Where were you in protecting endangered species? MPP Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources
Yesterday, MPP Tim Hudak rose to ask a question about the Blandings turtle, which is an officially endangered species in Ontario, and whose habitat is now threatened by the approved Niagara Region wind power project.
Here is the record of the exchange:
Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, Blanding’s turtle is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Where it exists in Ontario, it lives in shallow waterways and wetlands, including the Niagara peninsula. They are uniquely vulnerable to extinction because it takes 20 years before females start to reproduce.
The Ontario courts made the decision recently that set a precedent: When choosing between industrial wind turbines and a threatened species, Blanding’s turtle, they sided with the turtle, tossing out a wind farm application. It was the right decision. It was the right thing to do.
Hon. Bill Mauro: I want to thank the member for the question. Before he concluded, I was gathering my thoughts—and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, who I know would love to weigh in on this as well was having a similar thought and lobbed it over to me. He found it, I think, as I did, very interesting that the official opposition is asking a question in this regard.
The member posed a question. He seems to be supportive of what has happened in this case. I would assume that in the supplementary, he’s going to come forward with some information that suggests that in another instance the Blanding’s turtle did not carry the day. I would assume that’s the point of the question that’s coming forward. I look forward to hearing exactly what he has to say.
I’m happy to hear that in the first question he was happy that the Endangered Species Act, which we brought into place, actually did have an effect to protect endangered species. I’m happy to hear that you’re pleased with the legislation, although I don’t think it’s legislation that you supported when it was originally introduced into the House.
You got it exactly right: The courts have determined in the decision that steel turbines 500 metres tall cemented in 40 truckloads of concrete in a wetland should lose out to a threatened species, the Blanding’s turtle. I agree with that decision; I’m sure you agree with that decision as well.
My point is, Minister, why was it that it was the courts that had to force your hand? Where were you? You’re the minister. You need to know your role and play it. You have the lead on the Endangered Species Act in the province of Ontario. Instead of waiting for the courts to intervene in the Niagara peninsula, will you do the right thing? Your choice is between the turtle or more steel. What should be in the wetlands, the endangered species or—
Hon. Bill Mauro: Under the legislation—that I don’t think the opposition supported and they seem to be loving now—COSSARO stands for the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario. They make a decision on when a species is listed. Once it’s listed, it receives protection, and the habitat for the species also receives protection. Through that—
Hon. Bill Mauro: Through that process, once the species is listed and the habitat is protected and a project is overlaid on that particular species and its habitat, there is a process in place called overall benefit, where if the contractor or the proponent can come forward and provide a way to accommodate the species—