OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from the Huronia regional representative with Ontario Nature.
Proper public consultation on changes to environmental law and policy used to be something that Ontarians could count on, thanks to our Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR).
But not anymore.
Twice in recent years the courts have found that the Government of Ontario broke the law by failing to consult with the public as required under the EBR — the first time when it cancelled the province’s carbon cap-and-trade program without consultation; the second, when it rushed through changes to the rules governing minister’s zoning orders (MZOs), also without consulting.
Now, with the passing of Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022 on April 14, the government has done it again.
The new law includes significant changes to the Planning Act to expedite development while circumventing policies intended to limit destruction and harm to Ontario’s already hard-hit farmland, natural areas and wildlife.
Though the EBR requires at least a 30-day public consultation period for such legislative amendments, the government pushed Bill 109 through the Legislature at lightning speed – just 15 days from when it was introduced.
The bill became law halfway through the public consultation period, making a mockery of our environmental rights!
Ontarians should expect and demand that governments respect and uphold the legal requirements for public consultation when passing new environmental laws or altering existing ones.
At stake are the lands and waters that provide local food, mitigate floods, sequester carbon, conserve biodiversity and offer access to the outdoors, so vital to our health and well-being.
Fast-tracking development at the expense of these essential benefits is short-sighted in the extreme and compromises the rights and interests of current and future generations. And furthermore, it’s against the law.