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Ontario Government Guts Endangered Species Legislation – Nature Groups Respond With Lawsuit Against Province

Niagara At Large,
Doug Draper,
September 11 2013

A Commentary by Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper

When Kathleen Wynne was sworn in as the 25th premier of Ontario this past winter, one of the first things I recall her saying on an open-line CBC radio program was that the Liberal government she had served as a cabinet minister in and taken over from her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, had not done enough on environmental protection. The Fowler's toad, a species at risk along the shores of Lake Erie, never seems to be much of a species at risk when a big developer wants to build a condo or some other structure along the shoreline. That is when Ontario's Ministry Of Natural Resources say - go ahead and build. ... it is okay.

The Fowler’s toad, a species at risk along the shores of Lake Erie, never seems to be much of a species at risk when a big developer wants to build a condo or some other structure along the shoreline. That is when Ontario’s Ministry Of Natural Resources say – go ahead and build. … it is okay. Many Fort Erie residents have learned that lesson the hard way.

As a long-time environmental reporter going back to the late 1970s and 1980s when toxic chemicals poisoning our Great Lakes was a major issue, I was pleased to hear this because I never had the impression that protecting and preserving Ontario’s natural heritage – a heritage, the quality of which, very much impacts on the lives of our Buffalo area and other American neighbor, by the way – was more than a pin prick in McGuinty’s agenda. Wynne, at least, always showed an interest in environmental issues and certainly one of the first things she should do is reverse the gutting, by the former McGuinty Liberal government, of the province’s endangered species legislation.

There aren’t too many reasons why a government would gut laws that protects wildlife species at risk within its jurisdiction other than pandering to the worst elements of the farming and development community who view any effort to protect natural features as an assault on them. Developers and extreme, right-wing representatives of the farming community actually go to public meetings and call any kind of effort to protect woodlots, wetlands and other natural features as “sterilizing the land.”

I believe most sane people would view pouring asphalt or turning a naturally diverse piece of a land into a monoculture peppered with toxic pesticides as sterilizing the land, but these screwballs have another way of thinking, and so far the government of Ontario has allowed them to get away with it to a point that any discussion of trying to protect and preserve some environmental diversity is cast as a ‘commie plot’.

Once again, let’s hope that Wynne moves away from that kind of Neanderthal thinking and that she is able to use the intelligence she has to make a sane case for protecting and preserving what is left of Ontario’s by finally saying no to the most lame and brain-dead elements of the development and farmers community.

There are more forward thinking, progressive developers and farmers out there who want to do the right thing, not only for themselves, but for the larger community and Niagara At Large hopes to highlight some of their efforts in the months and years ahead. They are the future, not these ‘you-are-trying-to sterilize-the-land-I want to exploit’ for purposes that snub the health and welfare of those around them ranters that show up – they are almost always the usual suspects at public meetings – and whine about almost any effort to protect natural places.

Painted turtles, home to Ontario's wetlands, aren't worth a flying fig if they interfere with a local, regional or provincial government's development bagmen's interest in gutting more wetlands in this province for urban sprawl.

Painted turtles, home to Ontario’s wetlands, aren’t worth a flying fig if they interfere with a local, regional or provincial government’s development bag men’s interest in gutting more wetlands in this province for urban sprawl.

So please Premier Wynne, I know you have only had months to shift away from the agenda of McGuinty. But do your best to turn around the gutting of endangered species legislation that would at least slow down the mission of the most backward representatives of the agricultural and development community to keep lands from being “sterilized” by covering every last acre under their control with mono crops or concrete or asphalt.

In that spirit, I am posting below a statement circulated this September by Dr. Anastasia Lintner, a staff lawyer for Ecojustice, a Canada-wide public interest group expressing concern about the ongoing gutting of endangered species legislation in Ontario, whether it applies to the Fowler’s Toad habitat along the shores of Lake Erie, painted turtles that depend on wetlands for their survival or any one of hundreds of other species at risk in the province.

Now here is a note from Anastasia Lintner from the not-for-profit group EcoJustice –

An Open Message from Anastasia Lintner, Staff Lawyer for the Canada-wide public interest group Ecojustice

This July, the Ontario government gutted its own species at-risk legislation, failing to deliver on its promise to defend species from threats. Now major industries, including forestry, mining, and oil and gas pipelines, may be jeopardizing the survival of 155 vulnerable species listed in the Endangered Species Act without government oversight.

Ontario has a responsibility to protect these species from harm. But its actions suggest otherwise.

That’s why we sued the Ontario government yesterday and why, today, we held a news conference to announce our lawsuit. Together, as concerned Ontarians, we’re challenging the province’s decision and fighting to ensure that Ontario’s at-risk species get justice.

Throughout our history, you’ve supported us as we’ve defended wild spaces and species from environmental threats. This case is no different. Legal action could force the government to do the right thing: protect at-risk species and their habitat.

Learn more about what we’re doing to seek justice for Ontario’s species at risk and how you can help.

I am also posting the first few graphs of a note I received this September 10 from a communications officer for Ontario Nature, a partner of the Ecojustice organization.

Hi Doug,

We are finally at the last resort around the gutting of the Endangered Species Act. Ontario Nature, Wildlands League and Ecojustice announced this afternoon that we’re suing the government at the press conference. Here’s the release and a backgrounder.

The Ontario government has undermined their species at risk protection legislation; they have tarnished their gold-standard law beyond recognition. The new regulations protect industries over species, allowing them to pave, drill, drain and bulldoze species habitat with almost zero government oversight. As such the government acted unlawfully when they made the new exemption regulations and, as a last resort, we’re calling them on it.

Click on the following for more information http://www.ecojustice.ca/blog/new-lawsuit-launched-to-protect-ontario2019s-endangered-species.

(Niagara At Large invites all of you who care and dare to also share your real first and last name with a comment, to share your views below.)

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