Citizen Protectors Of Thundering Waters Forest In Niagara Should Beware!
A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted October 12th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Well, here is yet another loss for Mother Earth and for those living things who need her to be healthy and green to survive.
This one was delivered this October 11th by the Ontario Court of Appeal in favour of the anti-environmental protection government of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s drive to corrupt the province’s Endangered Species Act with 19 exemptions favouring gas, oil, lumbering and mining activities over protecting some of the last green spaces left for wildlife on the brink saying a final goodbye – at least in this region of the world.
The court ruling came down just hours after this news and commentary site, Niagara At Large, posted a news release by the citizens-based conservation group, Ontario Nature, celebrating the fact that it and a number of other environmental organizations won standing in the provincial courts to appeal the government’s proposed changes to the Act.
To tell you the truth, I posted Ontario Nature’s celebratory news release (a link to which is included below) knowing that when it comes to environmental protection and wildlife and natural heritage conservation, Wynne is even worse than former Ontario premier Mike Harris was. I say that because at least Harris was honest about not caring a fig about green issues. No hot air around those issues. With Harris, we clearly knew what we were dealing with and what those of us advocating for a healthy environment were up against.
Wynne is a different story.
She leaves the Endangered Species Act on the books but grants exemptions for big money interests that can afford her kind of pay-to-play politics where those who donate the most money to her party’s election coffers are first in line to have their concerns addressed.
She launches a review of the Ontario Conservation Act and uses it to draft recently tabled changes that may give bodies like the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority even more autonomy to do whatever they want, with little or no accountability to the public at large.
Now she has launched a review of the Ontario Municipal Board with a list of talking points crafted to give the public the impression the government might make the OMB hearing process fairer to local citizens concerned about some of the proposals wealthy developers have for their communities.
But if the OMB review goes anything like past revisions and exemptions have when it comes to laws and processes that are supposed to be protective of places and things common people care about, there won’t be a provincially designated heritage building or district left in Ontario that is safe from a developer’s wrecking ball.
The ruling the provincial appeals court made this October 11th in favour of the Wynne’s government’s drive to take the teeth out of the Endangered Species Act does not bode well for coalitions of residents in Niagara who are fighting to save hundreds of acres of Thundering Waters Forest and wetlands in Niagara Falls from urban development.
As much as experts in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry recently issued a document very critical of the work done by the China-government sponsored developer to determine the environmental impact its proposed “Paradise” community would have on the natural features of the Thundering Waters lands, at the end of the day, those fine experts have no choice (short of shutting up or getting) but to serve political bosses.
And political boss number one in Ontario is Wynne, who went on a business mission to China a year ago last November and boasted in a media release that one of her achievements is an invested Chinese developers want to make in developing the Thundering Waters area in Niagara Falls.
Meanwhile, ministers of Wynne’s cabinet made public “mandate letters” this September, outlining items they plan to focus on in the months ahead.
One of the items listed in the letter from Wynne’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, discusses “no let loss” of wetlands which is code for constructing a wetland somewhere else if a developer wants to destroy one to make room for buildings and roads.
It is called “biodiversity offsetting” and it is something that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has expressed interest in doing on behalf of the developers who want to build their Paradise retail and housing in the Thundering Waters Forest.
So between the worrisome developments taking place at the provincial level and all of the lobbying the China-sponsored developers are doing with Niagara’s elected councillors at the local level, I fear that the chances of saving the Thundering Waters Forest from development are about as good as the chances Ontario Nature and other province-wide environmental goods had of winning their court case against Wynne’s planned exemptions to the Endangered Species Act.
To read the October 11th ruling by the Ontario court of Appeal in favour of the Wynne government click on – : http://www.ontariocourts.ca/decisions/2016/2016ONCA0741.htm .
To read the media release from Ontario Nature posted this October 11th in Niagara At Large, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2016/10/11/ontario-environmental-groups-win-right-to-appeal-endangered-species-decision-2/ .
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