Ontario is not doing enough to prepare for climate change, says Beaches-East York MPP McMahon

Beaches-East York Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon speaks at a Greenbelt rally last year in this Beach Metro Community News file photo.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Beaches-East York MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon has criticized the Ontario government following the long-awaited release of the Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment (PCCIA) Report.

The report, which was released by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) on Aug. 26, was done by the Climate Risk Institute which, according to officials, engaged with more than 140 experts and Indigenous organizations in the process.

“I am glad this report is finally ready after many delays,” said McMahon, a Liberal MPP, in a Sept. 8 press release. “The PCCIA makes an urgent statement that highlights the resilience gap in Ontario and the need for increased levels of adaptation as climate risks continue to be felt across the province.”

In 2020, Ontario introduced the Climate Change Impact Assessment in order to “help government and public and private institutions” gain knowledge about the potential impacts of climate change on the province’s residents, infrastructure, economy, and the natural environment.

According to the Province of Ontario’s website, the report’s purpose is to help officials “make more informed decisions on planning and investments”.

However, McMahon said the government is not adequately preparing Ontarians, or the province’s critical infrastructure, for a climate emergency.

“The PCCIA was quietly released, with no accompanying press conference and silence from the Ontario Newsroom,” said McMahon. “The report makes it clear, the government and its relevant ministries are not doing enough. They are skirting responsibility and further endangering Ontarians in the process.”

The 553-page report, which was released eight months later than anticipated, reveals that in about 50 years, the province can expect 55 to 60 days of extreme heat  (30°C or more). Currently, Ontario averages 16°C annually.

“Ontario, in general, has high institutional, technical, human, and financial levels of capacity to support adaptation actions,” stated the report. “However, this capacity has not yet been mobilized widely despite the imperative.”

This statement coincides with past comments from McMahon – the Ontario Liberals’ official critic for The Environment, Conservation, and Parks – who has repeatedly scrutinized the inaction of Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford’s government when it comes to dealing with climate change.

Although much of the PCCIA report focuses on future damage to Ontario’s environment and infrastructure, it also highlights that climate change is “already a threat to Ontario’s natural environment”.

“Not a single asset included in this assessment is considered to have a risk profile less than ‘medium’ under current climate conditions,” stated the report. “Across most regions and asset types, this risk is expected to rise in the future by mid-century (2050s).”

The PCCIA report cites the 2021 Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) files which revealed that much of Ontario’s municipal assets would require $16.8 billion for the province and $52.1 billion for cities before they can return to a state of good repair, bringing Ontario’s climate resilience up to safer standards.

One major risk Ontario’s aging infrastructure faces, according to the report, is flooding.

“Land development and land use legislation can accomplish large-scale change (geographically and sector-wide) to support flood risk management, which is one of the most significant risk factors for this category,” stated the report.

However, the defunding of Ontario’s conservation authorities as a result of Bill 23 is an action by Queen’s Park that contradicts this recommendation. Following the passing of Bill 23, the conservation authorities no longer have the power to review environmental impacts on new development applications. The province said that since receiving the assessment in January, the MECP has been working on a response to the identified risks and are “investing in strategies and programs”.

These include Ontario’s flooding strategy and flood hazard identification at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; climate-related financial disclosure rules being developed by the Ontario Securities Commission and Green Bonds at the Ontario Financing Authority; Provincial Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment at Emergency Management Ontario and the Treasury Board Secretariat; Climate risk and resilience assessments for significant projects by Infrastructure Ontario; and programs to improve Lake Ontario wastewater and stormwater discharges.

But some, like the Official Opposition NDP critic for Climate Action Peter Tabun (MPP for Toronto-Danforth), are showing little faith in the steps the government said it is taking to tackle the climate crisis – especially considering the amount of time that passed before the report was made public.

“The Premier is focused on one thing, and that’s doing favours for insider developers and speculators while not just ignoring the climate crisis, but actively making it worse,” said Tabuns in a news release on Sept. 13.

— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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