"More Homes, More Choice Act" guts protections for Ontario's most vulnerable plants and animals
TORONTO, June 6, 2019 /CNW/ - Today the Government of Ontario passed the More Homes, More Choice Act, a law that opens significant wildlife habitat to sprawl development through amendments to the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA). The amendments give new powers to the Minister to delay, limit and remove protections for at-risk species. Further, it creates numerous, overlapping pathways for developers and industrialists to dodge critical requirements.
"The Endangered Species Act has been torn to shreds," says Kelsey Scarfone, program manager with Environmental Defence. "Those with a vested, short-term economic interest in sprawl development now have free rein to bulldoze, dig up and pave over the habitats of our most vulnerable plants and animals."
"The forestry industry, which is contributing to, if not driving, the decline of boreal caribou in Ontario, successfully lobbied in the past for exemptions to the ESA meaning they didn't have to comply with the prohibitions," says Rachel Plotkin, Boreal Project Manager with the David Suzuki Foundation. "Now there is no need for an exemption—the ESA has been weakened to the extent that status quo logging operations can continue under its watch."
In the face of growing opposition to the proposed law, the provincial government chose to ram the Bill through the Legislature, curtailing debate and ignoring the serious concerns of environmental organizations, scientists, Indigenous voices, municipalities and tens of thousands of citizens.
"These changes do not reflect the values or long-term interests of the people of Ontario. The haste with which the government proceeded ensured that Ontarians would have no say in the outcome," says Anne Bell, director of conservation and education at Ontario Nature. "Calls to engage in genuine public consultation over the coming summer were swept aside." The amendments also reduce future opportunities for public input on ESA matters under the Environmental Bill of Rights.
The ESA gutting follows a ground-breaking United Nations report, released in May, that documents the rapid decline of ecosystems and accelerating rates of species extinction. According to the report, a million species are now threatened with extinction.
"These changes to the ESA take us in the wrong direction," says Gord Miller Chair of Earthroots and former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. "The alarming patterns of biodiversity loss, outlined in the United Nations report, hold true everywhere, including Ontario, and threaten the very foundations of our well-being and our economies."
About ONTARIO NATURE (www.ontarionature.org): Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces across the province through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups across Ontario.
About DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION (www.davidsuzuki.org): The David Suzuki Foundation is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, collaborating with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. The Foundation operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.
About EARTHROOTS (www.earthroots.org): Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization dedicated to the protection of Ontario's wilderness, wildlife and watersheds. Earthroots conducts species at risk research, educates the public about the environment, and inspires Ontarians to participate in protecting the ecological community of which we are all a part.
Our thanks to Cision for sponsoring this announcement.
SOURCE Ontario Nature
For further information: For media inquiries: John Hassell, Ontario Nature: [email protected], 416-786-2171; Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation: [email protected], 604-356-8829; Rachel Kitchin, Environmental Defence, [email protected], 416-805-0026; Hannah Barron, Earthroots: [email protected], 343-302-0088