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 2015/2016 reporting year.

ECO Comment: Next to the MOECC, the MNRF posts the highest number of notices to the Environmental Registry. The ECO is pleased with the overall quality of the MNRF’s Registry notices, with the exception of some instrument notices that should have contained links to approval documents, as well as instrument notices under the Aggregate Resources Act which lacked sufficient detail. The MNRF has a productive working relationship with the ECO and spent considerable effort to provide information and briefings. However, the ministry has consistently failed to post decision notices within a reasonable time, and still has a large number of outdated instrument proposals that should be remedied. The MNRF also has one long overdue review, for which an application was submitted in 2012.

Quality of Notices Posted on the Environmental Registry
The MNRF generally posts high quality notices for policies, acts and regulations, although it frequently completes the “purpose of” portion of those notices incorrectly. The ministry’s proposal and decision notices for Aggregate Resources Act instruments are chronically deficient, lacking sufficient detail to enable informed public comment. The MNRF should provide links to the approval documents in all instrument decision notices (e.g., under the Aggregate Resources Act, Endangered Species Act, 2007, Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act).
Timeliness of Decision Notices and Avoiding Outdated Proposals
The MNRF posted less than 16% of the decision notices assessed within a reasonable time. Further, although the MNRF made exemplary efforts to remedy outdated proposal notices (over 93% of its outdated policy, act and regulation notices, and almost 65% of outdated instrument notices), as of April 1, 2016 the ministry still had 93 outdated proposals on the Registry.
Handling of Applications for Review and Investigation
The MNRF only concluded one application in this reporting year, denying a request for an investigation. The ministry handled the application well, except that it failed to meet the statutory timelines. The MNRF is also long overdue in delivering a decision on an application for review regarding hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) that was submitted in 2012.
Considering Statements of Environmental Values
The MNRF generally responds promptly to the ECO’s requests for SEV consideration documents. On several occasions the MNRF asserted that an SEV consideration document was not required for a particular instrument or instrument type; with a couple of exceptions, the ECO disagreed with the ministry’s interpretation and considered those instances to be a failure to document the ministry’s SEV consideration.
Co-operation with ECO Requests
At the ECO’s request, MNRF staff provided informative briefings on a wide range of topics in 2015/2016. The ministry’s Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services branch staff were also particularly helpful. While the ministry was slow to answer the ECO’s questions on the Provincial Fish Strategy, the MNRF, including its EBR co-ordinator, generally co-operated very well with the ECO.

Quality of performance:

Meets or exceeds expectations
Needs improvement

Relative EBR Workload:


Ministry Comment

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

The ministry is committed to making sure the public is kept up-to-date on the status of postings when decisions have yet to be made. As the Commissioner notes, the ministry made exemplary efforts to address outdated proposal notices.

We have taken significant action to update postings addressing over 200 outdated notices in the last eight months. In some cases the ministry is continuing to review proposals and no final decision has been made. In other cases, proposals may have been referred to the Ontario Municipal Board for a decision.

In every case, we remain committed to keeping our stakeholders and the public informed about the status of postings and will continue with the significant progress we’ve already achieved.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) – Percentage of all Policy, Act and Regulation Proposal and Decision Notices, 2015/2016:

MNRF - Approximate Percentage of all Instrument Proposal and Decision Notices, 2015/2016:

MNRF by the numbers in 2015/2016
All Ministries
Proposal and Decision Notices for Policies, Acts and Regulations Posted
Approximate Number of Instrument Proposal and Decision Notices Posted
Over 215
Over 3,530
Total Proposal and Decision Notices for Policies, Acts and Regulations Reviewed by the ECO
Outdated Proposal Notices as of April 1, 2016
SEV Consideration Documents Requested by the ECO
Applications Concluded

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 2015/2016 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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