The Ontario government continues its attack on environmental laws at a break-neck speed. On December 6th, the Ontario government introduced Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018, which would allow the province to approve municipal “open-for-business” planning by-laws that bypass important environmental protection requirements.
If Bill 66 is passed, industry will be able to bypass drinking water source protections under the Clean Water Act. This change would weaken critical protections passed in response to the Walkerton tragedy, in which contaminated drinking water killed seven people and made thousands of people ill.
Bill 66 also proposes to exempt municipal “open-for-business” planning bylaws from land-use planning and environmental protection requirements under several other acts, including the Planning Act, the Greenbelt Act, the Great Lakes Protection Act, and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, allowing industry to ignore important protections to our natural spaces like the Greenbelt – despite backlash during Premier Ford’s campaign that forced him to back away from this issue.
Bill 66 also proposes to repeal the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009. This change would undermine transparency and accountability by eliminating industry obligations to report publicly on their uses of toxic substances and to identify options to reduce those substances through toxic reduction plans.
Bill 66 is the Ontario government’s latest attempt to weaken environmental protections in Ontario. Ontario just passed Bill 57, which eliminated the independent office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), and placed the role under the office of the Auditor General. The ECO has been a critical watchdog, shedding light on Ontario’s climate, environmental protection and energy conservation performance through three separate annual reports to the legislature. Reporting on climate change and energy conservation is no longer mandatory under the amendments brought in by Bill 57, and environmental protection reporting is now under the control of the Auditor General.
This past summer, when Ontario cancelled the cap and trade program without respecting Ontarian’s legal rights to weigh in on the proposal, Ecojustice, on behalf of Greenpeace, launched litigation that is now before the courts.
Ecojustice will not stand idly by in the face of these latest attacks on environmental laws in Ontario. Rolling back important protections for our water, air, and natural spaces is unacceptable. We will be pushing back on all fronts to defend Ontario’s environment and fight for Ontarians’ rights.
You can too: Bill 66 is posted for public comment on Ontario’s Environmental Registry. You can tell the Ontario government what you think of its proposed rollbacks by submitting a comment online, by email or letter mail by January 20, 2019.
Stay tuned for more analysis from Ecojustice in the coming weeks.