In closing, we urge the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to recognize the necessity of managing flood mitigation at a watershed scale and the importance of natural infrastructure. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to protecting our communities from flooding. This goal can be achieved by investing in our existing agencies (eg, conservation authorities) and by protecting and restoring our natural infrastructure (eg, wetlands and forests).
The ORA is opposed to this proposal that would gut the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) and the Environmental Assessment (EA) program. Since the EAA was amended in 1996 there have been many official calls for an improved EAA and EA program, amongst those calls were the Environmental Commissioner for Ontario and the Auditor General of Ontario. Over this time, the EA program and EAA have become more and more streamlined, and this has led to increasing uncertainty for stakeholders and proponents.
If enacted, the proposed changes will effectively gut the Act, result in the loss of biodiversity in the Province, eliminate most of the current protections for species at risk, and reduce the likelihood of their recovery. These draconian changes are clearly designed to restrict the number of species that are listed as at risk, to permit large-scale developers to harm species at risk and destroy their habitat, and to delay the implementation of any protection measures that remain under the Act.
The government’s claim that the proposed changes will improve outcomes for species at risk is grossly misleading.
ORA submits that Schedule 5 of Bill 66 is a regressive, unwarranted and potentially risky proposal that is inconsistent with the public interest and does not adequately safeguard the health and safety of Ontarians. Does the MECP really want to set the stage for another Grassy Narrows mercury disaster? Instead, the MECP should be focusing on improving the TRA and its regulations to better protect communities.
In closing, risky development decisions made in one or more jurisdictions could have significant negative cumulative impacts on our air, land and/or water, as well as the Great Lakes and many other highly valued ecosystems. Being “Open-for-Business” is a good thing, unless it is at the expense of public health and safety or the environment. Do we really want to risk another Walkerton or Grassy Narrows disaster? That is precisely what the province is fostering with Bill 66.
The Government of Ontario is proposing Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018. It is unacceptable that key environmental protection and legislation that protects the public is under attack.
Schedule 5 of Bill 66 would repeal the Toxics Reduction Act and two regulations. The purpose of the TRA is to prevent pollution and protect human health and the environment by reducing the use and creation of toxic substances and informing Ontarians about toxic substances.
Schedule 10 of this Bill would enable municipalities to simply pass an “open-for-business planning by-law” under the Planning Act, to exempt local development from the application of key components of several important provincial laws, plans and policies, including the:
• Clean Water Act, 2006, Section 39
• Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015, Section 20
• Greenbelt Act, 2005, Section 7
• Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008, Section 6, and
• Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2003, Section 7
While we strongly support maximizing consultation opportunities, we also support timely action to address long understood but neglected problems with CEPA, a law that has not been significantly amended in two decades.
ORA is very supportive of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s efforts to strengthen the Fisheries Act Regulations and are pleased to provide our comments on the proposed amendments to the existing Applications for Authorization under Paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act Regulations.
ORA has fully participated in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Process review and was very hopeful with this government’s promise to “rebuild public trust, protect the environment, advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and ensure good projects get built…” While there are some encouraging components, such as requiring the Minister and Cabinet to provide reasons for environmental approvals and creating a single agency to conduct assessments, it is extremely disappointing that the proposed Impact Assessment Act (IAA) further undermines credibility and trust as well as its ability to protect the environment. It is a very flawed process when after going through years of application review and examination of science-based evidence, that the Minister could make a purely political decision and prioritize economic considerations over meeting climate commitments – as it is doing now with the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
The proposed binational strategy on PBDEs outlines limited actions to address PBDEs levels in the Great Lakes beyond the measures that have already been committed on PBDEs by each country. It is also important that U.S. and Canada outline expected reduction targets for PBDEs in contrast to the current approach to outline intended measures. Without targets the ability to indicate successful and effective actions on PBDEs would be difficult to achieve.