This legislation could also spell the end for Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls and other green areas across our region and province
A Brief News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper, followed by a statement from the Canadian citizen’s group, Environmental Defence
Posted January 10th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Believe it or not, there was a time in the history of Ontario that the province’s Conservative Party demonstrated a real interest in protecting the environment for present and future generations.
It was an Ontario Progressive Conservative government under the leadership of then Premier Bill Davis – way back in 1972, when the word “progressive” in the party’s name meant something – that created the Ontario Ministry of Environment and set the prototypes for so many of the environmental protection rules that would follow.
Then in the mid-to-late 1990s, with the Ontario Conservatives taking a hard swing to the right under the leadership of Mike Harris, and now with Doug Ford, who has recast the once-proud party of Bill Davis with the deceptive brand “your (supposedly meaning ‘our’) Government for the People,” a war on environmental protection, cheered on by the most backward and self-serving members of the business, development and farming industries, has reached its shock and awe moment.
In the first six months of Ford’s hegemony in Ontario, after he and his band of neo-cons managed to eke out a majority in last June’s provincial election with less than half of the popular vote, we have witnessed at blitzkrieg of attacks on policies and programs aimed at reducing climate-changing carbon emissions, at shifting to a green energy economy, and at protecting our drinking water against any future Walkerton tragedies.
The Ford government has also moved to close down Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner’s Office, a, non-partisan independent watchdog body on governments in the province.
And now there are plans by this so-called “Government for the People” to ram through its recently drafted Bill 66 – an ominous piece of legislation branded by Ford and his reckless extremists as another one of their “open for business” initiatives, allegedly aimed at “restoring Ontario’s competitiveness.”
Behind the curtain of “open for business” bullshit, is the ticking time bomb equivalent of legislation that threatens to hallow out and override hard-fought-for planning and environmental rules, (many of which, with bipartisan support and the greater common good in mind, have been decades in the making.
In the cross hairs are rules that protect Ontario’s world-renown Greenbelt, where so much of what is left of the province’s best food, including grape and tender fruit lands are located, and other precious green spaces across our region and province like the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls and the Waverly Beach area in Fort Erie.
This year is shaping up to be nothing short of a do-or-die one for those of us determined to protect and preserve what is left of the life-sustaining natural resources of our region and province from the scorched earth direction that this Ford juggernaut and the forces of ignorance and short-sighted selfishness and greed that support it are marching in.
The irreparable damage Ford and his accomplices could do to our water, our air and other resources must be stopped for the sake of ours and future generations of people who we have a moral responsibility to leave a healthy living environment to.
If enough of us stand up and raise our voices, and keep the heat on the politicians who represent us at the provincial and municipal level, I truly believe that, like earlier generations who fought so hard for these environmental protections in the first place, we can stop Ford and his party hacks, and the narrow, selfish interests they serve, from gutting those protections.
For the sake of a healthy and a prosperous future for everyone, we must speak out.
Niagara At Large will be ramping up its covering of environmental issues, ever more than we have in years gone by, and we urge everyone out there who cares about a healthy environment to get engaged as citizens of this region, this province and this world, shut Ford’s war on the environment down.
We are posting below a recent statement by one of Canada’s most respected environment groups, Environmental Defence, on the perils of Bill 66.
But just before we do that, we urge you to watch or re-watch a video that leaked out during the provincial election last year of then Ontario Conservative Party leader and candidate Doug Ford (not knowing he was being videotaped) telling a group of supporters in the development industry that he would consider selling off “chunks” of our province’s Greenbelt for urban development (that Ford shamefully tries to make sound more palatable by calling it “affordable housing.”).
When this video tape leaked out during the campaign, Ford quickly went in to damage control mode following a backlash from Ontario voters, and said he had taken this scheme off the table.
Frankly, we don’t believe that he has. We believe that he was sharing his honest opinion of what he would do to a precious environmental resource in our province when he didn’t know he was being recorded.
And Bill 66 proves it!
Watch the video by clicking on the screen below –
Now here is the Statement from Environmental Defence –
A Statement on Ontario’s proposed “Open For Business” Bill 66 from Environmental Defence’s Executive Director Tim Gray on Ontario’s proposed “Open for Business” Bill 66
Toronto, Ontario – Ontario’s proposed “Open for Business” legislation repudiates Premier Doug Ford’s promise not to touch the Greenbelt, threatens drinking water, undermines evidence-based city planning, and removes protection from toxics chemicals for Ontario residents.
It takes us back 40 years and means the provincial government will become deeply involved in many individual development decisions.
Bill 66 promises provincial intervention to advance development proposals on the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, within Source Water Protection Areas, and in formerly protected areas within the Lake Simcoe Watershed.
This will mean that the current process of identifying appropriate places for new developments within municipalities would be sidelined and developers could get the provincial go ahead to develop in sensitive areas that have been put off-limits to development to protect farmland, drinking water, natural values and transit corridors.
The Greenbelt is the anchor of smart land-use in southern Ontario and protects almost 2 million acres of farms, natural areas and water sources. Opening it to development will set free rampant land speculation by developers, resulting in a loss of farmland and the disruption of farm communities. And, it will undermine smart growth planning that’s aimed at increasing density to facilitate affordable housing and public transit access.
The Walkerton tragedy occurred due to a lack of protections for our sources of drinking water. Seven people lost their lives. To make sure it never happened again, we developed source water protections but this Bill will give developers a pass on keeping drinking water safe.
New developments would be exempt from drinking water source protection plans, and could be built regardless of their risk to water. They’d be able to do the same for rules that protect our Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe from environmental damage.
Finally, the implementation of the Toxics Reduction Act will be suspended and the law will be later repealed. This Act was enacted in 2009 to prevent pollution by reducing the use of toxic chemicals in industrial sectors, and to help inform Canadians about the presence of toxic substances by labeling consumer products.
The Ontario government has promised early in its mandate to “come down heavy” on polluters. Removing the key law that was designed to help companies reduce their pollution sends the wrong signal to big polluters to continue to dump toxic chemicals into our environment.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE – Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
For more on Environmental Defence and its public advocacy work, click on – www.environmentaldefence.ca
To find out more about Bill 66 and to review a copy of the legislation, click on – https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-1/bill-66 .
To read another take from the Canadian Environmental Law Association on the threat Bill 66 poses to the Greenbelt and Ontario’s environment at large, click on – http://www.cela.ca/blog/2018-12-07/deregulation-redux-Ont-envl-laws-under-attack-again .
Here is the link for Environmental Defence’s Statement/Media Release on Bill 66 – https://environmentaldefence.ca/2018/12/06/statement-ontarios-proposed-open-business-bill-66/
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