Sun shining through a forestThe Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is one of 17 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 MNRF and its EBR requirements and performance.

 

 

Key Environmental Aspects of the Ministry's Mandate

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is one of the most environmentally significant ministries prescribed under the EBR. The ministry is the lead provincial body for the conservation of Ontario’s biological diversity and the government’s Biodiversity Plan. The MNRF has broad responsibilities, including managing fish and wildlife, protecting and recovering species at risk, managing aquaculture and fish stocking, and identifying significant natural heritage features.

The MNRF has primary responsibility in the Ontario government for many elements of natural resources management, including ensuring the long-term health of Ontario’s forests and providing oversight of the forest industry. The MNRF also manages aggregate, oil, gas and salt resources. The ministry is also responsible for forest fire management in Ontario.

The MNRF has broad responsibilities for the planning, management, and stewardship of Crown lands, which cover 87 per cent of Ontario. These responsibilities also include Ontario’s system of protected areas, covering approximately 10 per cent of the province, in which ecological integrity is the management priority.

Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Requirements

Statement of Environmental Values

Each ministry that is 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 Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).

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 MNRF must give notice of, and consult on, any proposal to make or amend a policy or act that could have a significant effect on the environment.

In addition, the MNRF administers eleven laws that are prescribed under the EBR for the purposes of public consultation. 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 MNRF 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 these acts. See the list of the classified instruments on which the MNRF must consult.

Applications for Review

Under the EBR, members of the public can ask the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to review the need for a new environmental policy, act or regulation. In addition, the public may ask the ministry to review any of the MNRF’s existing environmentally significant policies, or any of the following acts or regulations under these acts:

The public may also ask the ministry to review any instruments issued by the MNRF that are prescribed under the EBR.

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

Pending Requests for Review

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry does not have any outstanding Applications for Review.

Applications for Investigation

Many of the above-listed acts are also prescribed under the EBR for the purposes of Applications for Investigation. This means that members of the public can request that the MNRF conduct an investigation of an alleged offence under many of these 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 ECO evaluates prescribed ministries’ performance under the EBR. Here is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's EBR report card for the 2016/2017 reporting year.

ECO Comment: The MNRF has one of the highest EBR workloads in every category. The MNRF maintained its high quality of policy, act and regulation notices this year, but some instrument notices – in particular Aggregate Resource Act instruments – continued to be routinely deficient. The ECO is encouraged that the MNRF posted significantly more of its decisions promptly this year, and remedied a large number of its outdated proposals. The ECO urges the MNRF to remedy its remaining outdated proposals this year and to keep proposals up to date going forward. The ECO is also pleased to see an improvement in the MNRF’s handling of applications, and that the ministry no longer has any overdue reviews. However, we were disappointed that the MNRF resisted our requests for proof of consideration of its Statement of Environmental Values (SEV) for a large number of decisions this year; the MNRF’s SEV itself states that it “will document how the SEV was considered each time a decision is posted on the Environmental Registry.” The ECO expects that the MNRF will consider and document its consideration of its SEV for all of its environmentally significant decisions going forward. Likewise, the ECO looks forward to greater co-operation from the MNRF with ECO information requests in 2017/2018.

