Watchdog warns of ecological risks as Ontario guts environmental protections

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TORONTO - Ontario's environmental watchdog says the Liberal government is deliberately dismantling environmental protections, and warns the changes could have "disastrous results."

Environment Commissioner Gord Miller says protections for species at risk "have been gutted" while major industrial activities can proceed almost unchecked.

He says provincial parks are being turned into revenue streams, and warns there's no funding or plan to deal with invasive species like the emerald ash borer and the Asian carp.

Miller also says there's no formal environmental monitoring for Ontario's far north, despite intensive mineral exploration and development around the Ring of Fire.

In his annual report, Miller casts doubt on the ability of the Ministry of Natural Resources to protect the environment, and says it "is walking away from many parts of its job to safeguard wildlife."

He calls cuts to regulations, staff and programs at the ministry "short-sighted and regressive," and says they pose significant ecological risks.

"There are deficiencies in the conservation planning for species like polar bears and lake sturgeon ... and still no sign of fracking regulations even as the drills approach from the south," said Miller.

"When we start to treat nature and species like a bunch of widgets in a factory, we've completely lost sight of what's truly important for our communities and our very identity as Ontarians."

Organizations: Ministry of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Ontario, TORONTO

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