A Lobbyist This Excuse for a Conservation Authority Paid For With OUR MONEY, By The Way!
By John Bacher
Posted December 21st, 2016 on Niagara At Large
For the past two years the provincial government has been engaged in a disturbing public consultation.
And while that process of public consultation is now finished, there is internally at the cabinet table of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government at Queen’s Park a major debate, which is expected to be resolved in the first few months of 2017.
The Cabinet debate reviewing Ontario’s wetland policy which has been in place since 1992. The current policy which has been respected under New Democratic, Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments for 24 years has as its cornerstone a very important principle.
The big principle is that once deemed provincially significant, wetlands are to be protected period from what the policy terms “site alteration”. What is considered to be significant is a scoring system based on an accumulation of 600 points. Once a wetland has accumulated 600 points it is deemed to be provincially significant.
What gives a place in the natural landscape high points for wetland protection is the presence of rare and endangered species.
Right now this situation is a driving point in the determination of brave public servants (including NPCA field staff in the unfortunate position of having to work for the body’s current managers) to stand up and defend the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario from developers’ ill-devised site alteration schemes schemes that could cause about two-thirds of the 500 acre forest to be mowed down for development.
To protect more land based on the habitat of threatened species, a wetland re-evaluation is now underway at the Thundering Waters site.
Three species of endangered bats are believed to have nest roosting in the threatened wetlands’ old growth forests. On this basis a re-evaluation of the ancient forested wetland complex is taking place. Other species at risk in the threatened forest which are being investigated include the Monarch Butterfly, Nine Lined Lady Beetle, the Chimney Swift, Barn Swallow, Eastern Wood Pee Wee and Wood Thrush.
The cabinet of Ontario’s Wynne government is now considering removing protection of provincially significant wetlands through a proposal termed “bio-diversity offsetting.”
What is so disturbing about the reality of the situation today is that while the hard working staff of the Niagara and Peninsula Conservation Authority, (NPCA) and that of the Ministry of Natural Resources carefully examine what species are found in the Thundering Waters Forest, professional lobbyists are at work in the corridors of power at Queens Park to undermine their labours.
The problem around the lobbying now taking places can be gleaned from a May 20, 2015 report to the Board of Directors of the NPCA. It was submitted to the NPCA board by its then Chief Administrative Officer, Carmen D’ Angelo on May 20, 2015. This document outlined how the firm, Kealy and Associates is to “advance key issues amongst senior levels of government.” (i.e. the province). Among these “key issues” is what this report terms “biodiversity offsetting.”
The D’ Angelo Report, outlining a lobbying strategy to influence the provincial government, suggests that offsetting will serve to “allow specific development on wetlands.” It describes Kealy and Associates as a key agent in persuading the province to permit such development on now protected wetlands. This was proposed to be accomplished through what D’ Angelo termed “additional advocacy and strategy support” in securing such policy change with the provincial government.
On the basis of the publicly revealed D’ Angelo report, access to information requests have been made to the NPCA. These have been refused by the NPCA and the requests are subject to court litigation.
To ensure that wetland policy in Ontario is in fact based on what is truly good science, and not on what the D’ Angelo report terms the lobbying wizardry of a “professional communications firms”, these documents should – in a spirit of true openness and accountability – immediately be released by the NPCA.
John Bacher is a veteran conservationist in Niagara, Ontario and is the Chair of Greening Niagara. For more on Greening Niagara click on – http://www.greeningniagara.ca/
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