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reeves report: Can Elizabeth May Unmuzzle Canada’s Scientists?

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May.

The success rate of private member’s bills in the federal parliament is abysmal. In the 100-plus years since 1910, Ottawa has passed just 271 of them. For comparison, more than 1,600 PMB’s were tabled between 1997 and 2015, and the rate at which they’re being drawn up is on the rise.

It’s not unusual for entire sessions of parliament to hum along without the passage of a single PMB. And when an errant private member’s bill does become law, more often than not the content of the bill is symbolic, proclaiming National Philanthropy Day (November (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario Anti-Fracking Bill Passes Second Reading

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns speaking with reporters at Queen’s Park. (CBC News Image.)

A PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL from Toronto-area NDP MPP Peter Tabuns to ban fracking in the province passed second reading Thursday by a 29-18 vote with support from the governing Liberals.

“Water or gas — that’s our choice,” Tabuns explained to the House. “We can’t have both.”

Threats to groundwater contamination as found in Pennsylvania this month; links to triggering earthquakes in Ohio and Alberta; questions over the perilous, ponzi-like investment structuresupporting the fracking industry. It all led Tabuns to believe the (Read more…)

reeves report: What’s Worth More: Your Time or the Planet?

WAITING FOR THE BUS one morning on your way to work, you realize your reusable travel mug is at home. You’d rather not use another single-use plastic cup, but if you run back to grab it you’ll miss the next bus and be five minutes late for work.

Do you go back for your reusable container? Chances are, if you’re paid by the hour or view your time-as-money, you won’t sacrifice even five minutes to retrieve your travel mug.

That’s according to the latest research from the University of British Columbia. Psychology PhD student Ashley Whillans, lead author of (Read more…)

reeves report: Cost of Great Lakes Plastic Clean-Up Could Top $486 Million

SHOULD THE FINANCIAL BURDEN of removing all plastic debris from the Great Lakes fall on the shoulders of the 36 million people within the basin, researchers now have an estimate of the cleanup costs: $486-million (US).

Findings from the Ecohydrology Research Group at the University of Waterloo published this month in the Journal of Great Lakes Research has taken a critical step in filling the knowledge gap of how plastic waste interacts in freshwater systems as opposed to saltwater seas and oceans.

“We know more and more about ocean plastics, but, paradoxically, we have little information on the distribution and (Read more…)

reeves report: Toronto Fish Health Improving – But You Can’t Eat Them Yet

Local man fishing in Toronto Harbour.

THE LATEST STUDY from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the University of Toronto analyzed government data on mercury, dioxin/furans and polychlorinated biphenyl(PCB) in local and migratory fish populations from 1975 to 2011.

What they found was not surprising, per se, but it did confirm that efforts to curb pollution in the Toronto waterfront over the past four decades have shown positive results in the health of sport fishes, said Satyendra Bhavsar, a research scientist with the ministry and the universities of Toronto and Windsor.

Their study, published in (Read more…)

reeves report: Waste Mismanagement Leads to Plastic-Filled Oceans

Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans every year, partly due to litter and inadequate waste management.

Plastic particles sit in sieves ready for sorting. Photo by Malin Jacob.

ROUGHLY 9.1 MILLION tonnes of plastic waste will head from land to sea this year alone in 192 coastal countries worldwide.

The latest study published this week in Science from researchers at the University of Georgia and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis put a startling figure to a mounting environmental problem many have become familiar with in the past decade – (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario’s endangered species get their day in court

Endangered American Eel.

LAWYERS ACTING ON BEHALF of the Ontario government told the courts last month that Ontario’s endangered species legislation is now only concerned with the most dire of species listed under the law.

The Woodland Caribou; the American Eel; the Blanding’s Turtle — these and more than 150 other species currently listed as endangered in Ontario will only receive the full weight of government support when they teeter on the brink of local extinction.

So much for our “gold standard” Endangered Species Act.

In September 2013, lawyers from Ecojustice announced Ontario Nature and CPAWS Wildlands League were suing (Read more…)

reeves report: Melting Glaciers to Release Billions of Kilograms of CO₂ by 2050

A new study finds sea-level rise isn’t the only thing to fear about melting glaciers.

Antarctic Ice Shelf Loss Comes From Underneath by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center \ CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

WE KNOW SEA levels are rising as climate change causes glaciers to melt. But it turns out rising seas may not be the only catastrophic by-product of glacier melt we need to worry about.

A new study from researchers at Florida State University published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience has discovered there will be a substantial carbon impact resulting from the loss of (Read more…)

reeves report: 2014 — Canada’s Year of the Pipeline

Keystone XL wasn’t the only pipeline project to rankle Canadians in 2014.

WIDESPREAD PUBLIC DEBATE on building vast networks of snaking energy pipelines throughout Canada dominated the country’s environmental newsreel in 2014, and will continue making headlines in the year ahead.

