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This World Environment Week, Ontario Failed

06/11/2013 11:17 EDT | Updated 08/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Ontario's environment took a beating during Canadian Environment Week.

The week started with a hangover from the announcement that the Liberal Cabinet had decided to gut Ontario's Endangered Species Act. Trashing environmental protections was a story the Liberals tried to bury with a Friday afternoon announcement.

The changes include a five-year exemption from species protection for the forestry sector. The Liberals are also delivering sweeping exemptions for pits and quarries, renewable energy, mining, infrastructure projects, waste management, and commercial and residential development. The changes also dramatically reduce government oversight of activities affecting Ontario's lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife.

Environmental groups are understandably outraged, calling the changes appalling.

Things only got worse on World Environment Day when Ontario's Environmental Commissioner (ECO) accused the government of "Failing Our Future." The ECO's annual report on climate change revealed that the Liberals will not meet Ontario's greenhouse gas reduction targets. Worse yet, the Liberals have no plan to tackle climate change, and the opposition parties fail to press them on it.

Part of the problem is the Liberals have a love affair with gas plants, which will significantly increase Ontario's GHG emissions. This crazy contradiction has the Liberal's gas-dependent energy plan undermining their GHG targets.

Ironically, the ECO delivered his scathing report just minutes after Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner slammed the Liberals for illegally deleting emails regarding the relocation of gas plants.

Ontario can't afford to delete environmental protections. The government itself estimates that ecosystem services in southern Ontario alone are valued at $84 billion. It would make sense to protect these assets.

In addition, climate change will cost Canada's economy $5 billion by 2020 and up to $43 billion by 2050 according to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy. Instead of wasting hundreds of millions on gas plants that will increase Ontario's greenhouse gas emissions, it would make way more sense to invest in the cheaper and greener alternative of conservation and efficiency.

Short-sighted attacks on environmental policies carry a high cost. Let's celebrate Canadian Environment Week with smart actions, not empty words.

World Environment Day Activities