LIBERAL NATURAL RESOURCE MINISTER Bill Mauro reintroduced the Invasive Species Act Wednesday, the first standalone legislation in Canada geared towards stopping the spread of invasives into the province
There is currently a patchwork of more than 20 different federal and provincial pieces of legislation affecting the control of invasive species in the country but none are designed specifically with invasive species in mind. Ontario is keen to change that, Mauro said.
“Our proposed legislation will help to address these legislative gaps,” he told a crowd of reporters and environmental stakeholders Wednesday morning at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
If passed, the Invasive Species Act would give Ontario additional powers to control the transportation of specific invasive species and boost the enforcement efforts and penalties levied against those breaking the rules. It would also bolster the province’s ability to react quickly to the spread of invasives, a critical factor considering rapid response times can mean the difference between containing an invader and allowing them to spread beyond control.
This bill was first introduced by then Resource Minister David Orazietti in February 2014, making it to second reading before the June 2014 election was called. Mauro told reporters the bill has no time slot for second reading yet, but that his government had made its swift passage a priority. If this happens, this bill will likely become law, given the majority government awarded to Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne this summer.
The spread of invasives throughout Canada is costly for all levels of government, Mauro cautioned. British Columbia has spent almost one billion attempting to control mountain pine beetle while Toronto has coughed up more than $36-million combatting the Emerald Ash Borer. Canada continues to spend roughly $91-million annually limiting the impact of zebra mussels which have a habit of clogging municipal water intake pipes in the Great Lakes.
Mauro also stressed that the bill is not a jumping off point for his government to start investing in invasive species. They’ve been doing it for years, he said. In particular, the minister highlighted the $9-million contribution Ontario made to starting the Invasive Species Centre in Sault Ste. Marie and the almost $400,000 the province gives to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to run the Invasive Species Awareness Program to help educate the public.
Needless to say, these and other stakeholder groups are lining up behind the legislation.
The bill will “help set clear priorities and identify those invasive species that are posing the highest risk to Ontario’s environment,” said Dilhari Fernando, executive director of the Invasive Species Centre. Angelo Lombardo, head of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said in a statement the “sale, movement and importation of invasive species in Ontario are of a serious concern.”
The Invasive Plant Council is also pleased the government is taking the step of reintroducing this legislation since Ontario has the mandate and resources to help environmental NGOs and the private sector do their part to reduce the impacts of invasives.
“Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of effort and a little bit of money,” said Iola Price, president of the Ontario Invasive Plant Council.