Environmental Groups from Across Canada Speak Up for Ontario’s Conservation Authorities

More Than 100 Groups Urge Ford Government Not To “Reduce or Constrain” Conservation Authorities’ Mandate for Protecting our lands, waters and wildlife

We count on our Conservation Authorities to have the mandate they need to work with other parties to protect and preserve places like this – Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Falls, Ontario Photo courtesy of Lori Monroe

“Any effort to reduce or constrain the mandate of Conservation Authorities is contradictory to the interests of the people of Ontario who are facing enormous risks and costs as a result of climate change and ongoing biodiversity loss. The roles and responsibilities of Conservation Authorities are critical in protecting the lands, waters and wildlife which benefit businesses and communities across Ontario, and upon which our health and well-being ultimately depend.”                                                                – from a letter more than 100 environmental groups across Canada have sent to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Government

A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper Posted May 1st, 2020 on Niagara At Large

Here is some good news for Mother Earth, and hopefully for the watersheds, along with the wetlands, woodlands and meadows they host, across Ontario and our Niagara Region.

While so much focus has understandably been on the COVID-19 breakout over the past few months, more than 100 of Canada’s most renown environmental and environmentally-minded groups spent some of their time this April preparing and sending an urgent letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Tory government.

The groups that sent the letter  include –  just to name a few – the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), Ontario Nature, Environmental Defence, David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, World Wildlife Fund Canada the Sierra Club of Canada, Ontariogreen and Niagara, Ontario’s own Niagara Falls Nature Club, Bert Miller Nature Club and Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS).

The letter (a link for which is included below) calls on the Ford government not to compromise the Ontario Conservation Act in ways that weaken the ability of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NCPA) and the 35 other Conservation Authorities in the province to protect and preserve the health of vital watersheds in the regions the Authorities serve.

Good for all of these groups have come together at a difficult time like this to take this stand.

We all need to speak up – contact the Premier’s Office, our MPPs and mayors and members of council – and support them.

We can’t allow the Ford government to get away with weakening our under-resourcing our Conservation Authorities across Ontario, including our NCPA, which is still working to get back on its feet after being hijacked for most of the last decade by individuals with agendas that ran contrary to the principles of conservation.

And we certainly can’t allow Doug Ford and his governing Tories to get away with what many are afraid they are trying to do now – take a Ontario Conservation Act that has just been thorough review (begging the question; ‘What’s with the eagerness to rake it over the coals again?) and weaken or gut it in ways that makes it easier for the ill-responsible and ill-attended among us to compromise the quality of or even destroy forever more pieces of our watersheds.

You and I and all of us who care about a healthy environment for present and future generations have to join the more than 100 groups who have sent Ford and his party members the letter below and coming out of this pandemic nightmare, the jig is up for that kind of wanton, short-sighted environmental destruction.

Long before COVID-19 showed up at our doors, and certainly during the weeks and  months it has continued to plague us, there have been enough studies and reports put out to fill the Great Lakes on the relationship between the health of nature and our ecosystem, and the health of humans and other life forms on our planet.

Just to take one recent, science-based report as an example, evidence already shows that – all things being equal (in other words people are dong the social distancing and taking the other protective measures) – fewer people test positive for COVID-19 in communities and regions of the world where the air is cleaner.

What are some of the key contributors to clean air? Cutting industrial smokestack emissions is an obvious one, and we have gone a long way (although, in some sectors of industry, not for enough) over the past 50 years since the first Earth Day.

Then we move on to other key things that help keep clean and replenish the oxygen in our air like trees, wetlands, grasslands, healthy creeks, rivers and lakes, and fewer cars on the road and less low density suburban sprawl that contributes to more car use and traffic congestion, and makes walking, biking and public transit more challenging, if not nearly impossible.

In other words, a healthy environment that includes woodlands, wetlands and watersheds that support a rich biodiversity of life EQUALS healthy people and health communities.

No more need for debate. The jury has been in on that a long time ago.

Those who don’t understand the relationship between a healthy environment and our health are either too thick to understand it or they don’t want to understand it because it is not in their short-term, financial interest to.

To paraphrase the late American writer Upton Sinclair; ‘It is difficult to get a person to understand something when their salary or source of income depends on not understanding.’

When we face existential threats to the health of our planet and all life-forms on it like the climate crisis that confronts us now, time is rapidly running out for trying to reach an understanding with some of these people. It is time for all of us who care about our future and the future of our children to tell Ford and his enablers they have had their fun with bulldozers, chainsaws and paving over what is left of our natural heritage.

Two of the many Niagara residents who packed a hall in Niagara Falls, Ontario this past winter to speak out for Thundering Waters, a forested area hosting wetlands in the Niagara River watershed, and a target for a China-based development project backed by Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and a majority on his council.

And if some of our local politicians like the mayor of Niagara Falls, Jim Diodati, and some of the rogues in the land speculation and development industry we have around here, don’t like it, tough.

Coming out of this pandemic, it is time to tell those in politics who don’t want to get on the environment train, that they will be left at the station when we elect them out of office in municipal and provincial elections two years down the line.

Meanwhile, we have got to stop Ford and his government from weakening or gutting our Conservation Authorities.

Now here are the first few paragraphs of the letter to the Premier and his government, released by the Canadian Environmental Law Association, in its latest online newsletter this April 29th. Those graphs will be followed by a link to the rest of the letter –

Dear Premier Ford,

We, the 112 undersigned organizations, call on the Government of Ontario to retain the current mandate of the province’s 36 Conservation Authorities in protecting, restoring and managing the watersheds where 95 percent of Ontarians reside. Their functions and responsibilities with respect to land use planning and permitting, monitoring, stewardship and education must be maintained, for the reasons outlined below.

If the Ford government is allowed to weaken the mandate of our Conservation Authorities, the only winners will be those who want to do more harm to our watersheds for their own, short-term gain.

Our Conservation Authorities are a unique and widely respected Ontario innovation. They were established in the 1940s in response to concerns expressed by agricultural, environmental and sports groups about the unhealthy state of the province’s lands and waters as a result of poor resource management practices.

The combined impacts of drought and deforestation had led to extensive soil loss and flooding, pointing to the need for a regional approach to managing Ontario’s watersheds, for the safety and well-being of communities.

Today, Conservation Authorities provide a much-valued bridge across municipal boundaries to understand and address environmental concerns, such as flooding. Because they operate at the watershed level, they are ideally positioned to encourage science-based collaborative strategies and decision-making.

TO READ THE REST OF THE LETTER, CLICK ON – Support for Ontario’s Conservation Authorities – Letter to Premier Ford

Niagara At Large would also like to encourage you to visit the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s website to learn more about this organization and its work by clicking on – https://cela.ca/

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

One response to “Environmental Groups from Across Canada Speak Up for Ontario’s Conservation Authorities

  1. Thank you for raising the awareness of this great need to protect our Conservation Authorities!


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