups are also justly outraged over this decision.

On May 16, 2007 all parties voted to support Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. It is wrong for your government to gut the legislation with a Cabinet decision made behind closed doors.

I understand that there may be concerns with the Act’s implementation. In this case, we should improve the implementation rather than undermining the Act and the health of our communities and environment. If cost is an issue with the permit process, the Ministry should update the fees to ensure full cost recovery for administering permits - this was recommended by your government’s own consultant, Don Drummond.

Instead of trashing environmental protections, I urge you to adopt innovative solutions to environmental challenges. For example, the province can address the concerns of farmers by compensating them for providing environmental goods and services. Other provinces and jurisdictions are doing this.

We have an incredible province, rich with biodiversity. Our economy relies on our natural heritage, which a Ministry of Natural Resource’s study estimates to provide services valued at $84 billion in southern Ontario alone. It makes sense to protect these assets.

Premier, Ontario cannot afford to trash environmental protections. Please do the right thing and reverse Cabinet’s decision to gut the Endangered Species Act.

Regards,

Mike Schreiner, Leader
Green Party of Ontario

About The Author

A leading advocate for independent businesses, local food and sustainable communities, Mike Schreiner is well known for his leadership in co-founding the award-winning Local Food Plus organization. He brings a proven... More

Comments

Kudos to Premier Wynne for saving the Experimental Lakes but gutting this Act is a major step in the wrong direction and sets a dangerous precedent. Thanks Mike for bringing this to the forefront.

Erwin

There is no substantive information or critique in this letter, only partisan rhetoric. I hate to see this coming out of the Green Party of Ontario.

Perhaps Mike Schreiner or Kevin O'Donnell, GPO Deputy Leader and Green Party candidate in Ottawa Centre, can elaborate on the problems with the changes the Liberals are making (behind closed doors), when they return from the Green Party's AGM this weekend.

Hi Erwin,

As Mike has indicated, the substance of the problem is that the Cabinet is using orders-in-council to grant a wide range of exemptions that undermine the whole intent of the Endangered Species Act.

From the Ontario Nature press release on this issue:
"The new exemptions lower the standard of protection for endangered plants and animals across many industries, including forestry, pits and quarries, renewable energy, hydro, mining, infrastructure development, waste management, and commercial and residential development. They also dramatically reduce government oversight of activities affecting Ontario’s lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife."

So the issues at stake are two-fold: 1) Undermining protection for species at risk and 2) Undermining democratic debate by slipping through regulatory exemptions in by stealth.

Cheers,
James

Erwin,

The new exemptions approved by Cabinet behind closed doors lower the standard of protection for endangered plants and animals across many industries, including forestry, pits and quarries, renewable energy, hydro, mining, infrastructure development, waste management, and commercial and residential development. They also dramatically reduce government oversight of activities affecting Ontario’s lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife.

Ontario Nature, among other eNGOs, have done research on the negative implications of these exemptions. http://www.ontarionature.org/protect/campaigns/endangered_species.php

Best,
Mike

Thank you, Mike and James, for your replies. They, and the Ontario Nature texts provide slightly more substantive critiques, in contrast, I maintain, to the original letter which was sheer partisan rhetoric.

Still, none of these interventions come to grips with the issue that was the subject of EBR 011-7696 (proposal loaded 5 Dec 2012; Decision loaded 14 Jun 2013). That proposal attracted 10,034 comments, 90% of which were form letters, both supportive and non-supportive. Did the Green Party of Ontario comment?

The Decision gave lengthy responses to various comments raised. Suffice it to conclude that the issue of "streamlining" is not black-and-white. Saying "Your decision to grant sweeping exemptions to the ESA threatens our natural heritage and the well-being of our communities" will impress few. In fact, it may well be that the failure to engage the province in substantive critique (of which, even in the Ontario Nature material little is discernible) may be partly to blame for the Province's Decision.

I would have to study this material a lot more deeply before being convinced that the Province's Decision is the disaster that you make it out to be.

All the best,

Erwin

That's Mike's point. Because the changes have been made behind closed doors, there hasn't been a satisfactory opportunity to engage the province in a substantive discussion on this issue. If the Liberals wanted a substantive discussion to take place, they would have brought the changes forward as legislation.

This issue falls under the purview of the Greenspace Alliance. We would all benefit from your insight Erwin if the Greenspace Alliance were to take it on.

A few days ago I finally took the time to find out where we are with the current Endangered Species (ES) regime in Ontario. First, I found that, as of August 28, 2013, the legislation (the ES Act) has not changed since June 30, 2008. I.e., the Liberal government has abandoned the idea of changing the ESA -- their proposals in Bill 55 (the 2012 so-called Budget Bill) were withdrawn and haven't come back. If you liked the status quo, you should be happy.

Secondly, I found that OReg 176/13, which amended OReg 242/08, promulgated on May 15, 2013, results in an 81-page Regulation that is more convoluted than most legislative texts. It requires expert knowledge to penetrate. That is not good.

It is wrong, however, to suggest that these changes came about "behind closed doors" : They were subject to consultation (EBR 011-7696) through February 2013 and a decision (with extensive responses to comments) was posted to the EBR in June.

EcoJustice/CELA did an excellent job analyzing what Bill 55 would do. I haven't seen what they or any other experts (including Ontario Nature) have submitted to the EBR consultation nor any analysis of the Regulation as is now in effect. That is a pity.

What I do know, having made the effort to examine the proposals to some extent (and having written a letter of comment), is that this "Modernization of Approvals" initiative is not a black-and-white issue. I.e., rhetoric is not helpful.

I searched again on the Ontario Nature web site and found nothing to even come close to sober analysis.

One can only hope.