Office of Auditor General 2021 Report: Critical of Ontario’s Environmental Management

Posted by on Dec 6, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

In our September 21st blog, we shared the news that the Ontario Divisional Court ruled that the Ontario Government broke the law by failing to consult with the public. This obligation to consult with the public is spelled out in the Ontario Bill of Rights.

It should be noted that the above criticism and subsequent ruling was with respect to actions taken under Bill 197, the COVID–19 Economic Recovery Act.

2021 Annual Report Critical of Environment Ministry

The recently released Annual Report from the Office of Auditor General was equally critical of Ontario’s handling of the environment.

The Annual Reports are very large so we narrowed our focus to “Operation of the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR).”

The opening page of the report sets the tone for the rest of the report. “We found that the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (Environment Ministry), for the third year in a row, did not provide leadership in implementing the EBR Act.”

The Annual Report from the Auditor General is critical of Environmental Management in Ontario (Image Source: Canadian Office of Auditor General

Comments from the Report

Below are some of the general comments in the report:

“The Environment Ministry did not proactively ensure that environmentally significant decisions were made subject to the EBR Act…”

“Under the EBR Act, the Environment Ministry is required to provide educational programs about the EBR Act to the public, but it is still not doing so.”

“Thousands of spills are caused by entities not subject to spill prevention and contingency planning requirements under O. Reg. 224/07 of the Environmental Protection Act (Act). The requirements for having spill prevention and contingency plans in place under O. Reg. 224/07 (Spill Prevention and Contingency Plans) only apply to industrial facilities. Between 2016 and 2020, these industrial facilities were responsible for a minority (7% or 2,842) of the 40,349 reported spills. The Environment Ministry does not require spill prevention and contingency plans for high-risk sources such as oil and natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines, electricity transmission substations, fuel delivery trucks and bulk fuel storage facilities.”

“Despite requirements in the Act, spillers are not always immediately notifying the Environment Ministry of spills. Between 2016 and 2020, 3,746 (or 9%) of the 40,349 reported spills were not reported until the following day, and 505 took more than 10 days to report.”

They report on much more and you can read this in their short 6-page report.

Others Comment on the Report

As you can imagine, environmental groups and politicians are providing comments, as well.  Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Michael Mantha (Algoma-Manitoulin) said, “They’ve missed the benchmark on everything…You put it on the list and they’ve received an F on everything.”

Environmental Defence said, “This is pitiful, especially because provinces hold sizable levers that can reduce (or increase) greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. While a lot of attention is paid to the policies of the federal government, we should be paying equal attention to the actions of our provinces. Especially Ontario, which is the second most polluting province in Canada.”

Will another negative report about the Ontario Government’s handling of the environment influence political decisions? How might this report affect enforcement in 2022 and beyond?

While we have no particular insights, we’ll continue to share updates in this space in the coming year.

If you need help with an environmental matter, contact Christopher Pare’ at 519-948-7300 Ext. 114. For more educational information, see our YouTube channel.

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