RE: Rouge National Urban Park – Environmental protection under the Province is no protection
The Op Ed by Minister Brad Duguid in the Toronto Star and Premier Wynne on Facebook stating that the “Environment is non-negotiable” and “We are serious about protecting Ontario’s green space and environmentally sensitive lands” are empty claims and amount to no protection. Minister Duguid’s letter calling for “commitment that the federal government will conform to provincial policies such as the Greenbelt Plan . . . the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and the Big Move,..” and “meet or exceed provincial policies” means that just about anything can be located in or immediately beside the park – energy projects, highways,… all the things that people are concerned about.
The same Government that claims the “environment is non negotiable” has abandoned almost all environmental legislation in the name of green energy… Not very “green”. Under the Green Energy Act, there are no environmental assessments required. The Province has granted reduced setbacks to natural heritage features, creeks, rivers, and significant landforms. No permits are required to remove raptor nests. Permits to kill, harass or otherwise endanger Species at Risk – now called “Permits of Overall Benefit”, are routinely granted. Removal of significant woodlands are allowed. Some 17 reports that are required for development on the Oak Ridges Moraine are routinely bypassed. Those reports that are submitted often contain major errors, have significant omissions and are not verified. Reports by developers have misrepresented information to the Ministry of the Environment claiming to have provided hydrogeological reports to the municipalities, agencies and the public which were never actually provided.
The Ministries of the Environment and Natural Resources rely heavily upon reports provided by the developers, which are very selective in the information that they choose to provide. There is no verification against facts. There is no monitoring. So, what kind of environmental protection were Minister Duguid and the Premier referring to? Are he and the Premier misleading supporters of the Rouge Urban Park or genuinely unaware?
Like the supporters of the Rouge Urban National Park, many environmentalists before them worked long and hard for the Environmental Assessment Acts, Endangered Species act, Migratory Birds Acts, Oak Ridges Moraine Act, Greenbelt Act, and for the protection of environmentally sensitive and ecologically important areas.
In 1983 the owners of the land now known as Fleetwood Conservation Area, deeded 800 acres of their land through Ontario Heritage Foundation, now Ontario Heritage Trust, and Nature Conservancy of Canada (“NCC”), to ensure that it would be protected from development forever.
“Ontario Heritage Foundation, has been able to secure this magnificent property. It
will be protected, in perpetuity, from unsympathetic development and use and
we will be able to fulfill the dreams of its previous owner – – to use the
land for conservation and the enjoyment of the people of Ontario.” Press Release, Susan Fish,
Minister of Citizenship and Culture, 1983
Fleetwood Conservation Area is the gold standard in conservation. It is now one of the few inland forests in Southern Ontario and home to the headwaters of Fleetwood Creek on the Oak Ridges Moraine. And yet, the Province approved the Sumac Ridge wind project right on top of the headwaters of the Fleetwood Creek, beside this beautiful inland forest, with no hydrogelogical report, no stormwater management plan, no spills management plan, no fire suppression equipment, on a high aquifer vulnerability zone, and allowed them to use a watershed plan from East Cross Creek, two sub watersheds away. The family who deeded the land are now finding out that the assurances provided by the province meant nothing.
Ostrander Point, also protected under environmental legislation, was approved for an nine wind turbine project. When the community won the Appeal, because the Blandings Turtle, an Endangered Species, was at risk, the Province and the developer appealed the decision through a Judicial Review and won. That decision is now being appealed at the next level by the community.
The Oak Ridges Moraine was protected in 2001, with the unanimous support of all parties after decades of work by many environmentalists. The announcement of the measures was made by Premier Dalton McGuinty in Pontypool, on the edge of the Fleetwood Conservation Area, steps from the site of the first industrial wind project approved on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
At least 26 mega sized industrial wind turbines (almost 500 ft tall), a hundred acre solar farm and a major transformer station are currently proposed/approved on the Oak Ridges Moraine. These projects amount to several thousand of acres of the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Thousands of comments, thousands of letters, emails and petitions have been sent to the Province objecting to the locating of industrial wind projects on the Oak Ridges Moraine. Over 40 Parties, Participants and Presenters are been involved in the recent Appeal of the Sumac Ridge wind project. Municipal Councils, Conservation Authorities, STORM Coalition, Council of Canadians and others have objected to the location on the Oak Ridges Moraine, called for the re-instatement of environmental assessments, required studies and increased setbacks.
The protection that many environmental groups believe exists under Section 41. of the Oak Ridges Moraine Act where proponents are required “to demonstrate the need and that there is no reasonable alternative” has been trumped by the Green Energy Act and the Electricity Act in all cases.
The Province continues to claim that because of “FIT contracts” offered to developers, they are obligated to carry on. These FIT contracts are conditional on Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and other approvals. There is no obligation to approve them and the Government always has the option of acting in the Public Interest. They make the law. They can change them and they can require that they be enforced. If the Province actually meant it when they said the Environment is non-negotiable, they could deny or revoke approvals; prohibit development in protected areas; require permits, studies and setbacks.
Sadly, at this point, environmental protection under the Province is an empty promise.
Ward 16 – Manvers on the Oak Ridges Moraine
City of Kawartha Lakes
26 Francis Street, Lindsay ONK9V 5R8