The Ford government’s aggressive push to reduce regulations, called “red tape cuts,” has come under intense scrutiny, with environmental advocates warning of significant harm to the public interest, wildlife and environment.

Critics argue that “red tape cuts” are a pretext to weaken environmental protections and benefit developers and major industrial emitters.

“Environmental protection is not ‘red tape,’” said Tony Morris, conservation policy and campaigns director at Ontario Nature. “The onslaught of environmental regulatory and policy changes by this government are devastating for the long-term health and well-being of Ontarians and our biodiversity. These changes are taking the province in the wrong direction at a crucial time for redefining the relationship between humans and the natural world.”

The Ford government has introduced several pieces of legislation to reduce barriers to development, most recently Bill 185, known as the Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act.

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has seen 48 out of 215 changes affecting environmental regulations, more than any other ministry, as part of these efforts.

In response to a recent CBC News request, the government provided a breakdown of money and time savings from these regulations.

The Ford government’s response suggests its red tape cuts are essential for economic growth, and claims savings for Ontario developers of $400 million annually.

It also claimed the cost of complying with provincial regulations was cut by $1.2 billion a year, saving people 1.5 million hours of administrative paperwork. Among the biggest savings, the government claims that companies save $209 million annually by reducing the costs of complying with dozens of environmental protection regulations.

But Katie Krelove, Ontario campaigner at Wilderness Committee, said this view is “incredibly short-sighted and economically perverse for this government to add up the savings to big developers of scrapping protections while not accounting for the costs to public health, safety and infrastructure.”

Critics argue that “red tape cuts” are a pretext to weaken environmental protections and benefit developers and major industrial emitters. #Ford government's #red tape cuts #harming the environment

“Environmental regulations and protections are based on scientific and social recognition that healthy ecosystems provide services with immense public value--forests and wetlands clean air and water, prevent flooding and keep carbon out of the atmosphere,” said Krelove. Krelove said it's unclear whether the cuts have effectively boosted housing construction, particularly for the types of dwellings people want and can afford.

The government claims major industrial emitters will save $107 million this year due to lower compliance costs under Ontario's emissions program compared to the federal equivalent, with cumulative savings reaching $1.1 billion by 2030.

Keith Brooks, program director at Environmental Defence,called Ford government's deregulatory actions “a step backward” amid increasingly severe climate change impacts.

“Ontario doesn’t have a plan to meet its climate targets,” Brooks said. “All indicators suggest that emissions in this province will rise, rather than fall, due to a number of moves to increase the use of gas for electricity and home heating, to put more cars on the road, and generally increase the use of fossil fuels.”

He emphasized that Ontario’s Emissions Performance Standard is weaker than the federal government’s and allows large emitters to largely avoid paying for carbon pollution. “The province is basically boasting that it is going easier on large industrial emitters than the federal government. That’s what these savings are,” he said.

The Ford government also proposed changes to protections for the butternut tree as part of amendments to Ontario's Endangered Species Act; reducing habitat protection for the endangered redside dace minnow from 20 to 10 years, potentially allowing development in areas inhabited by the fish for less than a decade; and the government claims that the temporary suspension of protection for the Black Ash under the Endangered Species Act resulted in more than $10 million in savings.

Morris, of Ontario Nature, told Canada's National Observer that the Ford government justified these changes by claiming they are necessary to address the housing crisis — a justification he rejects.“Pushing a sprawl agenda will not solve the housing crisis, and will only exacerbate the biodiversity and climate crises while paving over Ontario’s precious farmland. Economically, sprawl is also incredibly inefficient and does not pay for itself.”

Morris said one of the most controversial legislative changes is Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, which has already resulted in over 156 hectares of wetlands across 17 municipalities losing Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) designation, shrinking their protection.

The government has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, which Morris describes as “drastically weakened by exemptions, amendments, and poor implementation.”

As part of the "Get It Done Act," the Ford government announced cuts to provincial environmental assessment times for key projects like highways, railways, and electricity transmission lines, including Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass.

Tim Gray, executive director at Environmental Defence, said these changes are not only an environmental concern but also a public welfare issue, emphasizing that they would lead to increased urban sprawl, longer commute times, higher property taxes, and greater environmental degradation, disproportionately affecting low-income communities.

“Formerly protected Provincially Significant Wetlands can now have roads and houses built in them, which threatens water filtration and cleaning, flood mitigation and wildlife habitat,” he said. “Developers can now seek approval for new subdivisions on farmland far outside of towns and cities which will increase property taxes to provide roads, water, sewers and emergency and school services and also threaten the viability of farm communities and the food they produce."

Advocates say many of the legislative and regulatory changes have been rushed with little effective engagement beyond the required postings on the Environmental Registry.

“There has not been sufficient transparency as with almost everything this government does." said Abdullah Mir, member of Stop Sprawl Durham. “They expect to give us numbers and expect us to not question them and believe them. There should be more transparency and an accurate accounting presented to the public of exactly how we benefit from these red tape reduction measures.”

Mir said while reducing actual red tape is a commendable idea, there is concern that the government is using this largely as a “guise” to remove useful regulations that actually protect the public interest.

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The Ford government's radical housing action plan has also reduced the mandate of conservation authorities, abolished regional planning, and made it virtually impossible for members of the public to appeal municipal decisions to the Ontario Land Tribunal. At a time we need to embrace sustainable development, it is enabling environmental, planning, and democratic disaster.

