Farm field with bails of hayThe Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) 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 OMAFRA and its EBR requirements and performance.

 

 

Key Environmental Aspects of the Ministry's Mandate

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has a mandate to ensure the sustainability of agriculture in Ontario, including its impacts on the environment. The OMAFRA deals with a broad range of environmentally significant issues, including land use planning, nutrient management, water quality in the Great Lakes, air and noise issues related to agriculture, farm animal diseases, human-wildlife conflicts, and pollinator protection. The ministry has an identified role under Ontario’s Biodiversity Plan, as well as an important role in addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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 Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). 

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 OMAFRA 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 OMAFRA is required to provide notice and consult with the public on any proposed regulation, or amendment to a regulation, made under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, or any regulation made under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 that relates to the disposal of deadstock, if the proposal may have a significant effect on the environment.

Applications for Review

Under the EBR, members of the public can ask the OMAFRA to review the need for a new environmental policy, act or regulation. In addition, the public may ask the OMAFRA to review the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, a regulation made under this Act, or any of the ministry’s existing policies.

The ministry 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 of Ontario know whether or not it will undertake the requested review.

Pending Requests for Review

Soil Management in Agricultural Operations (R2014002): In January 2015, two Ontarians submitted an Application for Review requesting a review of the need for an act to declare the Ontario government’s support for sustainable and careful use of soil. They stated that current legislation and incentives are insufficient to encourage responsible soil management on agricultural land. The ministry agreed to undertake a review, which it expects to complete by winter 2017.

Applications for Investigation

Under the EBR, members of the public can ask certain ministries to investigate alleged contraventions of certain acts, regulations and instruments. The OMAFRA does not administer any acts that are prescribed under the EBR for Applications for Investigation.

EBR Commitment Letter

In December 2015, the ECO invited prescribed ministries to recommit in writing to the EBRRead the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' recommitment to the EBR.

EBR Report Card

The ECO evaluates prescribed ministries’ performance under the EBR. Here is the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' EBR report card for the 2015/2016 reporting year.

ECO Comment: OMAFRA executed many of its EBR responsibilities well, including posting clear, useful and detailed notices on the Environmental Registry, adhering to timelines for responding to applications, and maintaining a productive working relationship with the ECO. However, OMAFRA needs to post decision notices more promptly. OMAFRA should also respond to all requests for SEV documents promptly to show the ministry’s compliance with the EBR requirement to take every reasonable step to ensure their SEV is considered when making environmentally significant decisions.

Category
Result
Comments
Quality of Notices Posted on the Environmental Registry
OMAFRA consistently posts good quality notices with clear descriptions, sufficient detail and, where appropriate, usually provides links to key supporting documents.
Timeliness of Decision Notices and Avoiding Outdated Proposals
OMAFRA had no outdated proposals as of April 1, 2016; the ministry remedied all four of its outdated proposals from 2014/2015. However, OMAFRA posted only 16% of its decision notices within two weeks of making a decision.
Handling of Applications for Review and Investigation
OMAFRA concluded two applications for review in 2015/2016, denying them both. While the ministry’s denials of the applications were valid and it explained its decisions clearly, it could have done a better job responding to all of the applicants’ key concerns. To assist the ECO in monitoring OMAFRA’s compliance with legislated application timelines, the ECO urges OMAFRA to copy the ECO on all of its correspondence with the applicants.
Considering Statements of Environmental Values
OMAFRA responded to all three of the ECO’s requests for SEV consideration documents in 2015/2016, but only responded within four weeks of our request in one of those cases. OMAFRA should ensure that it responds promptly to any ECO requests for proof of SEV consideration.
Co-operation with ECO Requests
OMAFRA responded promptly to numerous requests from the ECO this year, providing briefings, answers to questions and a letter reaffirming the ministry’s commitment to the EBR. Ministry staff were helpful and communicative, and welcomed an ECO staff member to present the ECO’s perspective at a working group meeting on soil health.
Legend

Quality of performance:

Meets or exceeds expectations
Needs improvement
Unacceptable

Relative EBR Workload:

High
Medium
Low

Ministry Comment

The Ontario ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is deeply committed to the Environmental Registry and the ministry’s statutory obligations under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993.

The EBR Report Card for the 2015/2016 fiscal year confirms the value that the ministry places on using the Environmental Registry as an important vehicle for public engagement. OMAFRA acknowledges the areas for improvement that the ECO has identified in the EBR Report Card, and is committed to improving its performance in the future. Moving forward, OMAFRA is working to update its internal processes to better ensure consistency with its EBR responsibilities.

OMAFRA will continue to apply its Statement of Environmental Values (SEV) in making decisions that may have a significant effect on the environment. OMAFRA will be updating the ministry’s SEV by the summer of this year.

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) - Percentage of all Policy, Act and Regulation Proposal and Decision Notices, 2015/2016:

OMAFRA by the numbers in 2015/2016
 
OMAFRA
All Ministries
Proposal and Decision Notices for Policies, Acts and Regulations Posted
10
210
Total Proposal and Decision Notices for Policies, Acts and Regulations Reviewed by the ECO
10
401
Outdated Proposal Notices as of April 1, 2016
0
839
SEV Consideration Documents Requested by the ECO
3
194
Applications Concluded
2
13

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.

Outstanding ECO Recommendations

In our reports, the ECO makes recommendations to improve EBR compliance and environmental protection. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has several outstanding ECO recommendations, including:

  • The ECO recommends that the OMAFRA and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change undertake monitoring to determine the prevalence and effects of neonicotinoids in soil, waterways and wild plants (2013/2014 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that the OMAFRA amend the Drainage Act and its policies to ensure that provincially significant wetlands are protected from being drained (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 Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has not yet been the recipient of the ECO Recognition Award.

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