Ontario Opposition Parties All Vow Swift Restoration Of Conservation Authority Powers

Developers Who Get Permits Through A “Political Route” Would Be Left With Nothing

A News Release From The Public Interest Groups Environmental Defence, Cpaws Ottawa Valley, David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition And  Wilderness Committee

Posted February 23rd, 2021 on Niagara At Large

A haven for provincially significant wetlands in Niagara Falls, Ontario’s Thundering Waters Forest are now threatened by development plans that the mayor of the city and most on his council supports. Photo by Lori Monroe

Toronto, Ontario  – Developers and landowners who want to develop on floodplains, wetlands and other hazardous or environmentally sensitive lands should think twice before using newly-created political shortcuts to circumvent or overrule Conservation Authorities.

That is the unified message sent today (this February 23rd, 2021) by Ontario’s opposition political parties.

Ontario’s Official Opposition New Democratic Party, as well as the Liberal, and Green parties, pledged to restore the powers of Conservation Authorities over development decisions.

The New Democratic, Liberal, and Green parties also committed to revoke without compensation any permits that are granted using the lenient and politicized new development approval routes created by the government.

“We hope these commitments from Ontario’s opposition parties will help stem the destruction the government has unleashed on natural features that keep us safe. They send a clear message to developers that if they use new loopholes to get around Conservation Authorities’ decisions, they risk throwing away their investment , ” said Phil Pothen, Ontario Environment Program Manager, Environmental Defence.

“The prudent approach for developers and landowners now is to act as though Conservation Authority decisions are final, and to focus on complying with whatever flood and landslide prevention and other environmental constraints they impose.”

Last December, the Ontario government ignored a deafening chorus of warnings from Conservation Authorities, independent experts, farmers, the public, and its own Greenbelt Council, and passed Schedule 6 of Bill 229, which undermined protections against floods, landslides and environmental hazards by hobbling Conservation Authorities.

These changes are designed – and are already being used in conjunction with Minister’s Zoning Orders – to unleash residential and commercial sprawl in environmentally sensitive areas, like a Provincially Significant Wetland in Pickering connected to Lower Duffins Creek.

Let’s finally make it a priority to protect what our left of our wetlands and the benefits they contribute to a healthy environment for us all!

Environmental Defence asked all political parties if they would commit to repeal Bill 229 Schedule 6 in its entirety upon forming government. While the governing Progressive Conservative Party did not respond, all three opposition parties have committed to do exactly that. Specifically, they have committed to:

* remove the power of the Minister to reconsider and force through development applications already reviewed and rejected by arms-length Conservation Authorities

 * remove the Minister’s power to replace the role of Conservation Authorities in deciding all, or some subset of development permit applications, with a backroom political process

 * end “forced permits”, which Conservation Authorities are obliged to issue (even in the face of serious public safety and environmental concerns) wherever the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has issued a Minister’s Zoning Order

 * repeal the “pay to pave” provisions which force Conservation Authorities to let developers build within and compromise key protected ecological areas provided they pay monetary compensation

 * restore the power of Conservation Authorities to expropriate land required to protect the public, as well as their full research, inspection, and stop work order powers

 * remove the power of private landowners who know or suspect their property contains sensitive features, to conceal that fact by excluding Conservation Authority staff

 * restore the standing of Conservation Authorities as parties to Planning Act Appeals .

“Restoring these powers to Conservation Authorities by revoking Schedule 6 will make all of us safer”, said Dr. Anne Bell of Ontario Nature. “Conservation Authorities’ traditional role in permitting work and broader land use planning protected the wetlands and forested areas that store and slow the speed of flood waters, preventing and mitigating damage caused by floods and landslides.”

One of the many residents of Waverly Woods.in Fort Erie, Niagara, a beautiful area now targeted for urban development.  Do Ford and his pals in the development industry have to pave over everthing?

In view of the very grave threat to the environment and public safety created by development permits issued using newly-created mechanisms which circumvent or disregard expert and arms-length scrutiny, Environmental Defence asked the major parties to go further, and commit that if and when they form government, they will revoke, using legislation which denies any compensation to developers, any Conservation Authorities Act permits issued by the Minister or forced on Conservation Authorities.

 Both the Official Opposition Ontario New Democratic Party and the Green Party agreed unambiguously to revoke permits and legislate away any right to compensation. While the Liberal Party did not specify the means of denying compensation, they too committed to revoke the permits, and protect Ontario from any financial liability.

“The swift commitment by these parties to revoke approvals granted under Schedule 6 without compensation is a bold but necessary statement that reflects the severity of the risks they pose to healthy wetlands, woodlands, biodiversity and public safety.” said Katie Krelove, Ontario Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.

“The Schedule 6 changes to the Conservation Authorities Act are just one part of a dangerous and coordinated policy agenda that is enriching developers of car-dependent residential and commercial sprawl by sacrificing natural heritage and farmland,” said Claire Malcolmson, Executive Director of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.

“The government’s pro-sprawl agenda, which includes running a new suburban highway through the Greenbelt, pressuring municipalities to expand settlement boundaries by July 2022, suburbanizing large swathes of countryside, and using an unprecedented number of Minister’s Zoning Orders to force through sprawl developments in the interim, have led many of Ontario’s leading environmental NGOs and grassroots groups to band together in pushing back as the ‘Yours To Protect’ coalition,” added Phil Pothen.

On the Ontario side of the Niagara, River, we still don’t have enough municipal leaders willing to designate this natural wonder as a a globally important wetland under an international Ramsar agreement. What are they afraid of?  That such a designation may somehow get in the way of more unsustainable, sprawling development? How shameful. Our American neighbours, including their municipal leaders, declared their side of the Niagara River a Ramsar designated wetland of global importance more than a year ago. SHAME ON NIAGARA, ONTARIO FOR NOT HAVING THE WILL YET TO DO THE SAME.. It is important to note that our Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s current board of directors has gone on record supporting such a designation. Photo of Lower Niagara River from the Ontario side by Doug Draper

“Today’s announcement is one of many we hope to make over the coming months as we build consensus among Ontarians of all political stripes around stopping the sprawl agenda and preserving our remaining farmland and natural heritage.”

A Brief Footnote from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper –

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Conservative minions, inlcuding his puppet in the Niagara West riding, Sam Oosterhoff, have now made it clear where they stand on environmental protection – and it isn’t on the side of our kids and their future.

For the sake of our children, we in Ontario have got to throw out this anti-environment, climate denying Ford government.

There are only 16 months left before the next Ontario election. Come on fellow citizens – especially all of you younger citizens of voting age out there who may have the most at stake. Let’s get to work on throwing Ford and his extremist party out! 

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

2 responses to “Ontario Opposition Parties All Vow Swift Restoration Of Conservation Authority Powers

  1. Good news. Can we have an election now?

    Like

  2. Forget the contact bracelets for covid. We need bracelets on developers that beep when they get too close to natural resources.

    Like

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