Updated: the passing of Bill 197 = Destruction, degradation and loss of democracy
The Critical Value of Wetlands – Ecology Ottawa photo
Tories ram through omnibus bill
AWARE News Network July 23 2020
On Tuesday the Ford government passed Bill 197, amending 20 existing laws and making pivotal changes to environmental law.
The new measures include:
-Sweeping changes to the Environmental Assessment Act which requires proponents to assess for environmental damage prior to implementing a development or industrial project and
-Removal of the public’s automatic right to know of any proposed project that could pose a health and safety risk or cause environmental damage.
-Expansion of the government’s power to override municipalities’ land planning process and potential opposition to projects through ministerial zoning orders (or MZOs).
Environmental groups have pointed out that Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights require the government to consult the public about environment-related legislation before passing it.
But the government included a measure to exempt that part of the bill from the Bill of Rights public consultation requirements.
Ontario Auditor General has said that two portions of Bill 197 do not comply with the Environmental Bill of Rights, and that it would be precedent-setting for the government to be able to exempt itself from a law retroactively.
Another controversial measure in Bill 197 is that Directors of Education would be no longer required to be qualified teachers. Also passed Tuesday, Bill 195, being protested by nurses and health professionals for giving the government extensive powers to override collective agreements.
Omnibus bill to be rammed through?
AWARE News Network July 19 2020
In mid-summer, in the midst of a pandemic, the Ford government has launched an unprecedented dismantling of the province’s decades-old system of environmental protection.
Bill 197 is an omnibus bill that amends 20 pieces of legislation and was announced July 8. It’s called the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act. Here’s a link to the bill and to the government news release announcing it. There’s an expectation the government could try to ram the new law through this coming week, with minimal debate and no consultation.
A dozen groups, including the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, have sent a letter to Environment Minister Jeff Yurek warning that he is required by law to provide public notice and consultation opportunities to any changes to the Environmental Assessment Act. Bill 197 attempts to retroactively legalize the failure to consult. Here’s the letter:
Here are links to two more responses:
Anne Bell, Ontario Nature. “Omnibus Bill 197, titled the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, reflects an insidious pattern of environmental deregulation, set by three other omnibus bills tabled since the government came into power two years ago (Bill 66 Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act; Bill 108 More Homes, More Choice Act; Bill 132 Better for People, Smarter for Business Act).”
Laura Bowman, EcoJustice. “These changes amount to something that is a far cry from the original vision of environmental assessment, which aimed to ensure we look before we leap and understand the environmental impacts of all potentially harmful decisions before they are made. Environmental assessment is supposed to be the primary means through which we achieve sustainable development and public participation in environmental decisions.”
That’s not all:
The government is proposing changes to the Growth Plan. Comment due by July 31 2020. Here’s Ontario Nature’s take on the Growth at all Costs Plan. Scroll down in the link for a form to send a letter to Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark.
On July 1 2020, the government exempted forestry activities from the Environmental Assessment Act on the grounds that this would eliminate duplication with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. Not so, writes Joseph Castrilli of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.