Category
Result
Trend
Comments
Quality of notices for policies, acts and regulations posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF continues to post high quality notices for policies, acts and regulations, doing a good job of explaining what is proposed and describing environmental impacts. However, the ministry continues to incorrectly complete the “purpose” section of proposal notices. The MNRF’s notices would also be more helpful if they included hyperlinks when referring to related Environmental Registry notices.
Quality of notices for instruments posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF’s notices for Aggregate Resources Act and Endangered Species Act, 2007 instruments still lack links to the draft or final instruments themselves, and only include minimal information about geographic location of the instruments. The notices also often do not adequately describe the public’s comments or the effect of public participation on the final decision.
Promptness of posting decision notices on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
Despite its low score, the MNRF made a significant improvement in posting decisions on the Environmental Registry promptly, with 3 times as many notices being posted within 2 weeks of a decision being made as in 2015/2016. The ministry’s continued low score in this category in 2016/2017 is attributable in part to the number of late decision notices that the MNRF posted this year to remedy outdated proposals.
Keeping notices on the Environmental Registry up to date
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF posted updates or decision notices for a significant number of outdated proposals in 2016/2017. However, at the end of the reporting year, 24% of the ministry’s open proposals on the Environmental Registry were still more than two years old without any update or decision, which is unacceptable.
Handling of Applications for Review and Investigation
Upward Trend icon
In 2016/2017, the MNRF concluded 1 application for review and 2 applications for investigation. The ministry handled those applications well, but continued to miss some statutory deadlines for responding to the applications.
Avoiding overdue applications for review
Upward Trend icon
During 2016/2017, the MNRF concluded its one overdue application identified in last year’s EBR report card. At the end of this reporting year, none of the MNRF’s open applications were overdue.
Considering Statements of Environmental Values (SEVs)
Downward Trend icon
In 2016/2017, the MNRF failed to provide SEV consideration documents in response to over 25% of the ECO’s requests, instead providing its rationale for why SEV consideration and/or documentation was not required. The ECO disagrees with the ministry’s position and considers those cases to be a failure by the MNRF to consider its SEV.
Co-operation with ECO Requests
Downward Trend icon
The MNRF provided quick and helpful responses to some special requests by the ECO (in particular, in providing a status update on the ministry’s aggregates policy framework, and in extending a comment period for an Aggregate Resources Act instrument). However, more generally, the MNRF did not meet the ECO’s expectations for responsiveness to routine information requests, responding slowly or, in some cases, not at all. The MNRF did provide some helpful briefings on various topics (e.g., aggregates, wolves and protected areas), but not without extra effort by ECO staff. At the ECO’s request, the MNRF’s EBR co-ordinator did attend an EBR compliance information session at the ECO’s offices in September 2016.
Legend

Quality of Performance

Meets or exceeds expectations
Needs improvement
Unacceptable

Trend

Overall quality of performance unchanged since 2015/2016 icon
Overall quality of performance unchanged since 2015/2016
Overall quality of performance has improved since 2015/2016 icon
Overall quality of performance has improved since 2015/2016
Overall quality of performance has declined since 2015/2016 icon
Overall quality of performance has declined since 2015/2016

Ministry Comment

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry thanks the ECO for its assessment of ministry performance under the EBR.

MNRF is committed to meeting its obligations under the EBR.  We recognize the important role the Environmental Registry plays in allowing public input and comment for activities that may impact the environment in Ontario.

MNRF consulted on a number of important issues during the reporting year and posted 266 environmental registry notices.  Six notices generated over 55,000 comments that were considered by the ministry in the decision-making process.  As the Commissioner notes, the ministry posts high quality notices for policies, Acts and regulations.  In the reporting year, for policy, act, and regulation notices, 86% of MNRF’s postings were 45 days or longer, well exceeding the 30-day minimum.

MNRF has remedied the majority of outdated proposals.  We have also taken steps to avoid outdated notices in the future.

To view other ministries’ EBR report cards, go to Government Performance on this website and select the ministry of your choice.

The ECO’s full report to the Legislative Assembly on the 2016/2017 EBR report cards can be accessed here.

Key Outstanding ECO Recommendations

In our annual reports, the ECO makes recommendations to improve EBR compliance and environmental protection. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has numerous outstanding ECO recommendations, including:

  • The ECO recommends that the MNRF establish a dedicated annual fund and strategic priorities for ecological restoration in protected areas (2014/2015 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MNRF resurrect a dedicated annual fund and strategic priorities for land acquisition for protected areas (2014/2015 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MNRF publicly commit to the end of commercial logging in Algonquin Provincial Park (2013/2014 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MNRF fulfil its commitment to complete a full policy review of the Ontario Low Water Response Plan (2011/2012 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MNRF ban both the hunting and trapping (except by First Nations and Aboriginal peoples) of species at risk in all protected areas (2010/2011 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the MNRF lead a co-ordinated afforestation strategy for southern Ontario, with a target of planting one billion trees of native species, to address the long-term ecological function of natural heritage systems and the impacts of climate change (2009/2010 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 Natural Resources and Forestry has received the ECO Recognition Award six times, more than any other ministry:

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