Dear Minister Clark.
There has been much attention paid lately to the future of our Conservation Authorities – one of the last regulatory bodies designed to protect our environment. In a response to the public outcry regarding the neutering of Conservation Authorities’ ability to protect water, wetlands and public health, Minister Clark made a series of statements and announcements:
First, was the promise of $30 million dollars to “create, restore and enhance wetlands” across Ontario;
Second, was a promise to improve the “quality and quantity of the Greenbelt”.
The timing of these announcements is troubling and does not add to our confidence in the government’s commitment to protecting the environment coming, as it has, on the heels of eight members of the Greenbelt Council quitting in protest over provincial policy changes. Changes that former Toronto Mayor and, until he resigned this past week, Chair of the Greenbelt Council, David Crombie outlined as “high-level bombing”.
But we are willing to accept these announcements in good faith, and we look forward to hearing more about these initiatives. To be very clear, however, if this government is truly committed to these initiatives, by which we mean that they are not being used as cheap politics to deflect from the criticism, fully deserved, that they are receiving with regard to the policy changes noted above, then we expect the following:
That no more MZOs will be issued that allow development in provincially significant or locally significant wetlands. It makes no sense to commit to restoring wetlands and putting taxpayer money towards that, while simultaneously destroying or impairing other wetlands. Refusing to do this would be creating a boondoggle for developers, using public money to offset wetland destruction.
The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, which will be reviewed in the new year, will be strengthened by building on proven existing policies (e.g. phosphorus loading targets and WWTP moratoriums), demonstrating the government’s commitment to protect the environment with policies that protect more high quality natural cover, including wetlands and forests. This should be a zero loss target and policy structure, meaning that there should be no reduction in the quantity and quality of natural cover going forward. Currently, the target in the LSPP is 40% high quality natural cover – a target that we are failing to meet.