Ontario needs to finalize its environment plan, while addressing the climate crisis, sustainable land use planning and water security
Contrary to publicity trumpeting the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, Ontario does not have an Environment Plan. Without a clear vision, we are failing on the climate crisis, land use planning and water security.
A draft plan has languished on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, at Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan | Environmental Registry of Ontario, since November 29, 2018. That’s four years and seven months. And counting.
The government disguises this lack of action by referring to the plan in announcements and media releases as part of “the government’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan”. IE: it is the government’s plan, not part of the public trust, and it can be ignored or amended at will, not even requiring an order in council.
Let’s revisit what the government has done.
On energy, it cancelled over 700 green energy contracts early in its first term and is now trying to replace that capacity with more fossil gas power and high cost nuclear builds, ignoring the short-term use of imported Hydro power as Ontario should commit to building green energy capacity and expertise. While Canada’s forests burn, Ontario will increase fossil fuel emissions, and still has no plan to get to Net Zero.
On land use planning, Premier Doug Ford has gone from a promise to not touch the Greenbelt to calling the protected expanse a scam. In the meantime, the government has revoked the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve Act in favour of 30,000 new homes and is imposing urban boundary expansion of more than 20,000 additional acres on municipalities that would prefer density. This will destroy land in natural heritage and agriculture while biodiversity plummets and crops from Florida through Texas to California are wilting under a heat dome.
These and other initiatives threaten Ontario’s water security. While over-arching policy states that “Planning authorities shall protect, improve or restore the quality and quantity of water by: a) using the watershed as the ecologically meaningful scale for integrated and longterm planning”, the government appears to be willfully abandoning any such direction. Indeed, rather than seeking to standardize the more than six ways in which the Province delivers watershed management, it seems intent on facilitating sprawl development instead of protecting our wetlands, rivers, lakes, and groundwater, upon which we all depend.
In contrast to this current malaise, the Ontario Headwaters Institute urges the Government of Ontario to:
Hold meaningful consultations toward finalizing the Made in Ontario Environment Plan, with commitments to Net Zero, Sustainable Land Use Planning and Water Security, by the end of 2023;
Change course on building more gas-fired generating stations and instead import clean power from other jurisdictions while supporting the expansion of Ontario’s green energy sector;
Develop a lens for planning that will include sustainable community design and sustainable buildings while focusing on urban intensification instead of sprawl that will convert far too much natural heritage and agricultural lands, some in the Greenbelt, to pavement; and,
Consult widely on how to implement integrated watershed management across the province, using the watershed as the ecologically meaningful scale for integrated and long-term planning, per the Provincial Policy Statement.
Please support our petition on these actions at https://chng.it/62CZWMc9zk.
Andrew McCammon is Executive Director of the Ontario Headwaters Institute.
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