Ontario needs to clean up its act on environmental rights
September 19, 2012
By Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada
Friends of the Earth thanks Gord Miller, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner for his timely report — Losing Touch — in which he says the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) is one of the most significant environmental laws of our time. Friends of the Earth has lauded Ontario as the most progressive jurisdiction in Canada in its provision of environmental rights under the EBR based on our analysis of environmental rights across Canada (“Standing On Guard,” 2009).
However, today, the Environmental Commissioner said, “I am astounded by the level of disregard and contempt being shown to the statutory requirement of the Environmental Bill of Rights… Senior members of the Ontario Public Service are ignoring their responsibility to support and implement the will of the Legislative Assembly.”
And, he singles out Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for special criticism. He says it is a “chronic offender” in evading its obligations under the Environmental Bill of Rights and cites this Ministry’s attempt to hide the inadequacies of the Provincial Wildlife Population Monitoring Program Plan from public view. In his video presentation, Mr. Miller comments on the potential trade impact from eroding confidence in Ontario’s performance, for example, in delivering sustainable forest management which depended on the successful delivery of this Monitoring Plan.
Today’s report is a very useful window on the gap between what’s on the books and how the Ministries and their officials actually deliver on environmental rights. It’s worrisome to see the sneakiness of the federal bureaucracy mirrored in the Ontario budget process. Mr. Miller says the magnitude of environmental changes in a budget bill is unprecedented.
Let me say that we expected better of Ontario. As a pioneer in delivering environmental rights, we know there was a learning curve. But after 18 years, we expect Ontario to be leading the way, not losing touch with this critical responsibility. It’s time for Premier McGuinty to set the record straight and instruct his cabinet secretary to make the delivery of environmental rights a priority.
For more information visit the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s website to download the report or view a video of the press conference.