Bill 55 paves the way for environmental destruction

Read more on the ECO’s site
Aside from many other reasons to reject the budget, this amendment appears is not on the general public’s radar and is a huge concern.  Bill 55 amends 69 different statutes in its schedules Many environmentally significant laws that are administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources are proposed to be amended.  These laws include the Endangered Species Act, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Public Lands Act, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act.  Laws such as these are prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR).
 
If the budget passes, industrial wind developers will no longer have to request an exemption permit under the Endangered Species Act or post such notice to the EBR!   There have been six exemption permit requests in the last few months by solar and wind developers. Samsung, at this moment, is requesting an exemption permit to rid the area of meadowlarks and bobolinks for its wind power plant. The developers must be delighted! Is there any doubt left as to who is really running the McGuinty government?

Schedule 19 endangered species act, 2007
   1.  The Endangered Species Act, 2007 is amended by adding the following section:
Exemptions from prohibitions
   10.1  (1)  Despite subsections 9 (1) and 10 (1) and subject to subsections (6) and (7), a person who is engaged in an activity described in subsection (2), (4) or (5) may, in the course of the activity,
  (a)  commit an act that would otherwise be prohibited under clause 9 (1) (a) or under subsection 10 (1); and
  (b)  possess or transport anything that the person would otherwise be prohibited from possessing or transporting under clause 9 (1) (b).
Infrastructure maintenance, repair, etc.
   (2)  The exemptions described in subsection (1) apply to a person who is engaged in maintaining, repairing or replacing infrastructure described in subsection (3) if the maintenance, repair or replacement does not,
  (a)  change the location of the infrastructure;
  (b)  extend the area the infrastructure occupies in any way; or
   (c)  alter the way in which the infrastructure is used or operated.
Same
   (3)  The infrastructure referred to in subsection (2) includes any infrastructure that is part of or related to,
  (a)  a communications system;
  (b)  an electric power system, oil or gas pipeline, alternative energy system or renewable energy system;
   (c)  a transportation corridor or transportation facility;
  (d)  a waste management system; or
  (e)  water works, wastewater works, drainage works, stormwater works and associated facilities.
Non-commercial activities
   (4)  The exemptions described in subsection (1) apply to a person who is engaged in a non-commercial activity on lands, other than public lands, that are within 50 metres of the person’s primary residence or in any other area prescribed by the regulations.

From the Environmental Commissioners Website:
Last Tuesday, the Government of Ontario presented its proposed budget. The Minister of Finance, the Honourable Dwight Duncan, tabled for first reading in the legislature Bill 55 – Strong Action for Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2012. This budget bill is effectively the mother-of-all pieces of omnibus legislation.

Bill 55 amends 69 different statutes in its schedules. For example, many environmentally significant laws that are administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources are proposed to be amended. These laws include the Endangered Species Act, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Public Lands Act, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. Laws such as these are prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR).

Normally, when the government proposes to amend legislation that is prescribed under the EBR, it would post a proposal notice on the Environmental Registry and solicit public comments for a minimum of 30 days. The government then considers the public comments and makes a decision. These steps help make for a transparent and accountable process.

However, budgets bills are specifically exempt from the posting and public consultation requirements of the EBR. Moreover, the Ministry of Finance is not prescribed under the EBR either. As a result, the public does not have the same opportunities to contribute to decision making when a number of environmentally significant laws are changed in a budget bill.

I wrote about a very similar situation in my last Annual Report regard the use of omnibus legislation: “At best, using omnibus legislation to amend environmental laws complicates the EBR process. At worst, it can obstruct the public’s right to participate in environmental decision making.”

12 thoughts on “Bill 55 paves the way for environmental destruction

  1. One way of accomplishing deeds like Bill 55 is to divert attention to other things like the ORNGE scandal or to blame the loss of Ontario invetments/businesses on the corporate income tax rates, and etc.
    Parties affected by IWTs will have to quickly organize to prevent this from happening. Companies like BP don’t appear to have much concern about environmental damage. Somehow BP managed to get around US safety regulations for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and was allowed to drill anyway.

  2. Timing is definitely suspicious on this change given all the applications to harm/harass/kill endangered species wind proponents all over ?Ontario have been submitting. But when you read above the bold part it does state the exemptions only apply if one is repairing or replacing existing infrastructure – therefore in theory this would not apply to NEW construction

    • But in the future alternative & renewable energy systems will need repairs and/or replacing.
      Notice that permission to harm/harass/kill endangered species is in full swing in the US. So this has to be done in both countries for migratory species.

      • Creating or changing laws by including them in budget bills is a very old political tactic. New enactments and changes that would otherwise not pass go through in budget bills without the required consultation process.

  3. The NDP are sadly in a power position to pass or strike down this budget. Where the hell are they on this bill?!! Aren’t they suppose to be so concerned about the environment?

    How ironic that everyone who wanted the environment protected voted in two political parties that are hell bent on destroying it.

  4. See National Post for interesting commentary…
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/04/05/matt-gurney-ontario-ndp-starts-strong-then-blows-it/

    The stumble came when the NDP decided that they, in fact, had more than one “request” of the government in exchange for support. Nothing wrong with that, per se. There’s nothing wrong with them handing over an entire laundry list of items they want addressed. The Premier could reject them all, accept them all, reject some while accepting others … that’s up to him. The NDP can certainly ask.

    But it is strange to draw the process out over several days … with no clear sign of when they’ll be done. After making their tax-hike request, the NDP waited a few days and then added another suggestion: Capping the salaries of provincial executives. This is an even more logical request than the tax-hike (which is only logical by NDP standards) — capping the wages of provincial executives isn’t much different than freezing the wages of every civil servant in Ontario, something that the Premier has already announced will be done. But why the delay?

    Maybe they should have just asked for more “windmills” — they’re innocent enough…

    • Political “gamesmanship” has become so vile and corrupt that I can’t understand how much more Ontarians can pit up with these clowns………………is this Province so morally and physically beaten down that nobody can muster any kind of backbone any more?…………..seems the only people who are fighting these clowns are Rural Residents!

  5. One of the posters says that the amendment only applies if one is repairing or replacing existing infrastructure – therefore in theory this would not apply to NEW construction. But the permits that wind developers are getting under the Endangered Species Act already covers off all of that stuff – i.e., according to the wording of the permits, the permit they are already getting is for the construction and the operation of the wind energy facility for the lifespan of the wind turbine project which is 20+ years. So if the maintenance (repair or replacement of existing infrastructure) of wind turbines has already been covered off by the ESA permit then why would the government have to bother with having an amendment to repair or replace existing infrastructure?
    I am pretty sure this amendment is to give a free pass to wind turbine developers to ignore the Endangered Species Act.

    • To make the IWT thing work the endangered species and migratory laws need to harmonize in both countries. The Migratory Bird Treaty has to be gutted.

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