Question About Ending Ministry Support for Ostrander Point Appeals

Mr. Todd Smith: My question is for the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change this morning. Minister, on Monday the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled against your ministry and in favour of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists in their quest to keep an industrial wind turbine factory from destroying the delicate ecosystem on the south shore of Prince Edward county. The opinion by the court stated that the environmental review tribunal was correct in using expert evidence that showed the project would result in serious and irreversible harm to the ecosystem when it refused to grant approval to this project back in 2013.

Minister, will you do the right thing in this case? Will you save the Blanding’s turtle? Will you protect the environment in Prince Edward county? Will you prevent your ministry from wasting further taxpayer resources by refusing to join any more appeals launched by the developer Ostrander Point GP Incorporated?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I love Blanding’s turtles and I want to commend the people of your constituency for their activism. We have a very good process of environmental assessment and a court process with our Environmental Bill of Rights. It’s one of the best in the world. This minister respects that and thinks that the people should come out ahead in these processes.

I cannot comment in detail because of my role and I think the member knows the restrictions that I have. I will go one further though, because this is something that’s important to me. I would be quite happy to meet with you, because I think we have larger issues of biodiversity loss with climate change. We have challenges right now with neurotoxic pesticides that are impacting amphibians and water invertebrates, and these issues are becoming more acute. There are some other environmental concerns with other species that I think we both share.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Todd Smith: Minister, this isn’t just another community group that’s opposing this project, although I thank you for commending their efforts in Prince Edward county. One of the intervening parties that joined the field naturalists in Prince Edward was Nature Canada. Your ministry has known for years that this project would destroy the ecosystem in southern Prince Edward, and you’ve not only turned a blind eye to the fact; you’ve actively committed taxpayer resources to help the developer destroy an ecosystem.

Your own experts, Minister, at the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, the Ontario Court of Appeals and Nature Canada—who, by the way, do believe in wind power, just not at this particular site—are telling you that this project is environmentally destructive.

Will you commit here today that the Ministry of the Environment not waste any more taxpayer resources in aiding the developer in further appeals for this project, either in court or at the ERT? Will you do that, end taxpayers’ involvement, end your ministry’s involvement, quit the shell game and end this in Prince Edward county?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: The role of the environment minister is the end of an adjudicative process with environmental assessments and other things. It would prejudice any process for me to comment on that specifically. But to say that I am not concerned about it would be quite wrong.

I would go further because, as I said earlier, I would describe what we’re facing right now on this planet as a biodiversity crisis. We are tracking to lose about one third of our species right now on this planet and it’s very serious. You talk to farmers; you talk to folks who have cottages. We are losing species at an unprecedented rate.

I cannot talk about the specifics of this, but I do believe the member is sincere in the concern, as are his constituents, and I would be happy to meet privately with him to discuss this because I do believe that I’m accountable to him and other members. I wish I could be more forthcoming, but I can’t without compromising my position as minister.

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