One section of Mr. Stelling's commentary:
...the government published its new “budget” cunningly titled “Bill 55, Strong Action for Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2012”. Beware: carefully obscured among the arcane wording of no less that 69 Schedules “to enact and amend various Acts”, is critical legislation that will effectively disable important parts of Ontario’s existing environmental legislation.
On April 10, Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner for Ontario reported ...
“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, budget 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”.
The full commentary can be read, in .pdf format, hereAmong the most worrying is “Schedule 19” which amends the Endangered Species Act, 2007 to provide for several exemptions from the prohibitions, set out in clauses 9 (1) (a) and (b) and subsection 10 (1) of the Act, against killing, harming, harassing,capturing or taking a member of a species at risk, possessing or transporting them or damaging or destroying their habitat.
The Schedule adds section 10.1 to the Act to exempt persons from these prohibitions if the prohibited act occurs while carrying out infrastructure maintenance, repair and replacement. Amendments to section 18 provide for similar exemptions for a person who carries out activities under or in accordance with certain permits, licences or other instruments that are prescribed by regulation. The Minister is allowed to make regulations prescribing the circumstances in which the exemptions provided for in the Schedule do not apply and prescribing conditions a person must comply with in order to benefit from the exemptions.
(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.
By any estimation, this is a serious gutting of the Endangered Species Act and if allowed to become law, will have a devastating effect on Ontario’s biodiversity. It was no doubt inspired by the protest against the Ostrander Point wind turbine project which, opponents have pointed out, will harm the endangered Whip-poorwill and the Blanding’s Turtle by road building and disturbance of wetland habitat.