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LETTER: When will province's attack on environment end?

'All climate change predictions show that we need to put more, not fewer, resources into our cities’ infrastructure to head off the worst effects from extreme weather conditions,' says Living Green Barrie official
A group protests against the Bradford Bypass in this file photo.

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter from Living Green Barrie chairperson Deb Woods on behalf of the organization's board of directors. 
As Barrie’s only registered environmental charity, Living Green opposes our provincial government’s attack on the environment. In the context of the climate crisis that affects all of us, it is impossible to understand this government’s blind dismantling of environmental protections and climate change mitigation since it came to power in 2018.

Right from the start, this government signalled its intention to ignore the need to transition from fossil fuels by resisting the federal carbon tax and using taxpayer dollars to take their case to the Supreme Court. They lost that fight, but cancelled contracts with renewable energy suppliers, putting Ontario behind in the development of alternative energy sources.

Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass will encourage urban sprawl and destroy valuable farmland, wetlands and forests. The government’s intention is to develop further reliance on fossil fuel energy by increasing use of natural gas instead of further developing renewables or exploring an agreement with Hydro Quebec to deliver some of their excess energy next door to Ontario.

And with the passage of Bill 23, the government is using the housing crisis to offer Ontarians a false choice between housing and environmental protection. Never mind that their own Housing Affordability Task Force reported in 2022 that lack of existing land for development is not the problem — within the existing municipal settlement boundaries there exists an ample supply of land already open for development. The “15-minute community” where new homes are sited where jobs, transit and services already exist is not on this government’s agenda, even though the costs to service new urban sprawl are much greater than servicing existing urban areas.

With Bill 23, the government has further limited the power of conservation authorities which protect us against the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction, has undercut the wetlands evaluation system, and plans to poach 7,400 acres of critical Greenbelt lands for development. The Act removes much of the power and resources of regional and local planning authorities by overriding local plans for intensive growth and limiting the collection of development fees paid to cities for future infrastructure projects.

All climate change predictions show that we need to put more, not fewer, resources into our cities’ infrastructure to head off the worst effects from extreme weather conditions.

It’s hard to know where this government will stop in its attack on the environment and which of their promises to believe. As Premier Doug Ford said a few years ago, “The people have spoken. We won’t touch the Greenbelt.” This government has rolled back decades of environmental protection for the Greenbelt and other green spaces and prevented rational, sustainable, intensive development in already designated urban areas. Once paved over, green spaces are gone for good. So is their ability to buffer the worst effects of climate change, to mitigate flooding, clean ground water of pollution, sequester carbon, and feed the people of Ontario.

Sadly, the only ones to benefit from Bill 23 and other provincial actions around the environment appear to be the development industry. Living Green deeply wants this government to do better. For all the people.

Deb Woods
Living Green Barrie