This week we launched a campaign to convince the Ontario government to NOT end permitting for projects that impact provincially recognized endangered species (Note: if you haven't sent a letter yet please do so today). Not that we support giving anyone a permit to harass, harm or kill endangered species, it's a defensive measure -- the province is proposing replacing permits with voluntary rules developers would be expected to follow. They say it's a government cost-cutting measure.
In reality, of course, it is a cost-cutting measure for developers looking to avoid proper studies and delays. Permitting is important because every case is unique and the Ministry of Natural Resources must review each application to harass, harm or kill any endangered species as required under the provincial Endangered Species Act.
Admittedly, the permitting process has largely proven to be a rubber stamping process, but it does enable the province to track the cumulative impact of development on endangered species (and hopefully someday control it under the powers of the provincial act).
The new voluntary system would assume rules are observed and all is fine-and-dandy. It will do for endangered species what gutting enforcement of the Highway Traffic Act would do for human safety. The same arguments put forward (e.g. developers can be expected to voluntarily respect laws and government would save money) could also be applied to drivers and the cost of policing. Unfortunately, the ensuing mayhem would be the same.
The point being is this: cuts to endangered species protection cost everyone. It will deprive us of biodiversity and precious natural capital that comes with it. It's dumb, short sighted and cruel.
For the most part we are talking about making it easier to throw-up more condos and subdivisions when we know the urban sprawl model is expensive and unsustainable and that there are better ways to house and employ us.
With more than 60 species in Ontario on the brink of extinction, and every single municipality desperately trying to finance the cost of services and aging infrastructure, isn't it time politicians stopped pandering to the developers who fund their campaigns and drive up the cost of government? Isn't it time to end the days of sweetheart deals for developers?
There is literally a mountain of evidence to support recognizing our natural capital when making economic decisions. Rather than making it easier for developers to ignore our natural capital we need regulations designed to make sure they make good decisions (not just hope they'll do so voluntarily).
The Ontario government has chosen to go backwards instead of forwards. Let's hope public opinion will convince them to reverse course.