Doug Ford’s controversial Bill 229 endangers our environment and our communities

Freshwater

Gutting core environmental oversight will dismantle the institutions that have helped Ontario boast a strong economy and environment

Toronto, Dec. 08, 2020
Despite being named “Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19,” the Doug Ford government’s Bill 229 is putting nature, people and property in danger all across Ontario.

The 260-page omnibus bill includes a number of unpopular non-pandemic policy changes, most controversially the gutting of the Conservation Authority Act. The stripping of Conservation Authorities’ actual authority caused seven members of the Greenbelt Council to quit over the weekend. This includes now-former chair David Crombie, a former conservative federal cabinet minister whose resignation letter stated bluntly: “this is not policy and institutional reform. This is high-level bombing and needs to be resisted.”

In response, Megan Leslie, president and CEO, WWF-Canada said:

“Gutting core environmental oversight and land-use management will not put us in a place of competitive advantage after the crisis of COVID has lifted. It will instead dismantle the very policies and institutions that have helped Ontario boast both a strong economy and a strong environment.”

Elizabeth Hendriks, vice-president of restoration and regeneration, WWF-Canada says:

“This amendment will lead to a ‘pay to pave’ approach which we’ve already seen fail many times over. It is expensive and ineffective to just ‘recreate’ wetlands somewhere else — and won’t address the concerns of our non-partisan and science-based Conservation Authorities. In the middle of a biodiversity and climate crisis, this government is choosing to put communities and wildlife at risk.”

How Bill 229 affects Conservation Authorities and wetlands:

Conservation Authorities have provided the ecosystem oversight, watershed management and planning authority that has kept Ontario safe — and dry — since 1946.  But under Schedule 6, this budget bill takes away the scope and power of Ontario’s 36 regional Conservation Authorities, even as increasing threats of climate change-fuelled flooding and widespread wildlife loss make their roles more important than ever. Specifically, Schedule 6:

  • Authorizes the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to overturn a Conservation Authority’s decision to not issue a development permit, politicizing the process and removing the opportunity for science-based decision-making.
  • Allows developers to fast-track approvals and appeals, potentially permitting development that is unsafe and/or damaging to the natural environment, something the provincial government has already been under fire for this year.
  • Offloads responsibility onto municipalities which lack the technical and financial resources required to properly protect their communities, habitats and wildlife.

The government’s revisions last Friday will allow developers to pay a fee when they destroy a provincially significant wetland with the money being used to build new wetlands elsewhere. But man-made wetlands are a poor substitute for naturally occurring ones. These replacement wetlands would not support the same wildlife and plant species or provide the same flood prevention, and they would undoubtedly cost more to build than the penalty fee would fund.

About World Wildlife Fund Canada

WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

For further information and interview requests, please contact: media@wwfcanada.org