Greenpeace, with environmental groups Ontario Nature, David Suzuki Foundation, and Earthroots are calling on the Ontario government to stop punching holes in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) big enough to drive a mega quarry or massive clearcut through. A full-page ad appears in Metro newspapers today asking Ontarians to take action to protect the ESA. With the budget bill scheduled to be passed by mid June, the groups are renewing efforts to have changes to environmental laws removed from it.
Environmental groups ask the Ontario government to stop punching holes in the Endangered Species Act. Take action here. © Greenpeace / Steve Morgan
“With massive new developments like a mega quarry in Southern Ontario and huge industrial zones for mining and forestry in northern Ontario being planned, this is no time to weaken protection for our most vulnerable species,” said Catharine Grant of Greenpeace.
Hiding within the Ontario Government’s budget bill are far-reaching changes to the ESA and six other environmental laws. Taking its cue from the Harper Government, the Ontario Liberals have snuck major changes into a finance measure that threatens public land, rivers, lakes and species at risk, which bypasses requirements for public consultation.
One of the most troubling aspects of the bill is the proposed gutting of the ESA, which has been lauded as one of the best species laws in North America. The budget bill removes one of the Act’s key requirements to prohibit resource extraction companies from conducting operations that harm endangered species. For example, if passed mining companies will be allowed to dig up the habitat of endangered species, like woodland caribou, without any obligation to consider alternatives.
Changes to other environmental laws will be similarly damaging. Proposed changes to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act will allow logging companies to create massive clearcuts without adhering to sustainable harvest levels or writing a government-approved Forest Management Plan.
“Normally in Ontario, all changes to environmental and natural resource laws must be subject to full public consultation and review under the Environmental Bill of Rights,” explained Grant. “However, the government has dodged this requirement by inserting these broad policy changes into a budget bill. Now polar bears, woodland caribou, monarch butterflies and golden eagles will pay the price unless Ontarians act to save their environmental laws.”
Greenpeace is calling on the public to take action by telling the Liberal government that they must remove these changes from the budget bill and subject them to full public scrutiny under the Environmental Bill of Rights. Decisions about the budget bill are to be made this week.
For more information:
Read the open letter to Premier McGuinty
Read editorial by prominent Canadian lawyer Clayton Ruby (Toronto Star).