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.
When these unregulated projects come home to roost, and the environmental impacts begin to damage or destroy highly valued public interests, such as our lakes and rivers, endangered species, our drinking water, and the economy, the government will pay a very high price. Unfortunately, the damage that will result from these irresponsible and negligent actions will not easily be undone, and in many cases will not be resolved in our lifetimes.
If the government wants to incorporate “one-project, one review”, then it must be a robust EA process with fulsome public and Indigenous consultation, or it may find the process much longer than it might have intended.
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.
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).
As a basic, the province must have a comprehensive approach to watershed management through flood mapping, mitigation and hazard planning and protection, including services such as wetland protection, climate change adaptation and resilience, biodiversity health and land use planning. In other words, we must be beefing up our public safety and environmental protection efforts, rather than gutting and streamlining key policy and legislation, as well as funding for our regulators.
It has come to ORA’s attention that the Gorrie Dam on the North Maitland River failed as a result of flooding during an extreme rain event on 23 – 24 June 2017, and that Maitland Conservation is considering its options. We understand that no one is more aware of the extremes of a volatile and changing climate than Conservation Authorities, and yours in particular; and we understand the pressure that Conservation Authorities and municipalities are under when communities rally to maintain their coveted mill ponds. However, it is up to all authorities to take a leadership role that places public safety and landscape scale ecological integrity above local individual or group interests.
This spring has been the worst flooding Canada has seen in decades. Torrential rains have been inundating streets, homes, and forcing mandatory evacuations. Researchers write that floods are Canada’s ‘most common and costly natural hazard.’ In fact, flooding has become Canada’s biggest natural disaster problem in terms of insurance claims, which is now costing billions of dollars per year. So how can we prevent flooding, or at least be prepared when it comes? We’ve put together a list of facts and preventative measures you can take to protect your home from flooding. Continue reading