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'The prognosis is not good': The Ford government's plan to destroy a Pickering wetland


By: Danielle Pybus

On Oct. 30, the Government of Ontario announced their decision to issue a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) to fast-track the construction of a tourism and entertainment centre on a provincially significant wetland in Pickering, Ont.

“The Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) was requested by the City of Pickering, with the support of the Region of Durham, to help speed up the development of a tourism and entertainment center that will create 10,000 plus jobs and boost the economy in the region,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in an email.

The Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) is part of Ontario’s Planning Act and grants the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing a veto over land development processes in Ontario, preventing anyone from being able to appeal.

Linda Pim, Greenbelt adviser for the provincial government, resigned due to this decision on Nov. 4.

The issuing of this MZO also drew much criticism from environmental organizations.

“They’re basically using every tool they have to sidestep due process and override the strong protection measures that are in place to protect these kinds of wetlands,” said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence. “This wetland in particular, because it’s part of a larger coastal wetland complex within an urban area means that it’s very rare; there’s very little of these left in an urban environment.”

In the past few weeks, many experts have stressed the ecological significance of this wetland, highlighting its ability to filter water and mitigate flooding. Not only this, but it’s also home to numerous different wildlife species.

“They perform a filtration function, they’re sort of like kidneys,” said Patricia Chow-Fraser, professor of biology at McMaster University with a specialization in coastal wetlands. “They filter out sediments and nutrients because of the plants that are growing there.”

The lower Duffins Creek wetland complex was designated provincially significant by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2005.

The Conservation Authorities Act, as well as the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act, ensures the protection of provincially significant wetlands and prohibits all development and site alteration within them.

However, by issuing an MZO, the minister is able to by-pass all existing policy and legislation restrictions. Not only that, but the provincial government also proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act last week, which would limit the power of 36 conservation authorities in Ontario.

“What we see now in Southern Ontario is maybe 20 percent of the coastal wetlands that we used to have,” said professor Chow-Fraser. “The prognosis is not good.”

Despite the criticism from environmental groups and warnings from coastal wetland experts, the government still plans to go forward with these developments.

“The City of Pickering is pleased to support a project that will bring more than 10,000 full-time, well-paying jobs to the region. And while we focus on local jobs and the economy, that focus does not come at the expense of the environment,” said Dave Ryan, mayor of Pickering, in a written statement last Thursday.

Sources:

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/59020/ontario-helps-boost-economy-and-create-jobs-in-durham-region

https://yourstoprotect.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/2020-10-29-Lower-Duffins-Creek-Wetland-Complex-MZO.pdf

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/11/04/greenbelt-adviser-quits-over-fast-tracking-of-durham-wetlands-development-by-doug-fords-government.html

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/11/11/news/ford-government-take-powers-away-conservation-authorities

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/pickering-wetland-building-proposal-1.5784390

https://urbanneighbourhoods.ca/duffins-creek-mzo-news/ (picture)


*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.

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