Ontario Overriding Wetland Protections

Southern Ontario has already lost most of its wetlands and the government is getting ready to take the bulldozer to another four Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs). These are areas that the province has already recognized and designated as the most valuable. Yet now, they are using Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to over-ride these policy protections for PSWs. We are asking that Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark revoke two recently issued MZOs that will lead to the destruction of PSWs in the cities of Vaughan and Pickering and that they refrain from using MZOs for this purpose in the future. On November 16th, we, along with 95 other organizations sent the following letter to Minister Clark.

Dear Minister Clark,

RE: Issuance of Minister’s Zoning Orders

We, the 96 undersigned organizations, are strongly opposed to the use of Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to over-ride policy protections for Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) in Ontario. We ask that you revoke two recently issued MZOs that will lead to the destruction of PSWs in the cities of Vaughan and Pickering, and that you refrain from using MZOs for this purpose in the future.

Wetlands are among the most productive and diverse habitats on Earth. They provide incalculable benefits for communities, including flood mitigation, water filtration, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, wild foods and medicines, recreational opportunities and more. They are also of immense economic value. For example, wetlands can reduce the financial costs of floods by up to 38 percent; in the Great Lakes region the benefits provided by wetlands are worth 13 to 35 times more than the cost of protecting or restoring them; and in southern Ontario alone wetlands provide over $14 billion dollars in benefits every year.

Provincial planning law and policy rightly prohibit development on wetlands that are deemed to be provincially significant. In fact, PSWs in southern Ontario enjoy the highest level of protection of any natural feature. Strict protection of PSWs is also a key component of the Ontario Government’s Wetland Conservation Strategy for Ontario, 2017 – 2030, which aims to achieve a net gain in wetland area and function by 2030. This approach was endorsed by the MNRF’s multi-party Wetlands Conservation
Strategy Advisory Panel in their 2018 report. This group included representatives from the development, agricultural, waterpower and municipal sectors.

The use of MZOs to sidestep these protections and commitments is unacceptable. We are aware of two recent instances where such circumvention has occurred, setting a deeply troubling precedent. The first was an MZO to demolish three PSWs on agriculturally zoned land in Vaughan adjacent to a planned Walmart distribution facility. The second was an MZO to authorize the destruction of a large coastal PSW in Pickering to make room for a warehousing facility. As is typically the way with MZOs,there was no public notice and no opportunity for public comment in either case. Further, these zoning orders are not subject to appeal.

In issuing these MZOs, we believe that the Ontario government failed in its Treaty obligations and constitutional duty to consult with affected First Nations. The duty to consult arises from s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and is triggered whenever the Crown has either constructive or real knowledge of the potential existence of an Aboriginal right or title and contemplates conduct that may adversely affect it. Further, issuing MZOs without proper consultation is inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the
revised Provincial Policy Statement 2020, whereby planning authorities must “engage with Indigenous communities and coordinate on land use planning matters.” Your ministry must recognize Indigenous rights and fulfill its duty to consult.

Ontarians can and should play a meaningful role in planning processes that affect their communities. Public participation is vital to ensuring that decisions are in the public interest. Yet MZOs eliminate this possibility, allowing deals to be cut with developers behind closed doors, without public scrutiny or input. Such lack of accountability is highly objectionable, paving the way, in this case, for the loss of wetlands that are critical to building community resilience in an era of climate change. We urge you to cease using MZOs to sidestep policies that protect Ontario’s natural areas and farmland and to reaffirm your government’s commitment to respecting and upholding protections for all PSWs in Ontario.

Yours Sincerely,

Caroline Schultz, Executive Director, Ontario Nature
Tim Gray, Executive Director,Environmental Defence
David Miller, Executive Director, Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative
Liz White, Director, Animal Alliance of Canada
Debra Sherk, President Bert Miller Nature Club
Gregor Beck, Ontario Director, Birds Canada

Norman Wingrove, Acting President and Secretary-Treasurer, Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation
Patricia McGorman,  President, Canada South Land Trust
Raj Gill, Great Lakes Program Director, Canadian Freshwater Alliance
Tom Wilson, President, Carden Field Naturalists
Paul Berger, Meetings' Chair, Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
J. Bruce Craig, Chair Concerned Citizens of King Township

John McDonnell, Executive Director, CPAWS Ottawa Valley Chapter
Janet Sumner, Executive Director, CPAWS Wildlands League
Rachel Plotkin, Boreal Program Manager, David Suzuki Foundation
Lois Gillette, President, Durham Regional Field Naturalists
Dale MacKenzie, Co-Chair, Eagle Lake Farabout Peninsula Coalition
Hannah Barron, Director, Wildlife Conservation Campaigns, Earthroots

