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Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, mirrors a long line of legislation designed to strip away years of environmental protection, regulations, guidelines and mandates.
Since the Doug Ford government came into power, they have tabled several bills that echo a sinister trail of environmental deregulation — Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act; Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act; Bill 132, the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act; and Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act.
Ford also tabled Bill 245, the Accelerating Access to Justice Act. According to Michael Spratt in his article titled ‘Doug Ford is using the pandemic as a cover for partisan changes to the judicial appointments process,’ Spratt explains that Doug Downey’s Bill 245 “has little to do with enhancing access to justice. It is a transparent Trojan Horse for partisan judicial appointments and weakened environmental protections.”
Once again, Ford and his parcel of rogues claimed that changes were needed to accelerate access to justice.
Expediency over the environment is the mantra of this current out-of-control government, in my opinion.
Ford and his band of iconoclastic warriors did not stop here, though.
On June 1, 2021, under the authority of Section 2 of the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) Act, 2021, the OLT was born. The act amalgamated the Board of Negotiation under the Expropriations Act, and continues the Conservation Review Board, the Environmental Review Tribunal, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal and the Mining and Lands Tribunal, as the OLT.
Shortly after Ontario’s five land tribunals were folded under the OLT, there were immediate and widespread calls to dissolve the newly formed OLT. All in all, at least 28 municipalities out of 444 made a move to dissolve the OLT.
Call me cynical, but all of the moves that Ford has introduced over the years fundamentally undermine the safeguards, checks and balances that are central to our democratic system.
Environmental deregulation hurts us right here in Oro-Medonte. In 2014, council passed bylaw No. 2014-127 — Horseshoe Craighurst Corridor Master Plan Funding Agreement Bylaw. Buried within this bylaw is Article 10.5, which states, “If any person makes a request to the minister of environment and climate change for an order under Part II of the Environmental Assessment Act in respect of any notice of study completion issued through the completion of the master plan, the township shall provide reasonable assistance to the owners to support the conclusions of the master plan and shall consult with the owners to determine the appropriate role of the township in addressing such request to the minister.” Essentially, council in 2014 warned anyone challenging the bylaw that the township was prepared to fight.
And so, on Feb. 1, 2020, several Part IIs were registered with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). A Part II request is a complaint process whereby individuals or groups can petition the government about plans that may jeopardize the environment in some way.
Well, Ford eliminated this process in the summer of 2020. In a letter to me personally, the MECP stated, “All Part II order requests that were under review which do not pertain to potential adverse impacts on constitutionally protected Aboriginal or treaty rights, the request has been terminated.”
My Part II request was related to Oro-Medonte’s master plan, which outlined a proposal to dump treated sewage into the Coldwater River at the Line 6 of Oro-Medonte.
Because I stated that the master plan may potentially and adversely impact on constitutionally protected Indigenous or treaty rights, the MECP allowed me an opportunity to clarify my position. I am hardly qualified to defend Indigenous treaty rights, but I did my best to uncover mappings dating back over 300 years.
In a letter from the MECP, they once again terminated my Part II by stating, “The project area is located outside of the area recognized as being within the Nanfan Treaty 1701. The ministry undertook an analysis to identify Indigenous communities to whom a duty to consult may arise with respect to the project and the list of those Indigenous communities was provided to the proponent.”
I personally believe that more work needs to be done in this area, but it is beyond my scope of understanding and expertise. Suffice to say, no one that I’ve talked to during this current election cycle was happy with the idea of waste from hundreds of homes entering the Coldwater River system.
If Ford, Downey, Jill Dunlop and others get their way, the environment is in imminent danger of calamity. Even the government’s own auditor general warned that green spaces such as wetlands, woodlands, and meadows are in rapid decline.
Ford and his parcel of rogues are at war with the environment.
It’s time that we speak up before it’s too late, as David Suzuki has warned for the better part of 40 years.
Wake up, Ontario.