“We can protect both endangered species and farmers,” said Mike Schreiner, GPO leader. “It’s not an either/or.”
“The Liberals are already working to gut protections for endangered species,” Schreiner continued. “Now, the Conservatives want to up the ante with a frontal assault on species and habitat protection. Hudak wants to take Ontario backwards, not forwards.”
The Liberal government has already proposed changes that would weaken protections for endangered species by lowering standards and granting more exemptions to facilitate development.
Mr. Hudak’s attack on species protection appears to be driven by politics, not by science or facts. Mr. Hudak’s claim that “the wood turtle is grinding forestry to a halt in the north” is misleading at best: forestry activities are permitted in regulated wood turtle habitat. Mr. Hudak also asserts that protections for the bobolink is preventing farmers from harvesting their hay. In June 2011, however, the Ministry of Natural Resources granted agricultural operations a three-year exemption from the ESA’s protection provisions for bobolinks. In May 2012, the ministry broadened that exemption.
“People are tired of the status quo--politicians that put partisan attacks before an honest discussion of good public policy,” says Schreiner. “Instead of exploiting fear or frustration, let’s have an honest conversation about solutions.”
In his remarks at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference where Mr. Hudak made his remarks, Schreiner proposed a more sensible solution:
“I believe it is time to recognize that farmers do more than put healthy food on our tables. They are also stewards of our land and waterways, protectors of species and habitat. It is unfair and unsustainable to ask farmers to shoulder this burden alone. All of us, rural and urban, must share in this responsibility by paying farmers for the environmental good and services that we all enjoy.”