Paul Mero, Executive Director, EcoSpark
Steven Simpson, Past President, Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association
Thomas McAuley-Biasi, Chair, Emerging Leaders for Biodiversity
Lynda Lukasik, Executive Director, Environment Hamilton
Richard Bowering, Director-at-Large, Friends of Minesing Wetlands
John Diebolt, Chair, Friends of Misery Bay
Susan Moore, President, Friends of Salmon River

Wioletta Walancik, Administrative & Programs Director, Friends of Second Marsh
Jim Robb, General Manager, Friends of the Rouge Watershed
Bill Lougheed, Executive Director, Georgian Bay Land Trust
Paul Heaven, Wildlife Biologist, Glenside Ecological Services Limited
Bryan Smith, President, Gravel Watch Ontario
Richard Witham, Chair, Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance
Jennifer Court, Executive Director, Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition
Don Scallen, Past President, Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club
Karen Yukich, Co-Chair, High Park Nature
Peter Krats, President, Ingersoll District Nature Club
Eric Davis, Director, Kawartha Field Naturalists
Dr. Ken Edwards, President, Kingston Field Naturalists
Max Morden & James Corcoran, Co-Chairs, Lakeshore Eco-Network
Nancy Vidler, Chair, Lambton Shores Phragmites Community Group
Mike Kent & Mary Martin, Co-Presidents, Lambton Wildlife
Mary Delaney, Chair, Land Over Landings
Janet McKay, Executive Director, LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests)
Karen Brown, Chair, Leeds Grenville Stewardship Council
Marcel Bénéteau, President, Manitoulin Nature Club
Susan Hirst, President, Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists Club
Bruce Wilson, Acting President, Nature Barrie
Gauri Sreenivasan, Director of Policy, Nature Canada
Rose Feaver, President, Nature League
Gordon Neish, President, Nature London
Joyce Sankey, Conservation Director, Niagara Falls Nature Club
Dorothy Wilson, Communications Officer, Nith Valley EcoBoosters
Harold Smith, Former Co-President, North American Native Plant Society
Cara Gregory, President, North Durham Nature
Jack Gibbons, Chair, North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance
Brennain Lloyd, Project Coordinator, Northwatch
Steve Hounsell, Chair, Ontario Biodiversity Council
Linda Heron, Chair, Ontario Rivers Alliance
Kate MacNeil, Executive Director, Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre
Diane Lepage, President, Ottawa Field-Naturalists Club
Tom Manley, President, Otter Valley Naturalists
Lori Leblanc, Secretary, Oxford Coalition for Social Justice
David Bywater, President, Parry Sound Nature Club
Bob Highcock, President, Peninsula Field Naturalists
Marg Reckahn, President, Penokean Hills Field Naturalists
Rene Gareau, President, Steve Paul, Ontario Nature representative, Peterborough Field Naturalists
Steve LaForest President, Pickering Naturalists
Dr. John Bacher, Researcher, Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society
Sandra Dowds, President, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists
Lenka Holubec, Member, ProtectNatureTO
George Thomson, President, Quinte Field Naturalists
Brenda Lorenz, Committee Member, Sarnia Environmental Advisory Committee
Angus Inksetter, President, Saugeen Nature
Dave Euler, President, Sault Naturalists
Debbie Gordon, Director, Save the Maskinonge
Paul Harpley, President, South Lake Simcoe Naturalists
Mark Cranford, President, South Peel Naturalists' Club
Mark Bisset, Executive Director, The Couchiching Conservancy
Bill Roesel, President, The Friends of Ojibway Prairie
Isabella Rombach, Co-Chair, The Huronia Land Conservancy
Marilyn Murray, Chair, The Lennox and Addington Stewardship Council
Otto Peter, President, Thickson's Woods Land Trust
Michael Polanyi, Climate Campaigner, Toronto Environmental Alliance
Ellen Schwartzel, President, Toronto Field Naturalists
Justin Peter, President, Toronto Ornithological Club
Raymond Metcalfe, President, Upper Ottawa Valley Nature Club
David Gascoigne, President, Waterloo Region Nature
Arlene Slocombe, Executive Director, Wellington Water Watchers
Katie Krelove, Ontario Campaigner, Wilderness Committee
Gloria Marsh, Executive Director, York Region Environmental Alliance
Rick Berry, President, York Simcoe Nature Club
Miranda Virtanen, Executive Director, Junction Creek Stewardship Committee
Margaret Prophet, Executive Director, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition
Dana Tuju, Communications Coordinator, Ramara Legacy Alliance
Lisa Kohler, Executive Director, Halton Environmental Network
Raymond Metcalfe, President, Four Seasons Conservancy
Bruce Thacker, President, Thunder Bay Field Naturalists