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EDITORIAL: Bat crazy (Jan. 2020)

January 31st, 2020 · No Comments

The government that decimated the Endangered Species Act is now in the business of protecting bats. At least that’s what Ontario’s Minister of Environment, Jeff Yurek, claimed when he revoked the approval of the Nation Rise wind farm project on December 4. As costs pile up, so do the false premises that come with the Ford regime’s attack on green energy.

Let’s begin with the bats.

Minister Yurek is concerned that the blades of the 29 planned turbines at Nation Rise (16 of which were already partially built by early December) would be detrimental to nearby hoary bats and endangered little brown bats. EDP Renewables, the company behind the project, says the permitting provisions for bats went beyond industry standards and provincial requirements, including the monitoring of bird and bat deaths and additional measures if the kill rate exceeded 10 bats per turbine annually.

Meanwhile, recent changes to Ontario’s Endangered Species Act will allow developers and municipalities to pay a fee rather than take precautions to protect species at risk. These changes, which flow from the omnibus Bill 108, also give more power for the government to override ecological concerns and “temporarily suspend” protections for habitats and any of the 243 species in Ontario that are currently considered at risk. Green leader Mike Schreiner called it a “pay to slay” provision which “green lights the destruction of species and their habitat. The act is worthless if deep-pocketed companies can just pay to ignore it.”

Ian Arthur, the NDP’s environment critic, said, “Considering that this is the government that gutted the Endangered Species Act very recently, I am incredibly skeptical that bats are truly the priority for this minister.”

The changes to the act also allow the province to suspend the protections to species at risk if they are not at risk elsewhere. The grey fox, now classified as threatened, and any other flora or fauna in similar circumstances, would see protections scrapped providing their population is common elsewhere in North America. The species is distinguished from the more common red fox because of its unique colouring, its bushy tail, and the fact it can climb trees. Though it is classified as “threatened” here in Ontario it is not in the United States, therefore its protection from habitat protection here will lapse. 

“The health of species elsewhere should not give Ontario permission to exterminate them locally,” said Schreiner, who accused the Conservative government of breaking with previous Tory administrations of Bill Davis and Mike Harris which protected the Niagara Escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine, respectively.

Now on to the business case for this, and other cancellations of green energy projects.

The NDP said the cancellation could cost Ontario at least $200 million, on top of the $231 million the government expects to pay for the demolition of another large wind farm in Prince Edward County. There is no “business case” for these cancellations and these rash actions only make a mockery of Ford’s claim that Ontario “is open for business”. Thomas Timmins, head of the energy sector group at the Toronto-based Gowling WLG law firm, said the fate of these wind farms has worried pension funds and other major investors in energy projects. “Anything that appears arbitrary coming from government makes them nervous,” he said. 

These are not the actions of a conservative cause, this is reckless conduct which fails to respect the ecology, the economy, and the electorate. No one for a moment believes that Minister Yurek or Premier Ford give a hoot about the little brown bats or have even bothered to learn about them. This is all about tearing down what the last government did, no matter what the consequence. 

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Tags: Annex · Editorial · Opinion