There have been many policy changes during this COVID-19 pandemic. These changes affect many aspects of our personal and professional lives. As it relates to provincial environmental policies, there is a wide-range of responses.
The summary below is very brief, and we suggest that you evaluate how changes in provincial policies may affect your environmental obligations.
Ontario: The Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks announced changes under the Environmental Bill of Rights. See “Temporary Exemptions Relating to Declared Emergency.” With respect to the Environmental Review Tribunal, a blog on the website of Osler states, “On March 20, 2020, the Ontario government issued Ontario Regulation 73/20, which suspends limitation periods and procedural time periods relevant to tribunal hearings, retroactive to March 16, 2020. If parties are unable to meet certain timelines, Tribunals Ontario will postpone the deadlines.”
Manitoba: No statements were found on the website for Manitoba Conservation and Climate regarding changes in environmental enforcement policies during COVID-19.
British Columbia: It is expected that all reasonable measures should be taken to comply. See “Managing Authorizations & Compliance During COVID-19.”
On their website, they also state:
“If an authorization holder is unable to meet authorization requirements due to orders, directives, or guidance by the PHO [Provincial Health Officer], notify the ministry by email EnvironmentalCompliance@gov.bc.ca and identify:
- The compliance issues
- Rationale that clearly states how the compliance issues are related to COVID-19
- Mitigative measures being taken
The ministry will take into consideration PHO orders, directives, and guidance when addressing non-compliances.”
Alberta: “Ministerial Order from the Minister of Environment and Parks modifying various reporting requirements under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the Water Act, and the Public Lands Act, because of circumstances arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Details are in Ministerial Order 17/2020 [Environment and Parks].
Saskatchewan: Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Ministry of Environment is implementing a temporary policy to provide enforcement discretion for environmental regulations at all industrial and municipal operations it regulates. See “Ministry of Environment Temporary Enforcement Policy during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
This policy states, “Regulated facilities are still expected to comply with regulatory requirements where reasonably practicable. This policy does not provide leniency for intentional violation of the legislation.”
Quebec: The Quebec Centre for Environmental Control (CCEQ) has a web page dedicated to COVID-19-related changes. See “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Important information for partners and customers.”
New Brunswick: No statements were found regarding changes in environmental enforcement policies during COVID-19.
Prince Edward Island: PEI has a web page titled “Closures and Re-openings Due to COVID-19.” No statements were found regarding changes in environmental enforcement policies during COVID-19.
Newfoundland and Labrador: No statements were found regarding changes in environmental enforcement policies during COVID-19.
Yukon: No statements were found regarding changes in environmental enforcement policies during COVID-19.
This is not a comprehensive overview nor does it include federal environmental policy changes from Environment and Climate Change Canada. Also, in our online searches, we found “COVID-19: Implications for Environmental Permitting and Compliance (Osler).” They take a deeper dive into this issue.
Finally, we suggest you carefully document your compliance efforts and any changes in provincial environmental enforcement policies that may affect you in regards to COVID-19.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 519-979-7300, Ext. 145.