At the 2019 Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce presented the following resolution:
Species at risk policy continues to threaten the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of northern and rural communities. A long-term and workable solution is needed to truly open Ontario for business.
Ontario is recognized as a world leader in sustainable forest management. Harvesting 0.2% of Ontario’s renewable resource annually, Ontario’s forest products sector directly employs over 150,000 hardworking men and women in every corner of the province.
The Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) is an equivalent process to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and provides for continuous supply of species at risk habitat over space and time. In recognition of this, forestry-based businesses and communities have been requesting from government a need for a permanent solution to ESA for the forest sector; that is, to allow the sector to operate under one act, the CFSA. Extensions made to the current regulation under previous governments have not provided any long-term certainty. The sector needs a permanent, long-term solution and it is hoped that this discussion paper is the beginning of a constructive path forward.
The Ontario government is currently undertaking a review of the ESA to “improve protections for species at risk, consider modern and innovative approaches to achieve positive outcomes for species at risk, as well as to look for ways to streamline approvals and provide clarity to support economic development.”
As part of this review, changes made to the ESA must include the consideration of climate change on habitat on all species at risk policy and recognize the cumulative impact of all species at risk policy on a healthy economy; and socio-economic impact analysis must be completed and shared with impacted stakeholders and Indigenous communities prior to any species at risk policy being implemented.
Furthermore, under a permanent regulation or legislative change to the ESA recognizing equivalency, species at risk policy and prescriptions delivered under the CFSA must consider the impacts of climate change and the cumulative social and economic impacts.
Ontario has a window of opportunity to ensure a workable outcome on species at risk policy that provides a long-term solution that protects jobs and the economy. However, there is a concern that the federal government could step into non-federal lands and prescribe how forests will be managed through an unworkable Section 11 Conservation Agreement under the Species at Risk Act or Emergency Protection Order.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:
- Recognize equivalency between the ESA and CFSA through a permanent section 55 regulation or legislative change to the ESA.
- While working under the CFSA, ensure all species at risk policy and prescriptions take into account the impacts of climate change and the cumulative social and economic impacts.