A collection of Canada’s top environmental NGOs told Reeves Report the climate change file — particularly an uptick in news stories, op-eds, consultations and street-level protests over whether and where oil and gas pipelines could be situated — was the environmental story of the year.

Devon Page, head of environmental legal group Ecojustice, said there has been more conversation (Read more…)

reeves report: Historic dam latest line of defence against invasive Asian carp

Carp over Barge. (Photo: Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant)

THE NEXT LINE OF DEFENCE against keeping invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes will come at an 81-year-old lock and dam in Joliet, Illinois, 65 kilometres south of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The Brandon Road dam, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in March 2004, is being investigated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a suitable location to test run new deterrents for halting Asian carp and other aquatic nuisance species. In addition to the electric barriers already in place eight (Read more…)

reeves report: Loopholes threaten Ontario Greenbelt

The Greenbelt Alliance wants better protection for the ecologically sensitive area, which remains at risk from sprawl, mega-highways and contaminated soil.

Map of Greenbelt and other protected lands in Southern Ontario.

SOUTHERN ONTARIO’S 7,200 square kilometre Greenbelt and the prime farmland and headwaters it contains remain at significant risk from expanding urban development despite protective legislation in place for a decade.

Ontario’s Greenbelt at Risk, a study from the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and Environmental Defence, believes the Ontario government must do more to strengthen protections for the sensitive Greenbelt space stretching from Welland east to Coburg and north to (Read more…)

reeves report: New ‘Tipping Point’ Model Could Help Predict Species Extinction

Snowshoe hares are facing increasing challenges as snow patterns shift dramatically as a result of climate change.

ENVIRONMENTAL “TIPPING POINTS” can provide researchers with valuable clues to detect when species are facing population collapse or extinction.

Research published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team from the Netherlands, Norway and the United States found the type of dramatic evolution required by a species is less critical to their survival than how those (Read more…)

reeves report: NDP to refuse support for Rouge National Urban Park bill

Everyone wants the 10,500 acres in the Rouge Valley to be made into a national urban park, yet few but the Harper Tories think their plan for the green space is the best path forward.

Rouge Park at Sunrise. (Flickr Photo Courtesy of Snuffy.)

ON A MEDIA TOUR this week of the proposed park on Toronto’s eastern boundary, federal NDP environment critic Megan Leslie (Halifax) told reporters she will advise her caucus to oppose government Bill C-40 despite the personal difficulty she feels in opposing the park.

“I’m in a parallel universe where I get applause for voting against (Read more…)

reeves report: Ocean Warming and Acidification will Crash Crabs’ Metabolism

Porcelain crab. (Image courtesy of Stillman’s Lab)

BASED ON FUTURE CLIMATE SCENARIOS, researchers believe coastal ecosystems will see increased extremes in low tide temperature fluctuations and drops in pH levels associated with ocean acidification. This particular study looked at what impacts, if any, warmer water and higher acidity levels will have on intertidal zone crustaceans like the test species, porcelain crabs. (The intertidal zone is the area above water at low tide and below water at high tide.)

“The way that I interpret our data is that in the future, [porcelain crabs] are going to have an overall (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario Invasive Species Act gets second chance

A control test site for invasive plant phragmites at Wasaga Beach on Lake Huron.

LIBERAL NATURAL RESOURCE MINISTER Bill Mauro reintroduced the Invasive Species Act Wednesday, the first standalone legislation in Canada geared towards stopping the spread of invasives into the province

There is currently a patchwork of more than 20 different federal and provincial pieces of legislation affecting the control of invasive species in the country but none are designed specifically with invasive species in mind. Ontario is keen to change that, Mauro said.

“Our proposed legislation will help to address these legislative gaps,” he told a crowd (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario and Ottawa face off over fate of Rouge Park lands

A STANDOFF IS BREWING east of Toronto in the Rouge Valley between Queen’s Park and the federal government over the proposed Rouge National Urban Park.

Ontario Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid made it clear to federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq that the province would not hand 5,400 acres of land it owns, stretching from Lake Ontario to Markham, over to Ottawa to create the new 10,000 acre park.

Map of existing Rouge Park.

At issue is the wording of Bill C-40, the Rouge National Urban Park Act, which began second reading in June. Much of the 5,400 acres Ontario controls (Read more…)

reeves report: ECO urges province to create new climate action plan

SO MUCH OF THE THINKING around climate change has evolved since 2007 that Ontario’s seven-year-old climate action plan is now “irrelevant” according to Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller.

In releasing Looking for Leadership: The Costs of Climate Inaction this morning, Miller said the province has been a leader in the climate file but has not kept up with the changing social, scientific and economic dynamics of climate change since Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan was released in 2007.

