Groundbreaking legislation a first of its kind in Canada – aims to fill in legislative gaps in combatting invasive species in Ontario.
Ontario is attempting to clear away some of the regulatory red tape and overlap that keeps Ministry of Natural Resources officials from moving quickly to combat invasive species with a new Invasive Species Act introduced late last month.
The bill, which MNR staff began working on in earnest last summer, would give Ontario greater authority over banning particular species and their transportation into and within the province while strengthening the ministry’s inspection and enforcement capabilities to make sure companies and individuals comply. And when they don’t, they’ll face penalties.
“These are serious issues and invasives are having significant negative impacts on our environment and economy,” Resource Minister David Orazietti told reporters.
“In the past few years we have been hearing more and more about invasive species. This is becoming a much greater challenge in Ontario today than it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago.”
If the legislation passes, and in a minority parliament with the looming prospect of a spring election that’s no sure thing, it would be a first of its kind in Canada as Ontario would become the only jurisdiction in the country with stand alone invasive species legislation.
Orazietti stressed the legislation is needed to overcome gaps in the current patchwork of 20-plus pieces of provincial and federal legislation related to invasive species. Among the disparate but affected legislation: the Canada National Parks Act, the Seeds Act, the Plant Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act (both federally and provincially) and the Municipal Act, among others.
“The 20 pieces of legislation that currently exist, and that we have been attempting to manage invasive species within this province for more than 20 years, do not create a focused piece of legislation that gives us the regulatory tools specifically to address invasives,” Orazietti told reporters at Queen’s Park.
As the costs related to deterring invasives from entering the provinces rise, the urgency increases to smooth out the wrinkles between laws used by decision-makers and enforcement officers to protect the environment and native plant and animal species.
Invasives cost the province tens of millions each year, the minister said. Zebra mussels alone suck up more than $90 million from the provincial treasury annually just to mitigate the damage they do, while invasive plants cost the agriculture and forestry sectors upwards of $7.3 billion each year nationally.