Sun shining through a forestThe Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) 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 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, 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.

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 nine 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.

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 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 Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)

ECO Comment: The MNRF’s performance of its EBR obligations remained largely unchanged this year. The ministry continues to post very high quality notices for policies, acts and regulations, but its instrument notices still have significant room for improvement – in particular notices for licences and permits issued under the Aggregate Resources Act. The MNRF also continues to take an unreasonably long time to give notice to the public when it has made an environmentally significant decision, and is responsible for the majority of outdated proposal notices on the Environmental Registry. The ECO remains disappointed with the MNRF’s refusal to provide proof that it has considered its SEV for certain types of approvals. However, the ECO was pleased that the MNRF responded more helpfully and promptly to the ECO’s requests for information and briefings this year; the MNRF’s co-operation is a critical part of our ability to carry out our reporting functions under the EBR.

Category
Result
Trend
Comments
Quality of notices for policies, acts and regulations posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF consistently posts very high quality notices for policies, acts and regulations. However, the ECO again reminds the ministry to complete the “purpose” section of proposal notices to explain the purpose of the proposed policy, act or regulation – not the purpose of the notice.
Quality of notices for instruments posted on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF made little improvement in the quality of its instrument notices this year. In particular, while the ministry made some minor improvements to its proposal notices for licences and permits for aggregate pits and quarries – including improving background information and the description of instrument locations – the ministry continued to do a poor job of explaining the environmental impacts. The MNRF also failed to provide links to proposed or final approval documents. These ongoing deficiencies in the MNRF’s instrument notices make it more difficult for the public to participate in decision making about these activities that can significantly affect the environment.
Promptness of posting decision notices on the Environmental Registry
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF continued to take an unacceptably long time to give notice to the public after making decisions for all types of proposals, often taking months to do so. However, the ministry’s poor result in this category is due in part to the ministry’s strong efforts this year to post decisions for old, abandoned proposals. The MNRF is doing an excellent job of clearly stating in decision notices the date that the ministry made the decision, which is more transparent for the public.
Keeping notices on the Environmental Registry up to date
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF made a marginal improvement in reducing its number of outdated notices on the Environmental Registry. The majority of the ministry’s outdated proposals are notices that were updated over two years ago, but are still undecided and now require further updates to keep the public informed. The MNRF staff informed the ECO that the ministry placed a priority this year on assisting with the creation of the new Environmental Registry, and fell behind in keeping proposal notices up to date. The ECO urges the MNRF 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 MNRF received four applications for review this year, denying them all. For the most part, the ministry handled the applications in compliance with the EBR requirements. The ECO urges the MNRF to do a better job of addressing the valid environmental issues raised by applicants in every case.
Avoiding overdue applications for review
No Change in Trend icon
None of the MNRF's three open applications at the end of the year were overdue.
Considering Statements of Environmental Values (SEVs)
No Change in Trend icon
The MNRF continues to refuse to provide proof to the ECO that it has considered its SEV when making decisions about some types of instruments. In particular, the MNRF continues to maintain that documenting SEV consideration is not required for overall benefit permits issued under the Endangered Species Act; this year the MNRF also took the position that documenting SEV consideration was not necessary for aggregate approval site plan amendments, including amendments that increased tonnage and increased depth of extraction from above the water table to below the water table. The ECO disagrees with the MNRF’s position 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
Upward Trend icon
The MNRF met the ECO’s expectations for EBR co-operation this year, providing prompt and thorough responses to requests for information from the ECO’s environmental protection, climate change and energy teams. At the ECO’s request, ministry staff also provided helpful briefings on topics including biodiversity monitoring and wildlife health.
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 Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is pleased that the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) Commissioner recognized the ministry’s continued commitment to sustain a positive relationship with her and her staff. MNRF appreciates the ECO’s assessment of the Ministry’s success in meeting its EBR obligations. MNRF will continue its work to update internal processes which will allow the ministry to meet its EBR responsibilities.

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 develop a strategic plan for how it will achieve 17% conservation in the province, including:
    • Identifying priority lands for protection (e.g., biodiversity hotspots, improving ecoregional representation, enhancing connectivity, protecting important carbon stores, and protecting climate refugia);
    • Identifying priorities for ecological restoration in the protected areas system;
    • Identifying opportunities for co-management with Indigenous communities;
    • Providing financial and capacity-building support to increase protection of partially protected natural heritage areas; and
    • Restoring land acquisition funding programs (2017 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 nine times, more than any other ministry:

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