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.
The Coalition for the West Credit River is writing to you today to share our urgent concerns about an impending and grave threat to the ongoing health of the West Credit River and the sensitive coldwater environment and ecosystem that it sustains. The West Credit River flows through the Towns of Erin and Belfountain, a premium get-away for fly fishers and GTA urban dwellers seeking near-wilderness respite just a short drive northwest of Toronto.
The West Credit River is acknowledged as one of the last remaining wild and self-sustaining native Brook Trout fisheries in southern Ontario and is recognized for its environmentally significant ecosystem as part of a UNESCO World Biosphere protected area, well before it exits at the Forks of the Credit River.
The West Credit River subwatershed supports headwater tributaries of the Credit River and is considered the crown jewel of coldwater Brook Trout fisheries in southern Ontario. The entire footprint of the Project, including the network of underground sewers, will result in numerous crossings of first, second and third order streams. Additionally, the West Credit River feeds into the main Credit River at the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. This area is part of the UNESCO Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve (Reserve), home to several sensitive fish species, including the endangered Redside Dace and Atlantic Salmon. Atlantic Salmon, historically extirpated, are being reintroduced as part of the broader Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Recovery Program. This Reserve is within 1 km downstream of the Project’s effluent discharge, and Redside Dace (Schedule 1, Species at Risk Act, 2002), are known to occupy the West Credit River within 4 km downstream of the effluent diffuser.
A highly controversial environmental assessment study under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act was completed 23 years ago. It concluded that the project would cause adverse effects to fish habitat including severe stormwater and groundwater impacts. The environmental assessment did not evaluate the impacts on species at risk, migratory birds or climate change. This study has not been updated.
The provincial regulatory process is grossly inadequate.
The ORA favours conservation of Ontario’s natural resources, and most especially as it relates to fish and their habitat. ORA agrees that the Ministry should apply existing federal government guidance for fines and increase the use of contravention tickets for more types of offences. It makes sense to issue tickets rather than using the federal court process.
Bill 229 is just the most recent in a long list of omnibus bills containing devastating amendments, exemptions and streamlining of key environmental policy and legislation designed to protect our environment and communities and provide the public and stakeholders with meaningful input. These government actions have created a deep erosion of public trust and confidence. It is unacceptable that it would mislead its citizens and bypass the norms by taking advantage of a world-wide health emergency to aggressively push their destructive agenda through.
ORA submits that the MECP’s priority must be the pursuit of its Statement of Environmental Values (SEV), and its vision and mandate of “an Ontario with clean and safe air, land and water that contributes to healthy communities, ecological protection, and environmentally sustainable development for present and future generations”[i]. There is nothing in the MECP’s SEV that promises to “remove the regulatory burden” from industry or “provide some cost savings for dam owners and operators”. It is not the MECP’s duty to save dam owners and operators money or ease their regulatory burden. Its duty is to fulfill its Mandate to protect the environment and to follow its promise of environmentally sustainable development for our present and future generations. Certainly, MECP’s priority should not be to cut regulatory burden at the expense of our air, land and water. It is a tragedy that today’s cost savings for dam owners and operators will be borne on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
Instead of exemptions or a more streamlined Class EAW, the OWA should be proposing amendments to provide for a much more rigorous and accountable process that ensures fish friendly turbines, effective and safe fish passage, a more rigorous cumulative effects assessment, and a more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process. We should be making our rivers more resilient in the face of climate change – not exempting waterpower projects from the Class EAW. Instead, the OWA and the Ontario government are placing our environment and communities at risk.
The Rudd Dam’s headpond had essentially turned into a large wetland created by over 100 years of sediment accumulating behind the dam, and the shallow pond’s water temperature was no longer viable brook trout habitat. After the removal of the Rudd Dam the water temperature was reduced and brook trout habitat was made more resilient to a warming climate. It was also an earthen dam that had already failed once, and the dam owner’s objective was to reduce his risk and liability.
The government recommendation asks whether the current concentrations of the chemical “exceed” the benchmarks or guidelines. This implies that we are okay until the benchmarks or guidelines are exceeded. This is not true. Health impacts don’t suddenly start to occur when you cross that narrow threshold of meeting the threshold and move into exceeding. We are already in trouble once we are near or have met the benchmarks or guidelines.