• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Environmental commissioner’s office ‘imperative’

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In Council Watch
Nov 25th, 2018
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Theresa McClenaghan

Removal of the position would be a ‘troubling decision for all Ontarians and should be an immediate cause for concern’

Letter to BarrieToday from Theresa McClenaghan
Canadian Environmental Law Association, executive director

I recently read your coverage titled, Ontario Tree Seed Plant a ‘key theme’, dated Nov. 19, 2018, regarding the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s report on Ontario’s environment titled ‘Back to Basics’ that she issued last week.

The article expressly supported the commissioner’s recommendation, which called on the Ministry of the Environment to supplant the funding which formerly came from the Ontario Tree Seed Plant program (which was removed earlier this fall).

Your readers should know that two days after the release of this report, the provincial government introduced legislation proposing to remove the position of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) and transfer some of its powers to the Auditor General (in Bill 57).

This is a troubling decision for all Ontarians and should be an immediate cause for concern.

Since 1993, the ECO’s office has ensured Ontario’s compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), as well as reported on important issues such as invasive species, boreal forest protection, landfill management, biodiversity, water protection, pesticide management, and climate change.

The ECO is an independent watchdog, appointed by an all-party committee. The ECO oversees the application of the EBR including reporting on how the important rights to request investigations or reviews are handled by various ministries and how well they comply with their EBR responsibilities.

For example, in last week’s 2018 report the ECO called on the province to do more to protect urban waters. An entire section of the commissioner’s report was dedicated to sewage pollution in Ontario, where she listed 44 communities which allow raw sewage to mix with storm water and flow into local creeks and rivers.

Some of these communities include Hamilton, London, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, St. Catharines, Windsor and Toronto.

It is this type of raised awareness that makes the ECO’s office so imperative.

For 25 years the position of the Environmental Commissioner as a legislative officer has brought a significant level of accountability to the management of Ontario’s environment at a provincial level.

We encourage all of your readers to consider voicing their concerns through their local MPPs, city councillors and media outlets, like this one, identifying their concern with the removal of the ECO.

I also encourage your readers to browse through the Environmental Commissioner’s present and past reports to see the extremely important information these reports have been providing to Ontario’s legislators and to the public.

The reports can be found here.

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