So, Doug Ford has returned the Greenbelt lands. Yippee!
Those of us who opposed opening these protected lands should be proud of keeping this issue in the public’s mind. But, really, it was the only action that made any sense. It was clear that he was wrong in taking them out in the first place, despite all the warnings. And, he has not reversed the other measures introduced at the same time. He still doesn’t seem to understand how important the environment is to the people of Ontario.
The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is proposing to exempt waste management systems, stormwater management, and water taking from current licensing requirements. This would mean no ministry assessment of any environmental impacts, no scrutiny by the public or government before the activities are already operating, and no right to appeal under the Environmental Bill of Rights.
The proposal would exempt certain waste management systems that involve asbestos waste, biomedical waste, treated biomedical waste, hazardous waste, liquid industrial waste, and treated waste that cannot be disposed of by land. Instead, the ministry is proposing to have the specified activities self-registered under the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry. This allows businesses to proceed with their activities faster but at the expense of regulatory oversight, which ensures the protection of the environment and human health.
And, the new water-taking framework would end the moratorium that has been in place since 2016 on new bottled water-taking permits and the government would resume the issuing of permits under slightly modified requirements. This, despite two-thirds of the people preferring to have the agreements phased out. The Ford government will give host municipalities “a say” in the permitting process, but this isn’t the same as granting them the right to refuse. Bottled water companies will have to seek approval from municipalities but only for new or expanded permits of more than 379,000 litres a day, of which only 20 per cent currently exceeds this level. This impact could well be felt locally, as businesses line up to take Oro-Medonte water.
The premier ran on a platform of deregulation (“cut the red tape” ring a bell?), so this should not come as a surprise to anyone. But, did we really think he would go so far as to allow potential further degradation of our water systems? It would seem to be the case.