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Simcoe based environmental group speaks out against “deregulation agenda”

August 6, 2020   ·   0 Comments

A local environmental group is working to ensure Simcoe has an equitable and environmentally friendly restart from the pandemic as things ramp up back up.

Just Recovery Simcoe is an alliance between 40 groups and recently spoke out against Ontario’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, which is an omnibus bill impacting 20 pieces of legislation, with the intention of getting the economy back on track.

Executive Director of the Simcoe Greenbelt and Just Recovery member, Margaret Prophet said the organization is concerned with the provincial government’s “deregulation agenda” towards the environment and that vulnerable individuals are getting left behind.

“The COVID-19 Recovery Act should be focused on supporting people and our businesses in a way that’s also environmentally and socially supportive,” she said.

“There’s a lot of supports that aren’t there for people, whether they be on disability, whether it’s for businesses that are still struggling, whether its low wage employees – there’s still a lot of uncertainty.”

Environmental protections were deregulated through the recovery act in an effort to reduce red tape for businesses, but Prophet said it mostly eliminates opportunities for community consultation on projects impacting the environment.

The ability to revoke projects based on environmental assessments is being rolled back as well.

The government’s stance is that this will help business, but Prophet told The Times, from what she’s heard, that’s not necessarily the case.

“When I talk to small business owners, local business owners, they’re not talking about needing to expand and get more land and that environmental assessments are the problem,” she explained.

“What they’re struggling with is paying their rent, paying their workers, getting people into their building – that’s what they need.”

Providing more support for Ontarians to make mortgage payments or cover rent should be the focus instead of deregulating environmental protections, Prophet stressed.

The weakening of biodiversity is a big risk factor for future pandemics as well, she said.

“Endangered species aren’t just nice to have, they actually represent a part of the web that our whole eco-system depends on,” Prophet said. ”When you start to have members of that ecosystem removed or extirpated, then that weakens the entire system.

“If you look at a spider web and you start pulling out the strings randomly, the structural integrity of that web no longer exists.”

Looking ahead to future crises, Prophet said more preparedness for floods should be in place as temperatures rise.

As well, in hindsight, she said providing emergency funding to municipalities would have been a better approach during the pandemic as they cover a majority of the services people use in a community.

“At the very least, there should have been some form of direct financial support to help municipalities service the people that are most impacted, but that’s not what was there,” Prophet said.

She said other issues with the recovery act include no mention of utilizing green infrastructure or technology to create new jobs that support the environment.

The group would also like to see housing treated at as a right and strengthen local farmland as food insecurity impacted 1 in 8 households in Simcoe County prior to COVID-19.

Prophet said she encourages all residents to write to their local MP, MPP and Council requesting them to develop solutions that invest in people, invest in communities and invest in the environment.

“We can have solutions that are of a greater good but we’re so used to making solutions that are very linear and very narrow-focused,” she explained.

“We have to approach problems differently.”

Decisions need to be made with a long-term lens, looking at the impact they’ll have for generations to come, Prophet said.

She noted that its currently a difficult climate financially, but if the environment isn’t properly looked after, nobody can prosper.

“We know the governments are going to have to do more with less, so we can’t afford to continue to make the same kind of decisions we have to think about every decision having maximum impact,” Prophet said.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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