Ontario Budget threatens species at risk and parks

  • Published on Apr 16 2012 |
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Ontario Government circumvents public input on major amendments to Endangered Species Act and other important environmental legislation by attaching amendments to Budget Bill

The Ottawa Valley Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-OV) has for more than forty years worked for the protection of Ontario’s parks, wilderness and other natural areas. We are surprised to learn that the Ontario government is circumventing the normal public consultation process for amending environmental legislation by attaching major amendments for the Endangered Species Act, the Provincial Parks and Conservations Reserves Act and other legislation to the current budget bill, Bill 55, Strong Action for Ontario (Budget Measures), 2012, which is excluded from posting on the Environmental Bill of Rights website and from a public consultation process.

We have called on the Premier to respect the rights of Ontario citizens to make input to such changes to legislation, and withdraw the Amendments from the budget bill. This is critical if the government is to maintain its credibility on environmental issues.

The Environment Commissioner for Ontario, Gord Miller, has indicated that he considers the government’s tactics to be irregular and neither transparent or accountable, stating: “Bill 55 amends 69 different statutes in its schedules. For example, many environmentally significant laws that are administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources are proposed to be amended. These laws include the Endangered Species Act, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Public Lands Act, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. Laws such as these are prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR). Normally, when the government proposes to amend legislation that is prescribed under the EBR, it would post a proposal notice on the Environmental Registry and solicit public comments for a minimum of 30 days. The government then considers the public comments and makes a decision. These steps help make for a transparent and accountable process.” (http://www.eco.on.ca/blog/)

It is imperative that the government:
    (1) remove the Amendments to environmental (and other) legislation from Budget Bill 55, and
    (2) place proposed Amendments on the EBR registry and ask for public input.

This is an urgent and critical issue for the integrity of the government and for the integrity of its environmental program.

Click here to see the letter CPAWS OV sent to the Premier of Ontario on the issue. Click here for an overview of the proposed amendments and their impacts on the respective legislation, drafted by Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Please contact the Premier of Ontario, Ministers of the Environment, Natural Resources, and Finances, other political parties, and the Environmental Commissioner at the following addresses to express you support for removal of the Amendments from the Budget Bill.

Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, DMcGuinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

       or directly through the Premier’s website:
Honourable Jim Bradley, Minister of Environment, Minister.moe@ontario.ca
Honourable Michael Gravelle, Minister of Natural Resources, Minister.mnr@ontario.ca
Honourable Dwight Duncan, Minister of Finance, DDuncan.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Tim Hudak, Progressive Conservative Party, Tim.Hudakco@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, New Democratic Party, ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca
Mike Schreiner, Green Party of Ontario, leader@gpo.ca
Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner for Ontario, Commissioner@eco.on.ca