Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) has prepared the following analysis and recommendations in response to the four above-noted Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) notices, which propose dramatic changes to Ontario’s permit-by-rule framework. The undersigned environmental, conservation, and civil society organizations have endorsed CELA’s submission. Collectively, it is strongly recommended that the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks not move ahead with the four proposals…
We are willing to meet and discuss CELA’s submission at your convenience.
The province claims that “Ontario needs more housing, and we need it now. That’s why the Ontario government is taking bold and transformative action to get 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years.” This Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) posting is only one component of a large series of other interconnected ERO postings relating to Bill 23. Due to the short comment period at this busiest time of year for such a complex, vague, poorly considered, and destructive policy and legislative “streamlining”, it is impossible to fully understand the full scope or depth of resulting effects to provide any kind of meaningful input. It is crucial that all ERO postings are well planned, concisely written and defined in clear policy language so the public fully understands what is being proposed and its potential positive and negative effects.
The Ontario government, through Bill 23 and its multitude of complex and interconnected legislation and policy amendments, has:
- Removed municipal jurisdiction from upper-tier municipalities to make policy decisions on land use planning matters that are based on local community interests.
- Removed a significant financial source (permits/building fees) in which to help pay for water and wastewater services, sewers, transportation infrastructure, and community parks needed to service 1.5 million additional homes.
- Prohibited Conservation Authorities all across Ontario from providing practical advice to municipalities, their ability to issue permits, or provide input into environmental concerns.
- Failed to provide adequate public and Indigenous consultation relating to Bill 23 matters.
- Is proposing to streamline the qualifications program for Building Practitioners (ERO-019-6433).
As you know, the OWES is a science-based ranking system that provides a standardized approach to determining the relative value of wetlands. OWES assessments are necessary to designate Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs). This designation in turn results in a high level of protection under provincial law and policy such as the Provincial Policy Statement (sections 2.1.4, 2.1.5 and 2.1.8). Yet the complete overhaul of the OWES, as proposed, will ensure that very few wetlands would be deemed provincially significant in the future and that many if not most existing PSWs could lose that designation. As a result, very few of Ontario’s wetlands would benefit in the future from the protection that PSW designation currently provides. We urge you not to proceed with the proposed changes to the OWES, for the reasons outlined below.
The Ontario government’s own 2020 report, “Protecting People and Property: Ontario’s Flooding Strategy,” which resulted from the 2019 flooding disaster, states very clearly that “Flood risk management is achieved through multiple provincial acts, regulations, policies and technical guides and a wide range of provincial programs and services. Successful implementation relies on partnerships between provincial ministries, municipalities, Indigenous communities, conservation authorities, stakeholder organizations and the federal government.” 1
Instead, this proposal seeks to do the very opposite. It proposes to exempt the CAs from their authority under ten crucial Acts and their associated regulations; it blocks the CA partnership with municipalities and stakeholders and takes the authority of CAs away from permitting so they cannot properly fulfill the recommendations of this report that was commissioned by the Ontario government only a few short years ago. Now, where is the wisdom in that?
The ORA is concerned that Bill 23 will have far-reaching negative effects on the environment and communities. This major streamlining of development is irresponsible and a recipe for disaster. Bill 23 works against sustainability and the watershed approach at a time when Government decision-making should be focused on protecting the environment and building climate resilience into Ontario’s communities and infrastructure.
The ORA is very supportive of policy and legislation that provides an ecosystem approach for planning at a watershed and subwatershed scale. It is essential that we ensure a healthy environment, with clean and abundant freshwater resources, that helps to provide resilience to the extremes of climate change. We are appreciative of the information webinar on the Subwatershed Planning Guide, and the 45-day comment period.
Overall, we are generally supportive of the draft guidelines as they seem broad ranging and comprehensive. We are especially pleased to see the partnership approach with Indigenous peoples included in the Guide and agree that this approach will lead to a much more comprehensive subwatershed plan.
The ORA offers strong support for polluters being held accountable; however, that isn’t what’s happening here. Rather than strengthening enforcement tools that hold polluters accountable, this government is systematically and persistently dismantling, weakening or bypassing all environmental policy and legislation that was designed to protect the environment and deter those industries, corporations or individuals who would pollute and/or destroy the environment.
These ERO postings consistently mislead the public, especially in the top several paragraphs and titles, which contain misleading introductions to the proposed policy the government is proposing. In fact, you can always count on these “modernization” policy changes to be a further attack on environmental policy and legislation. It is even more despicable that these attacks have largely been carried out during the government’s declared COVID Emergency, where no public consultation is required, and what consultation that does take place is meaningless when the main objective is to cut red tape and remove any roadblocks to development and pollution, in spite of the public’s strong recommendations to protect the environment.
We, the 120 undersigned organizations, strongly oppose Schedule 3 of Bill 257, Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021, which proposes to amend the Planning Act so that both existing and future Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) would no longer have to be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). We request that you remove this schedule from Bill 257.
The PPS sets the policy foundation for comprehensive, integrated, long-term land use planning in Ontario. It “provides for appropriate development while protecting resources of provincial interest, public health and safety, and the quality of the natural and built environment” (PPS Preamble). Regularly revised and updated though extensive public consultations with experts, stakeholders and Indigenous rights-holders, the PPS is meant to provide balanced, relevant and widely supported policy direction on planning matters. The Planning Act requirement (section 3) that all decisions affecting planning matters “shall be consistent with” the PPS ensures certainty, fairness, consistency and substantive merit in planning decisions across the province. A development that can only be authorized by exempting it from the PPS is a development that ought not to be authorized at all.
In ORA’s view, MNRF has been streamlined and restricted to the point where it becomes very challenging to effectively monitor and enforce any Bait Management Policy. It is also imperative that penalties are a sufficient deterrent and that funding is in place for sufficient staffing to effectively monitor and enforce the policy.
While abandoning the historically thoughtful context of a normal PPS review is ill-advised at any time, it is irresponsible to tilt the PPS toward an excessive empowerment of development-as-usual at a time of a changing climate, threats to biodiversity, regional ecological integrity, and the gathering momentum of the sixth mass extinction.