Scientist testing samples in a labThe Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) is one of 15 Ontario ministries that is required under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR) to include the public in its environmentally significant decision making. Click on a heading below to learn about the ministry and its EBR requirements and performance.

 

 

Key Environmental Aspects of the Ministry's Mandate

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) is one of the most environmentally significant ministries prescribed under the EBR. The MECP is the ministry tasked with “promoting clean and safe air, land, and water to ensure healthy communities, ecological protection and sustainable development for present and future generations of Ontarians.” In essence, the ministry is mandated with protecting and improving all facets of the environment. The key aspects of the ministry’s environmental protection role include:

  • Air pollution: the ministry regulates discharges to air, administers legislation (see the Environmental Protection Act (EPA)) and regulations aimed at limiting contaminant releases into the air. The ministry also issues approvals, allowing businesses to operate and discharge contaminants with conditions and restrictions intended to minimize environmental impacts. Air pollution includes not just chemical contaminants from industrial and other facilities, but also odours and noise.
  • Water: the ministry is tasked with protecting Ontario’s water resources, both in quantity and quality. The ministry administers several laws aimed at protecting Ontario’s drinking water, including the Clean Water Act, 2006 and the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002. The ministry also administers the Ontario Water Resources Act, which establishes rules restricting discharges of contaminants into water bodies (e.g., from industrial wastewater, municipal sewage, and stormwater). Under this Act, the ministry issues approvals, with conditions and restrictions in them, allowing limited discharges of wastewater. The ministry also issues Permits to Take Water, allowing businesses and individuals to take water from underwater aquifers, lakes and rivers in accordance with conditions set out in the permit. In addition, the ministry has several specific policies and rules aimed to protect some of Ontario’s significant and more at-risk water bodies, including the Great Lakes and Lake Simcoe.
  • Climate change: the ministry is the lead body in Ontario’s fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Contaminated land and spills: the ministry administers laws and regulations governing the use and clean-up of contaminated lands, as well as preventing spills and spill clean-up.
  • Waste diversion: the ministry regulates the management of waste in Ontario, including setting policies and rules for what materials should be diverted away from landfill through recycling and reuse, and by whom.
  • Reducing toxics: the ministry regulates pesticide use under the Pesticides Act and aims to reduce the use of toxic substances through the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009.
  • Endangered species: On June 29, 2018, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks assumed responsibility for administering the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (formerly the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry).
  • Protected areas: On June 29, 2018, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks assumed responsibility for administering the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 (formerly the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry).
  • Conservation Authorities: On June 29, 2018, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks assumed responsibility for administering the Conservation Authorities Act (formerly the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry).

Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Requirements

Statement of Environmental Values

Each ministry prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) is required to develop a Statement of Environmental Values to guide ministry staff when making decisions that might significantly affect the environment. Read the Statement of Environmental Values of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).

Public Notice and Consultation

Each ministry that is prescribed under the EBR is required to consult the public on certain environmentally significant proposals via the Environmental Registry. Specifically, the MECP must give notice of, and consult on, any proposal to make or amend any policy or act that could have a significant effect on the environment.

In addition, the MECP administers laws that are prescribed under the EBR. This means that the ministry must consult the public on any proposal, which could have a significant effect on the environment, to make or amend a regulation under any of the following acts:

The MECP is also required to post notice on the Environmental Registry and consult on various “instruments” (e.g., permits, approvals, orders, etc.) that the ministry issues under the following acts:

See the EBR regulation for a list of the classified instruments on which the MECP must consult.

Applications for Review

Under the EBR, members of the public can ask the MECP to review the need for a new environmental policy, act or regulation. In addition, the public may ask the ministry to review any of its existing policies, or to review any of the following acts, or regulations under any of these acts, in order to better protect the environment:

The public may also ask the MECP to review specific instruments (approvals, permits and orders) classified under the EBR that have been issued under the following acts:

The MECP is required to consider all such requests, and to respond within 60 days of receiving the application to let both the applicants and the Environmental Commissioner know whether or not it will undertake the requested review.

Applications for Investigation

The Ministry of the Environment , Conservation and Parks administers eight acts that are prescribed under the EBR for Applications for Investigation. Members of the public can request that the MECP conduct an investigation of an alleged offence under any of the following eight acts:

Members of the public can also submit an Application for Investigation regarding classified instruments.

EBR Commitment Letter

In December 2015, the ECO invited prescribed ministries to renew their commitment to the EBR in writing. Read the ministry’s recommitment to the Environmental Bill of Rights.

EBR Report Card

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s evaluation of ministry compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights during the reporting period from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018

Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP)

ECO Comment: The MECP maintained its high quality of performance of its EBR obligations this year. The ministry continues to post high quality notices on the Environmental Registry; a significant feat given that the ministry posted approximately 2,000 notices this year alone. The ministry gave the public notice of its environmentally significant decisions more promptly this year in many cases; however, in over 30% of cases the ministry took more than 4 weeks to post decision notices. The ministry finally completed its long-overdue review of the need for a framework to assess cumulative effects in air pollution hot spots such as Aamjiwnaang First Nation; however, the ECO is disappointed that the ministry did not complete two additional overdue reviews, leaving EBR applicants waiting years for the ministry’s final decision. The ECO urges the MECP to prioritize completing those reviews, and to complete all reviews within a reasonable time, as required by the EBR, going forward. Finally, MECP staff continue to be consistently helpful and responsive to the ECO’s many requests for information and briefings, and are highly engaged in ensuring that the MECP meets its EBR obligations.

