Politicians are hoping to protect species at risk.
The Green Party of Ontario says that the influence of ‘big money’ from developers in Ontario politics is dangerous and damaging. Party leader Mike Schreiner says that it’s time to start reversing the Liberal government’s decision to gut the Endangered Species Act.
“We need to eliminate the loopholes that allow industry insiders to kill endangered species,” said Schreiner. “It is outrageous that the Liberals put their developer friends before people and planet. Endangered species can’t hire lobbyists or write big campaign cheques the same way as developers do. We need political leadership that stands up to industry insiders and puts people first,” he said.
Schreiner noted the Ministry of the Environment estimates Ontario’s ecosystems provide $84 billion a year worth of services, and said the province can’t afford to lose species at risk.
“Endangered species are not luxuries,” added Schreiner. “Endangered species live in habitats that help clean the air and water, provide us with food and fuel, and give us the forests, lakes and rivers that makes Ontario such an awesome place to live,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario took aim at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. In her 2017 report, Good Choices, Bad Choices: Environmental Rights and Environment Protection in Ontario, commissioner Diane Saxe says that the MNRF is putting species at risk.
Specifically, Saxe dissected the Endangered Species Act, the centerpiece of the Ontario government’s efforts to protect and recover species at risk. The law is intended to protect species by making it illegal to kill, harm or harass them, or to damage or destroy their habitat.
It aims to recover species through a three-step process: development of a recovery strategy by a person or agency with expertise on the species; a response statement by government that outlines the actions it will take; and finally, on-the-ground conservation action.
“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect and recover species at risk. To this end, the Act provides a general prohibition against activities that harm species at risk. But the law also gives the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry flexibility to authorize activities that could harm species at risk, under appropriate conditions. For example, proponents may obtain a permit from the MNRF that allows harmful activity, if the total activity provides an overall benefit to the species at risk,” Saxe said, in the report.
Since its passage in 2007, the commissioner has repeatedly said that the Endangered Species Act provides a solid legal basis for protecting species at risk, but its effectiveness lies entirely with how the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry exercises its powers and responsibilities under the law.