Provincial Wetland Policy Dries up Northern Economic Opportunities

Wetlands play an essential role in water filtering, flood prevention, and serve as a habitat for many species. Currently, provincial policies are in place to preserve wetlands, but at what cost? In Northern Policy Institute’s latest report, authors Don and Laura McConnell set out to examine if the current province-wide rules protecting wetlands disproportionately affect Northern Ontario’s economic growth.

The report, titled Provincial Wetland Policy Dries up Northern Economic Opportunities, argues that the provincial government’s rules for protecting wetlands in Northern Ontario are a barrier to economic growth in the various Northern regions. Though wetlands play an essential role in the environment, the PPS understates their importance to the local economy in terms of growth and development.


“The existing policies on wetland development are unsuited to Northern Ontario,” states author Laura McConnell, “A policy that empowers municipalities and approval authorities to make their own decisions on wetland development will allow communities to balance the environment with economic growth.”

The Provincial Policy Statement states that all wetlands are important to preserve unless proven otherwise, which makes it difficult for businesses to get permission to undertake new infrastructure projects. This problem is especially prevalent in Northern Ontario where there are lots of wetlands, but not as much demand for new development. This means that the provincial government, through the PPS, is prioritizing environmental protection over community economic growth.

For Northern Ontario to flourish both environmentally and economically, the report suggests that local communities should be given more decision-making power in identifying wetlands that are important to protect, so that economic growth and development can happen alongside environmental protection.

Want to learn more? Read the report here.

About Northern Policy Institute:

Northern Policy Institute is Northern Ontario’s independent, evidence-driven think tank. We perform research, analyze data, and disseminate ideas. Our mission is to enhance Northern Ontario’s capacity to take the lead position on socio-economic policy that impacts our communities, our province, our country, and our world.


We believe in partnership, reconciliation, collaboration, communication, and cooperation. Our team seeks to do inclusive research that involves broad engagement and delivers recommendations for specific, measurable action. Our success depends on our partnerships with other entities present in or passionate about Northern Ontario.


With offices in Thunder Bay and Kirkland Lake, and a satellite operation in North Bay, NPI is active in every region of Northern Ontario. During the summer months, we have additional satellite locations in communities across Northern Ontario staffed by teams of Experience North placements. These placements are university and college students working in your community on issues important to you and your neighbours.

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