Category
Result
Trend
Comments
Quality of notices for policies, acts and regulations posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MECP continues to post consistently high quality notices for policies, acts and regulations on the Environmental Registry.
Quality of notices for instruments posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MECP continues to post generally high quality instrument notices on the Environmental Registry; however, the ECO urges the ministry to ensure that it explains the environmental impacts of proposed instruments in every case. The MECP made some improvements to instrument notices this year by incorporating basic information about some types of approvals into notices for those approval types, such as environmental compliance approvals for air emissions and permits to take water. In some cases, the ministry also provided links to draft instruments, and used Google map links to identify proposed instrument locations, both of which make the notices more informative for the public.
Promptness of posting decision notices on the Environmental Registry
Upward Trend icon
The MECP posted decision notices more promptly this year. However, the ministry still posted over 30% of its decision notices more than four weeks after making the decision.
Keeping notices on the Environmental Registry up to date
No Change in Trend icon
The MECP continues to have some outdated proposals on the Environmental Registry, but they represent a very small percentage of the ministry’s total number of open proposals. The ECO urges the MECP to remedy all remaining outdated proposals by posting decisions or updates, and to keep all notices up to date going forward.
Handling of Applications for Review and Investigation
No Change in Trend icon
The MECP concluded 16 applications this year (8 reviews and 8 investigations). The ministry continues to generally handle applications in compliance with EBR requirements, but the ECO disagreed with the ministry’s decision not to undertake a review in two cases, based on EBR criteria. We also urge the MECP to address the valid environmental issues raised in all applications for review.
Avoiding overdue applications for review
No Change in Trend icon
The MECP completed one long-overdue application for review this year. Of the ministry’s 13 ongoing applications for review at the end of the ECO’s reporting year, 2 remain overdue – including a review of the EBR that the ministry agreed to undertake in early 2011.
Considering Statements of Environmental Values (SEVs)
No Change in Trend icon
For the most part, the MECP responds promptly to the ECO’s requests for proof that it has considered its SEV when making environmentally significant decisions. However, the MECP has continued its long-standing position that it need not consider its SEV for Category 1 permits to take water. The ECO disagrees with the ministry and requires proof that the ministry has considered its SEV when making decisions about all types of instruments prescribed under the EBR.
Co-operation with ECO Requests
No Change in Trend icon
The ECO’s environmental protection, climate change and energy teams made several requests for information and briefings from the MECP this year, and the MECP was generally co-operative. The ministry provided requested information and high quality briefings on a number of topics, including climate change adaptation, regulation of industrial waste water, and sewage bypasses/combined sewer overflows. However, the ministry was slow to respond to some requests and to arrange for briefings. The ECO urges the MECP to provide requested information more promptly.
Legend

Quality of Performance

Meets or exceeds expectations and legal obligations
Needs improvement
Unacceptable: failure to comply with legal obligations and/or frustrating environmental rights granted to the public by the EBR
Not prescribed for this category of EBR performance

Trend

Overall quality of performance has improved since 2016/2017 icon
Overall quality of performance has improved since 2016/2017
Overall quality of performance unchanged since 2016/2017 icon
Overall quality of performance unchanged since 2016/2017
Overall quality of performance has declined since 2016/2017 icon
Overall quality of performance has declined since 2016/2017
 
Not prescribed for this category of EBR performance

Ministry Comment

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks would like to thank the Commissioner for recognizing our work in modernizing the Environmental Registry and the high quality of our notices.

Key Outstanding ECO Recommendations

In our reports, the ECO makes recommendations to improve EBR compliance and environmental protection. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has numerous outstanding ECO recommendations, including:

  • The ECO recommends that the MECP invest in an overhaul of the Environmental Registry’s technical platform, in keeping with the broader Open Government initiative (2014/2015 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MECP increase the water-taking charge and expand its scope to apply to other water users, with a goal of recovering the full cost of the ministry’s water management responsibilities (2014/2015 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MECP enhance its efforts to eliminate the adverse effects of the industrial facilities within Chemical Valley on the Aamjiwnaang community and the environment (2013/2014 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that MECP conduct a comprehensive public review of the Environmental Assessment Act and related regulations (2013/2014 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MECP and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry prohibit wind power development in designated Important Bird Areas (2011/2012 Annual Report).

EBR Success Stories

ECO Recognition Award

Since 2000, the annual ECO Recognition Award has recognized the hard work of ministry staff in an initiative that benefits Ontario’s environment and meets the goals of the EBR. Every year, the ECO asks prescribed ministries to submit programs and projects to be considered for the award. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has received the ECO Recognition Award five times:

  • In 2018, for the Mushkegowuk Climate Summits (in conjunction with the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)
  • In 2017, for the Pollinator Health Strategy and Action Plan (in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)
    In 2009, for its Project Green initiative, which sought to lessen the ministry’s environmental impact by focusing on its own internal practices
  • In 2005, for conservation of the Alfred Bog, southern Ontario’s largest remaining domed peatland (in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)
  • In 2004, for the ministry’s ambient environmental monitoring networks to collect, analyze and report on data on the province’s air, surface water and groundwater.

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