New legislation hidden in the government’s Budget Bill 55 will allow the Minister to grant exemptions from existing provincial legislation protecting endangered species which prohibits anyone from harming, killing, or destroying the habitat of a threatened species.
The Minister will now be able to excuse from prosecution under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, corporations engaged in infrastructure projects including renewable energy (wind turbines), communications systems, electric power systems, oil or gas pipelines, transportation corridors or facilities, waste management systems or water works.
Ontario’s wind turbines are already causing havoc for migrating species. Some are now sited or planned for important migratory bird corridors, adjacent to inland wetland migratory stopovers, and near provincially significant habitats of endangered and threatened species. Significant wildlife habitat at Ostrander Point, and Wolfe Island on Lake Ontario; Point Peelee National Park and costal wetlands associated with Lakes Erie and St. Claire; as well as Manitoulin Island and Arran Lake adjacent to Lake Huron are all at risk. At Wolfe Island near Kingston, studies of the first year of operation reveal a mortality rate of 13.4 birds per turbine. For the potential cumulative effect, multiply by the 86 Wolfe Island turbines = 1152 birds per year, hardly an insignificant number on a migratory flyway. Now multiply by the 7000 wind turbines planned for Ontario and then multiply by 20 for their expected life of operation. Some of the species killed are already experiencing population declines: for example, the Tree Swallow and the Bobolink. At Ostrander point, protesters are concerned about the threat to the Whip-poor-will and the Blanding’s Turtle from disturbance and road building.
According to Ontario Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, by burying this amendment to the Endangered Species Act in Budget Bill 55 (Schedule 19) the government avoids the normal transparency and public input.
The provincial government, which contends the wind turbines are necessary to lower CO2 emissions has been made aware of the fact that in Germany CO2 emissions have actually increased since the turbines were installed because of the need for fossil fuelled backup.
Every genuine environmentalist, conservationist, nature lover or advocate for global biodiversity will be outraged at this underhanded development. It would be useful if you send a message to opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath (“Have your say Ontario: Tell us what you think about the budget”) using her online feedback form: http://www.ondpcaucus.com/yoursay/ or telephone 1-855-ONT-BDGT; and Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/environment/en/main/contacts/feedback/index.htm
Minister of the Environment, Hon. Jim Bradley: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/environment/en/main/contacts/feedback/index.htm
Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Michael Gravelle
Minister of Energy, Hon. Chris Bentley
Voting on this amendment takes place on Tuesday, 24 April so there is not much time to let them know that their amendments to the Ontario Endangered Species Act and other environmental legislation are unacceptable.