Notes for an Oral Presentation
to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development
on Bill C-5 - The Species at Risk Act (SARA)
by Bob Woolham, Director, Ontario Property And Environmental Rights Alliance
on behalf of Robert Fowler, O.P.E.R.A. Secretary
at the Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, April 3, 2001
The Ontario Property and Environmental Alliance (OPERA) is made up of several Ontario landowner associations. These groups are united in shared objection to actions of the Provincial government that restrict, without compensation, the use of land by owners where it is deemed in the public interest to do so. These restrictions apply largely to government-designated wetlands, areas of natural and scientific interest, wildlife habitat, conservation land and endangered species habitat.
At the same time OPERA members recognize that efforts to mitigate human activities which harm wildlife species and diminish biodiversity are important social goals. Our view is that the full cost of these public objectives should be borne by the public at large and that those private landowners who are made to contribute directly to the public good should have clear access to reasonable compensation. The compensation proposals, and the process envisaged, as set out in Bill C-5 lack substance and fairness.
OPERA supports investment in unbiased biological research to better determing the nature of anticipated risks and how those risks might be mitigated. There is, we submit, more to the nature of species than just trying to “count heads”. There seems to be many factors driving “species at risk” legislation. OPERA’s view is that science is of prime importance in understanding the factors affecting adverse outcomes and in developing appropriate strategies to reverse them. OPERA therefore endorses public investment in furthering relevant scientific study in these fields.
Nevertheless the scientific dimension is part of a much larger structure involving human cultures as well as social, economic, national and international goals. Achieving balance in all of these areas of concern is a political responsibility and OPERA supports provisions in Bill C-5 that assigns the task of judging wildlife risks to Cabinet alone rather to a tribunal in which special interest group may exert disproportionate influence.
Finally, OPERA is concerned about the potential damage which may result from Federal/Provincial overlap with respect to dealing with “species at risk” issues and programs in Provinces where two sets of legislation and regulation will result. It is OPERA’s view that some mechanism to provide appropriate adjustments or exceptions is warranted to protect landowners from inadvertent liabilities.