As world leaders are set to meet at COP15 and Canada expected to take on the target of 30 per cent of our land being protected by 2030, the Ontario Government’s bill to fast-track development has the provincial government taking aim at protected areas and environmental laws.

Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster) proposes sweeping changes to more than a dozen pieces of legislation and regulations designed to protect the environment and prevent climate change disasters. In the proposal put forth, many protected wetlands would lose their designation, Conservation Authority properties would be opened for development, Greenbelt lands would be handed over to developers, Conservation Authorities would be limited in their ability to avert catastrophic flooding and concerned people/organizations would be prohibited from appealing certain decisions. This all amounts to reduced habitat conservation and climate change action, speeding up wetland destruction in the process and putting human health and safety at risk (an Ontario Government commissioned study found wetlands reduce flood damage and costs by 29 to 38 per cent).

The good news is the current government has shown time and again that they will back down when public opinion is strongly against them and public pressure mounts, so we’re calling on everyone to let the provincial government know that Bill 23 needs a complete rethink.

By submitting comments by the end of the day Thursday Nov 24, we can all help conserve wetlands and greenbelts that are on the chopping block, maintain the critical role of Conservation Authorities in habitat protection and ensure flood damages and costs don’t skyrocket. The proposed bill would also limit the ability for public to provide input and appeal certain decisions, which is already apparent in the short consultation period they’ve provided and convoluted process. To have your voice heard, you should e-mail your local MPP as well as all the following:

Let them know you are deeply concerned that:

  1. Bill 23 downplays or completely disregards negative impacts
  2. Bill 23 removes protected areas at a time when Canada is trying to increase protected areas to 30 per cent of our lands by 2030.
  3. Bill 23 reduces or completely removes the ability for public and concerned organizations’ input
  4. Bill 23 impedes the ability of Conservation Authorities and municipalities in environmental protection
  5. Bill 23 exacerbates climate change and reduces the ability to mitigate climate related disasters

And let them know that, to address these concerns, the provincial government must:

  • Take into account and publicly disclose the negative impacts that Bill 23 will have on land protection, carbon sequestration, climate change mitigation (ex flood-risk, drought and their associated costs), environmental protection and social well-being
  • Remove all attempts to reduce protected lands and instead work collaboratively towards the goal of protecting 30 per cent of lands by 2030
  • Remove all sections that reduce the ability for public comment and appeal
  • Remove all sections that diminish the role or the reach of Conservation Authorities, along with the ability for government to override their decisions
  • Ramp up efforts to address climate change and associated effects and remove all sections in Bill 23 that would reduce greenspace (including agricultural areas and wetlands)
  • Remove all sections that circumvent or override municipal and Conservation Authority decisions that safeguard against habitat destruction or climate change