An Update from Ontario’s New Environmental Commissioner

Thank you very much to everyone for the warm welcome as I begin my term as Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). Between the Paris climate conference, the Investor Climate Risk summit, the steep learning curve and three visiting toddlers (and their germs), it has been an exciting and exhausting first two months.

Fortunately, the very competent ECO staff have been driving ahead on our three major reports for 2016: the energy report, planned for late spring; the climate report, planned for early fall; and the environmental protection report, planned for late fall. Work on all three of these reports was already well underway before I arrived.

Meanwhile, I have been meeting with many stakeholders, including the Deputy Ministers of most of the ministries that we oversee. At each of the meetings, I invited the deputies to improve the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) performance of their ministries before we publicly score their compliance and performance. (Watch for more about the scorecard in later blogs). I am delighted to note that the deputies did take this opportunity. Attentive users of the Environmental Registry will have noted a significant uptick in decision notices in the last two months, particularly for overdue proposals. Timely decision notices are an important feature of an effective public participation regime, and are necessary to trigger public rights to seek leave to appeal.

Ministry action has already been accelerated on outstanding requests for review. One of those requests was answered last week with a proposal for a new government policyon potentially compromised soil. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change graciously gave credit to the request for review as a significant trigger for this important new policy.

I’m also delighted to announce that almost every one of the deputies has formally committed to comply with the requirements of the Environmental Bill of Rights moving forward. We will be posting all of the commitment letters shortly. The commitment letters and the enhanced compliance with Environmental Registry posting requirements will both help strengthen the Environmental Bill of Rights as a meaningful tool for public participation in government decision making on significant environmental issues. It’s a great way to start my mandate, and I am very grateful to each of the deputies for their support.

For regular updates, stay tuned to our blog.

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