In particular, Miller identified four areas where society and science have moved beyond the baseline assumptions about climate change it held seven years (Read more…)

reeves report: Ontario adds Climate Change to MOE Portfolio

IN ANNOUNCING her new cabinet last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne has charged former Transportation Minister Glen Murray with taking over Ontario’s newly revamped environment ministry.

Murray, the sitting MPP for Toronto Centre and former mayor of Winnipeg, assumed command of the environment ministry from veteran MPP Jim Bradley who is Ontario’s longest-serving environment minister after eight years on the job in two separate stints.

Wynne has also asked Murray to take on a new challenge, perhaps the most pressing issue facing the planet in the 21st century: climate change. No, Murray won’t be tasked with single-handedly solving the world’s shifting (Read more…)

reeves report: Ottawa approves $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT has approved the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project from Enbridge, to carry 525,000 barrels of crude oil each day from Bruderheim in northern Alberta to the port town of Kitimat along British Columbia’s rugged Pacific Coast.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled his approval for the project late Thursday after the controversial pipeline received regulatory approval from the National Energy Board in December 2013.

Ottawa has hinged its blessing for the project on Enbridge consulting further with BC’s First Nations and their ability to meet the 209 requirements placed on it by the Joint Review Panel in December. The JRP called (Read more…)

reeves report: MNR lacks real-time data on controversial spring bear hunt

Black bear. (Flickr photo by Casey Brown)

JUST OVER HALFWAY through the reintroduced six-week spring bear hunt, which runs from May 1 to June 15, the province of Ontario has issued close to 2,300 licenses for black bears.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Natural Resources has no idea how many of those licences will be used this spring, and how many were requested for use in the fall.

Each license entitles an Ontario resident hunter to kill one black bear in 2014, but would-be hunters are not required to specify whether they intend to tag a bear in spring or during (Read more…)

reeves report: Environmental Legislation Killed by the Ontario Election

Environment Minister Jim Bradley and Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti speak with reporters at Queen’s Park. June, 2013. (Photo by Andrew Reeves)

SO WE KEEP WAITING.

Ontario’s environmental community had reason for optimism when Kathleen Wynne assumed leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party in January 2013, knowing the new premier was more progressive than her predecessor Dalton McGuinty and perhaps more inclined to want to beef up the Liberals’ green cred.

But with an election called for June 12, hopes for sweeping new green legislation on everything from protecting the Great Lakes to improving recycling rates have been dashed. (Read more…)

reeves report: Swimming against the odds

Few of the hundreds of thousands of Chinook salmon introduced into Lake Ontario each year survive to maturity, but the Ministry of Natural Resources is still betting on them to help to improve the health of the Great Lakes.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa with MNR staff and representatives from the Port Credit Salmon and Trout Association.

THERE WAS A GENERAL SENSE of anticipation when the Ministry of Natural Resources truck backed in next to the Snug Harbour marina in Port Credit in Mississauga, Ontario. Everyone there at the water’s edge knew how important the truck’s cargo was to the overall health (Read more…)

reeves report: Rebuilding ‘science team’ at ELA a tough task

Researchers at the Experimental Lakes Area in northern Ontario.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on May 17, 2012 that funding for the Experimental Lakes Area would no longer be renewed by the federal government, scientists and environmentalists saw this for what it was—another salvo in Harper’s ever-expanding conflict with science and the products of that research.

Long before the ELA—a vast, 58-lake living freshwater laboratory near the Manitoba-Ontario border—was saved by an 11th hour deal between Ottawa, two provincial governments and (Read more…)

reeves report: Toronto offering on-bill financing for home energy retrofits

A homeowner installing fiberglass insulation as part of Penticton, B.C.’s energy retrofit loan program.

It might be time to replace that aging water heater in the basement. Or that thinning insulation in the attic.

The City of Toronto is here to help, announcing last week that it’s taking steps to make it easier for property owners to make their homes more energy efficient through the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP).

Under the initiative, homeowners will be able to apply for low interest loans (from five years at 2.5 per cent, up to 15 years at 4.25 (Read more…)

the reeves report: Reports question NEB’s approval process for Northern Gateway and Line 9 pipelines

Enbridge under fire as opponents of controversial pipeline projects worry the Canadian energy giant will be ill-prepared to handle potential ruptures throughout Southern Ontario and on B.C.’s rugged coast.

Opponents of Enbridge’s Line 9B pipeline in Southern Ontario are scrambling in the wake of its tentative approval earlier this month by the National Energy Board to highlight just how dangerous overhauling the 38-year-old, 639-kilometre pipeline could be for flora and fauna alike.

Approximately 100 protesters, First Nations members, students and concerned citizens gathered on the front lawn of Queen’s Park in Toronto the day after the NEB’s ruling (Read more…)