It seems like only yesterday (but it was actually February 2019) when Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner introduced his first private members bill. The Paris Galt Moraine Conservation Act made it past second reading, but when Premier Doug Ford prorogued the legislature this past summer, all bills in the works were cancelled. In fact, he’s daring the Ontario government to pass it.
“Government has a sacred duty to protect our water for present and future generations, and that’s why today the Ontario Greens are re-introducing my private member’s bill, the Paris Galt Moraine Conservation Act,” Schreiner said from the media studio at Queen’s Park on Wednesday. “If passed, this pivotal legislation would protect drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Ontarians in a region of the province that is expected to grow by up to one million residents by 2041.”
The bill directs the Minsters of Municipal Affairs and the Environment to come up with a conservation plan similar to the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act passed in 2001. It will provide land use planning to protect the moraine’s ecological and hydrological features with consultation from affected municipalities and Indigenous communities.
The moraine is a recharge, discharge and storage area that feeds into the Grand River Watershed and replenishes underground aquifers and groundwater systems that are also local sources of drinking water. The moraine tract passes through the southern most end of Guelph and Puslinch and extends from Lake Simcoe to the Brantford area.
“From Caledon to Guelph. to Cambridge, Brantford and beyond, this bill provides model legislation for how to protect water in moraines across the province,” Schreiner explained. “And as the climate crisis worsens, Ontarians need to preserve and protect water supplies before the situation becomes more costly and dire. More delays will cost us in our wallets and with our health.”
The original Paris Galt Moraine Conservation Act made it as far as second reading, when it was approved unanimously by the legislature in March 2019 and sent to committee. At the time, Schreiner said that his Queen’s Park colleagues were showing a universal commitment to protecting water and farmland.
The re-introduction of the act comes during a week of bad news for the Ford government about their track record on environmental stewardship. Schreiner said that this is an opportunity for the Government of Ontario to do something substantive for the environment, and to back up their words with deeds.
“The Premier has said that he wants to expand the Greenbelt, and earlier this year he even floated the idea of including the Paris Galt Moraine in the Greenbelt, so my message to Doug Ford and the P.C. government is pass my bill,” Schreiner said. “Stop using [the Greenbelt] as a talking point to distract people from your environmentally destructive agenda.”
As to whether the bill will get passed before the election in the spring, Schreiner is hopeful, but realistic. “Whether or not it’ll come back for a vote is difficult to say because of the way ballot dates work on private member’s bills,” he explained.
“I felt it was critically important to reintroduce this bill and have it on the order paper because this provides model legislation for how we can expand protections, not only for the Paris Galt Moraine – which is vital for drinking water in the region of the province I live in – but for protecting moraines across the province,” Schreiner added. “It’s important for us to move that conversation in this debate because we simply can’t wait to do the important work of protecting our water.”
You will be able to hear more from Schreiner on this week episode of Open Sources Guelph, Thursday at 5 pm on CFRU 93.3 fm or cfru.ca!