Duffins Creek wetland complex, near Pickering, Ontario, is a provincially significant wetland that has been targeted by the Ontario government for the development of a warehouse facility.
Provincially Significant Wetlands, such as the Duffins Creek complex, are of huge importance to local communities, helping to mitigate flooding, store carbon, filter water and provide habitat to wildlife.
The Ontario government is using a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) to push through development on a provincially significant wetland complex despite widespread opposition.
MZOs are meant to be extraordinary measures for provincial ministers. In the past, they were rarely used and were reserved for exceptional circumstances. But in 2020 alone, the Ontario government has issued over 30 MZOs to fast-track routine development applications.
The proposed development at Lower Duffins Creek faces considerable opposition from several groups and thousands of citizens. The Williams Treaties First Nations were not consulted and have voiced concerns. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has also rejected development in protected wetlands.
Since the Ford government was elected in Ontario in 2018, they have launched an assault on the province’s environmental protections. They have made major changes to Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act, the Planning Act and other environmental laws without consulting Ontarians as required by the provinces Environmental Bill of Rights.
Ecojustice has launched a judicial review on behalf of Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature because MZOs must comply with the mandatory wetland and other protections in the 2020 Provincial Policy Statement. The 2020 Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act clearly does not permit development on provincially significant wetlands.
Duffins Creek is a provincially significant wetland system and is of importance to local communities.
This case has the power to set an important precedent in environmental law by ensuring that the Ontario government cannot use MZOs to undermine the fundamentals of Ontario wetland protections.
A win in this case would be important for protecting wetlands and conservation areas across Southern Ontario from a provincial government that is intent on disregarding environmental laws and giving developers a free pass.