May 7, 2013
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Dear Premier Wynne,
Re: Proposed exemptions under the Endangered Species Act, 2007
It is our understanding that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is proceeding with its plans to create a broad new suite of exemptions under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA), and that Cabinet will be making a final decision about this proposal in the very near future. We are writing to urge your government to turn down this ill-advised proposal.
On March 1st of this year, 54 environmental organizations co-signed a letter to you outlining our concerns about the exemptions and requesting that they be withdrawn. Thousands upon thousands of Ontarians have expressed their disapproval of the exemptions. Collectively, we have tried through various means (participation in public consultations, letters to relevant Ministers, meetings with staff at your office and the office of Minister Orazietti) both to convey our opposition to the proposal and to offer alternatives. But to no avail.
We are left wondering how it could be that your government which so proudly passed the ESA only a few years ago could now be turning its back on endangered species and on those of us who hailed this new law as the gold standard in Canada and beyond. There seem to be two possible explanations: either the government has indeed made a conscious decision to change direction and no longer stands behind the legislated purpose and intent of the ESA, or it has been misinformed by the MNR about the intent and likely impacts of the proposed exemptions. Certainly the MNR has been less than fully transparent with the public about the real implications of and reasons for these proposed changes.
Premier, we are deeply appreciative of the many significant steps that have been taken by the Liberal government to improve environmental law and policy in Ontario. The reintroduction of the Local Food Act and the Great Lakes Protection Act is a strong signal of your ongoing commitment to fostering healthy, sustainable communities. Yet we have to ask whether your government will stand behind its own legislation in the years to come. The proposed exemptions to the ESA cast a disturbing shadow of doubt across your green agenda and legacy.
There is no doubt that the proposed exemptions would severely weaken the ESA’s current standard of protection and undermine the government’s ability to monitor and control activities that harm threatened and endangered species and their habitats. Indeed, some organizations have raised concerns that the Ministry's proposed regulatory approach is contrary to law.
While we acknowledge that there have been many challenges in implementing the ESA, broad exemptions are not the appropriate way to address them. There are other viable options which should be explored. These include fair and fiscally responsible ways to address the deficit. We are willing to discuss these opportunities at any time.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your response.
Muskoka Field Naturalists
cc. The Honourable David Orazietti, Minister of Natural Resources
The Honourable Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance
Gordon Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario