Environmental Deregulation in Ontario’s Bill 55 Should be Condemned

Image of an Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher. Photo: Jim Richards

Proposed changes to environmental legislation, hidden inside a large budget bill, threaten to weaken protections for endangered species and obstruct the public’s right to participate in environmental decision-making.

Am I talking about the federal government’s omnibus budget bill? Not this time.
Unfortunately, this latest blow to wildlife is happening at the provincial level, where the Ontario Government has put forward changes to the province’s Endangered Species Act, and several other environmental laws. These changes would hinder, not help efforts to protect Ontario’s most vulnerable species.
Bill 55, the Strong Action for Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2012,removes the requirement that new resource or development projects result in an overall benefit for species at risk, and does away with the requirement to protect the habitat of endangered species on large areas of private land. This, despite the fact that most of Ontario’s endangered species are found in southern Ontario where land is 90% privately owned.

Bill 55 also removes the deadline for developing recovery plans for species at risk listed before 2007. With no deadline, there’s little chance that action will be taken to save those species.

Nature Canada has joined with dozens of leading nature conservation organizations, and with naturalists inside Ontario and throughout the country in condemning these proposed changes. You can read this open letter to Premier McGuinty for more information and to see which groups signed it.
Here, though, from the letter:

The weakening of environmental laws that were designed to protect the health of our lakes, forests and wildlife is deeply disturbing. To do so by circumventing the requirements of the Environmental Bill of Rights through omnibus legislation that denies the possibility for open public debate is very troubling.  We thus fully support the recommendation of Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, “that the environmental statutes, particularly those related to species protection, sustainable forest operations, protected areas, lakes and rivers protection, and public lands be withdrawn from the Schedules of Bill 55.”