Ontario’s environmental watchdog issued a warning that the province has changed legislation that will see its natural resources exploited – something Sault MPP and Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti argues vehemently against. Environmental commissioner Gord Miller states in his annual report that provincial government cutbacks announced during the spring budget will result in the Ministry of Natural Resources having less power to protect Ontario’s resources. Instead, the powers will be delegated to private companies, which in turn could lead to exploitation of Crown land, wildlife and natural resources, the report states.
He referred to Ontario’s far north as turning into the “wild west,” particularly with the potential development around the Ring of Fire, expected to be the province’s most promising mineral development of chromite and warns that major industrial activities can proceed with few checks.
He also criticized the government for a lack of an action plan to deal with invasive species like the Asian carp and emerald ash borer.
But Orazietti counters that Miller has misinterpreted the rules and that the new power for private companies only deals with minor changes on issues like dredging permits and the removal of vegetation that only has minimal environmental impact.
“The changes in no way allow the ministry to turn over large tracks of land to third parties. Instead, these changes apply to the minister’s ability to delegate management of Crown land to a third party, activities which have minimal environmental impact,” Orazietti said. “Without these four powers to delegate, we have no ability to allow a third party to help us manage Crown land.”
Orazietti chides Miller’s references to “the wild west” as comments from someone who is out of touch with the importance of the Far North Act.
“It’s the Conservatives who are publicly saying we should rip up the Far North Act and that would create the the environment of a wild west,” Orazietti said. “Our government believes in consultation and legislation creates certainty in the far north, which has been a challenge in the past with First Nations and Mining corporations.”
Orazietti said the Far North Act has resulted in land use planning with five First Nation communities, which decided where infrastructure is placed and how their communities will be developed and gives mining companies the information so that they can properly plan. The Far North Act has created protection for 47,000 square kilometres in the Far North.
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