Manitoulin groups pan omnibus Bill 108

MANITOULIN – At least two Manitoulin organizations are concerned as is the Ontario Nature Network (ONN,) in regards to Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act, which affects 13 pieces of legislation including the Conservation Authorities Act, the Planning Act and the Endangered Species Act, the latter which has drawn the most concerns. 

“I signed the letter of concern (from the Ontario Nature Network) on behalf of our club,” said Marcel Beneteau, chair of the Manitoulin Nature Club last Friday. “What kills me is that a recent UN (United Nations) report came out stating that the loss of natural habitats around the world has placed one million species of wildlife at risk of extinction. Meanwhile our province is putting this bill in place that could potentially end up wiping out more habitat.”

“We definitely signed the (ONN) letter,” said Ted Kilpatrick, chair of the Friends of Misery Bay (FOMB). “And we sent in a letter from the FOMB with comments to the proposed mess.”

“We support the concerns because in this day and age we have already lost too much habitat and endangered species, we need more rather than less regulations and guidelines in place,” said Mr. Kilpatrick. “Under the proposed new legislation developers would be allowed to put money in a fund in order help with the loss of habitat. But it isn’t going to save a species, the money will not replace the species that have been lost, but this is part of this bill.”

In a letter from Caroline Schultz, executive director of Ontario Nature, titled ‘Endangered species need your help,’ she explains, “last week, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, introduced omnibus Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act. This bill affects 13 pieces of legislation including the Conservation Authorities Act, the Planning Act and the Endangered Species Act. This bill contains just about everything developers, the aggregate industry and other industries have been seeking. Schedule 5 of Bill 108 contains the changes to the Endangered Species Act. These changes are sweeping and tantamount to having no Endangered Species Act at all. If passed, the changes spell a dire future for species at risk in our province.”

“Bill 108 hastily went to second reading on May 8 so is on track to pass and come into law soon—although we don’t know the timing,” wrote Ms. Schultz. “Before Bill 108 was introduced, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, posted its proposed amendments to the (Endangered Species Act) on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) for public comment.”

“We urge your groups to make a submission on the ESA amendments,” continued Ms. Shultz. “We are also preparing a submission for organizations to sign onto which I will circulate early this coming week. If you are unable to make a separate submission from your group, we welcome you to sign onto ours.”

“Ontario Nature has worked with Ecojustice and the David Suzuki Foundation to produce a concise guide to the changes to the ESA to inform your ERO submissions. It will also inform any direct contact with your local MPP. We encourage you to write or phone him/her. Better still would be to seek a meeting,” wrote Ms. Schultz. 

Ms. Schultz further explained, “one of the proposed changes is that assessments of species be based not on the status of a species in Ontario, but instead on its status across its ‘biologically relevant geographic range.’ Most species now listed as threatened or endangered in Ontario, which are considered to be more stable in the US, could be delisted (e.g. during regular reassessment purposes) and receive no protection as a result.”

“Ontario Nature has compiled the list of threatened and endangered species currently listed along with their global status,” wrote Ms. Schultz. “Based on the government’s proposal, it is conceivable that 74 percent of currently listed threatened and endangered species could be delisted and lose protection.”

In a separate news release, Ms. Schultz said, “Bill 108, the omnibus bill tabled by the government of Ontario on May 2, reflected neither the values nor the long-term interests of Ontarians who understand the importance of a healthy environment. Pandering to influential developers, the government is prepared to undermine environmental protections set out in several key pieces of legislation including Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA). It has grossly misled the public, pretending that proposed changes to the ESA would improve outcomes for species at risk. In fact, Schedule 5 of Bill 108, if passed, would delay, limit and/or remove protections for most Ontario’s threatened and endangered species and their habitats.”