Nicholls defends Tories refusal to support Liberal effort to protect lakes

Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Essex
Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Essex

MPP Rick Nicholls released a statement saying that protecting our Great Lakes resources is of critical importance, but he could not support a Liberal bill due to their failure to address a number of issues raised by communities across the province including Chatham-Kent.

“Our main concerns with this flawed bill are the stripping of local autonomy, the lack of respect for landowners, and a complete lack of a funding model. As it stands, no one knows who is going to be picking up the bill for this blank Liberal cheque,” Nicholls said.

The bill offers no funding model, leaving many communities concerned that the provincial government may saddle them with the bill as they already deal with tightening local budgets.

The lack of community input was noted by Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope, who visited Queen’s Park on Wednesday to offer his opinion on the Liberal bill.

“Mayor Randy Hope from Chatham-Kent specifically stressed the need for inclusion and public consultations, particularly with residents and elected officials from the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River basin areas. I think it’s safe to say that we know consultation in this regard was very limited,” said PC Environment Critic Lisa Thompson (Huron-Bruce) in the Legislature.

It was clear from the beginning that the Liberals had no intention of listening to concerns raised by opposition members on behalf of their communities, as the government limited debate on the bill and passed only one of the 31 amendments put forward by the Official Opposition.

“Landowners are very worried about a clause snuck into the bill that will allow for warrantless entry onto private property. This is something I could not support. In an area with many farms, it can be downright dangerous to have uninvited guests wandering onto properties,” said Nicholls.

While the bill may intend to protect the Great Lakes, it offers little in the way of specific action and will only serve to create additional layers of bureaucracy in Toronto.

Bill 66 will create a Guardian Council, which will be chaired by the Minister of the Environment with hand-picked advisors with little public accountability. The Liberals rejected a PC amendment to the bill to create regional councils, an amendment that was supported by many communities.

“Southwestern and rural Ontario does not need another layer of Liberal bureaucracy to tell local decision-makers how to run their communities. What the government needs to do is honour its agreements and properly fund and staff programs that work,” Nicholls said.

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