‘I’m increasingly frustrated with the Ford government’: Chair of Ontario’s endangered species agency resigns | Daily News Byte

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By Rachel Morgan – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
December 23, 2022 – Brampton, Mississauga, Niagara

The Chair of the Ontario government agency tasked with protecting species at risk has resigned from leading the province around environmental legislation, while Doug Ford and his PC government continue with Bill 23 and the removal of protected Greenbelt lands for development.

Doug Varty’s decision to stand down is the latest reaction to the collection of legislation recently passed by the Tories that has sidelined environmental protections in the name of building more homes.

“In my view the province is not listening or acting in the best long term interest of the people of this province. Because of this, I have made a personal decision to resign from this public appointment,” Varty wrote in a public statement.

The More Homes Built Faster Act, or Bill 23, aims to accelerate the construction of 1.5 million homes over the next 8 years to meet expected population growth across the province, primarily in the Golden Horseshoe. The Bill overrides environmental protections, undermining the mandate of conservation authorities. The PC also introduced, and recently passed, a piece of legislation to remove 15 parcels of land from the Greenbelt totaling 7,400 hectares and replace it with 9,400 hectares of land elsewhere – experts say the additional lands will do nothing to prevent ecological damage caused by encroaching on the Greenbelt.

The full statement from Doug Varty, posted on his LinkedIn page.

Ford and his cabinet colleagues responsible for environmental protection have repeatedly ignored the concerns of environmental, housing and community activists, and the public who gathered en masse to protest pieces of legislation that this. Nearly 30,000 mostly negative public consultation comments were submitted in reference to the Greenbelt law before the public consultation period ended on December 4. The PC government ignored residents’ wishes and passed the law anyway.

Varty was appointed Chair of the Ontario Species Conservation Action Agency in February. It is a provincially managed board responsible for administering the Species Management and Risk Management Fund. It was formed in 2021 with the aim of protecting species at risk, making investments to do so with a designated fund and ensuring that habitats for selected species at risk are protected through actions and agency investment.

In October, before the passage of Bill 23 and changes to the Greenbelt law, Varty told the government he was not planning to seek a second term. Eleven months after being appointed, he left the position.

“My resignation has nothing to do with this new agency or its mandate, but rather, like many Ontarians, I am increasingly disillusioned with the recent direction of the Ford government with respect to land protection/greenbelt, watershed protection , sprawl and other related matters,” he wrote.

This is not the first time that Ford’s demand to create extensive development has led to a resignation. In 2020, seven members of Ontario’s Greenbelt Council — a government-appointed expert panel that advises the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on Greenbelt-related matters — quit after the provincial government reduced the mandate of conservation authorities .

Tim Grey, the Executive Director of Environmental Defense, went public on Twitter with support for Varty’s writing “Thank you Doug for standing up for our future”.

Varty is part of the mass of Ontarians angry at the heavy-handedness of the provincial government that has imposed these legislative changes that planners have called the most significant land-use transition in the province’s history. Two weeks before his resignation, Varty publicly posted on LinkedIn about joining a protest against Bill 23 and Greenbelt changes outside an Orillia MPP’s constituency office.

“I am 64 years old, consider myself a conservative and have never participated in a protest and never thought I would,” he wrote. “It’s time to listen to the people of this province!”


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnadia_


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