Folks, unfortunately Ford's Conservative government has no shame and no regard for the environment.
He has proven that from before the moment he officially took office in 2019 when he imposed his "Assault on green energy:" Industry slams Doug Ford's decision to cancel (consumer) incentives. CBC. June 25, 2018
His assault continues unabated through today on multiple fronts including his out of step with reality methane (it isn't natural) gas electricity plant plans.
One of the first things that Ford did after taking over the reigns of power was to "axe" (ring a bell?) the Office of the Environmental Commissioner who had under Dr. DIane Saxe reported to the Legislature on Ontario’s environmental, energy and climate performance. They were the guardian of the Environmental Bill of Rights. During her term, she improved the effectiveness of the Environmental Bill of Rights, increased public understanding of the urgency of climate change, and delivered 17 reports on environment, energy and climate. Dougie was not going to have that kind of accountability getting in the way of his government.
No sir folks. One can now only imagine the scathing reports that would have been made public had the Office of the Environmental Commissioner been allowed to continue its existence. Sadly, we won't get to read them.
If any Ontario resident thinks that voting Conservative federally is going to improve their lives, think again.
You will only see a tripling down of the Ford effect under Poilievre.

Thank You for your comment Michael. Please see the one that I made, and write a short email to the auditor general about the unnecessary gas plant expansion that is going to be built here in Napanee.
Thank You, John O'Brien

When it comes to Doug "The Thug" Ford, you have hit the nail on the head. It seems Doug's corruption knows no bounds with scaling back environmental protections, secret deals, laws designed to fill the pork barrels of his corrupt donors faster, I am surprised Doug isn't being investigated for fraud. But what is even more disturbing is the opposition parties not making enough noise over his corruption.

This government is being run by a man who should be in jail. We live in Napanee, just west of Kingston, already the site of 2 huge Gas Power plants, (Fossil or Methane gas - NOT "natural"), and our Conservative town council rolled over for Dougie and approved a massive $2.2 BILLION dollar expansion of the second plant to meet Ontario's future power needs. If Dougie hadn't cancelled about 750 GREEN POWER projects, when he came to power, (which cost us all $250 million!!), we wouldn't be in this position. (29 other communities in Southern Ont. said "No Thanks") But more importantly, we could be buying excess HYDRO POWER FROM QUEBEC, in the summer when we need it, and they don't, for 5 cents/Kwh, instead of the 23 cents/Kwh that this will cost - not to mention the air pollution and Carbon emitted when we least need it -- know anyone who has Asthma or COPD? We are asking that people write an email to the Auditor General of Ontario to undertake a Value for Money Audit of this travesty, and the more people who do this, the more likely it is to happen. Please do this for the people of Napanee, and the whole province: [email protected]
And check out CLEAN AIR ALLIANCE's website here: https://www.cleanairalliance.org/
THANK YOU!

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Calling this portly, middle-aged man "Dougie" says it all, bringing to mind as it does an ever-impetuous boy, one of the "good old boys" focused on "gettin' er' done" like real men DO, right?
And Mike Harris Jr. has emerged as "red tape minister" when we kind of thought Mike Harris Sr. was widely seen as a pariah from a discredited era? Turns out that view is confined to what seem to be the ever-more-rarefied circles of us liberals/progressives who continue to indulge ourselves in the narcissism of what are our increasingly small differences. EVEN when Ford has won power in the biggest province not once but TWICE, and PP is astonishingly where HE is federally. And we say the CONS are tone-deaf; do we imagine that just calling them that will suffice because we're the perceptive, sensitive, and articulate ones here, so the arc of history favours us like the international rules-based order we've always enjoyed? It was indeed men that engineered that but only after two horrific world wars that included the absolute nightmare of the Holocaust.
"Red tape" can be seen as ALL regulations in principle, period, regardless of their context, always totally irrelevant to these get er' done guys, but PARTICULARLY the "alarmist" environmental ones that stand in the way of them making their millions and building their legacy or something. It's like what women have always done, fretting and frittering around the edges to stop the fun and flow of how the world actually works. Hence "Mother" Nature.
It's a chilling reminder that the likes of beefy, smirking, no-neck "Doug and the Thugs" are taking over in plain sight, emboldened by PP's Convoy Party of Canada tittering in the wings while CBC, supposedly our country's historical broadcaster has as a topic on "Power and Politics" yesterday the comment made by Mister Smirk himself that Trudeau is in "panic mode" about that already much-discussed Toronto by-election. And I've also quit watching CBC's "At Issue" panel on Thursdays where Rosemary Barton's stock in trade is piling on Trudeau, no surprise when, in her one-on-one interviews with him, she doesn't even bother to mask her contempt and hostility. This in the context of conservatives avowed intent to dissolve the CBC, although I guess she can always get a job with the private broadcasters after using CBC as a stepping stone. Her lack of appreciation for context and perspective gives her away as a con, but the proudly egalitarian Canada embodied in the CBC continues to promote her, not to mention the Globe and Mail as our "national" newspaper. Andrew Coyne's article from Saturday is about how "Trudeau cannot pretend that democracy is on the ballot in the next election" like it is in the States, even though we're going the same direction. But again, only older people or those who pay attention recall Poilievre's signature involvement with the "Fair Elections Act" which was widely referred to at the time as "The Unfair Elections Act."