The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) 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 OMAFRA and its EBR requirements and performance.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 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.
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.
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.
In December 2015, the ECO invited prescribed ministries to recommit in writing to the EBR. Read the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' recommitment to the EBR.
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 Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
ECO Comment: The OMAFRA continued to carry out some of its EBR obligations extremely well this year. The ministry posts high quality notices on the Environmental Registry, and, whenever asked by the ECO, promptly provides proof that it has considered its Statement of Environmental Values when making environmentally significant decisions. Ministry staff continue to be proactive in seeking the ECO’s guidance on EBR matters and are communicative and helpful when responding to ECO requests. The ECO particularly appreciated the OMAFRA’s efforts in providing informative briefings on wetlands, forests and runoff. Unfortunately, again this year the ministry took an unacceptably long time to post one decision notice, and, because the ministry failed to indicate the decision date in other decision notices, the ECO could not determine how promptly the OMAFRA notified the public of those decisions. The OMAFRA can resolve this deficiency by clearly stating the decision date in decision notices and by posting decision notices on the Environmental Registry promptly after it makes decisions. The ECO was disappointed in the OMAFRA’s handling of the one review that it completed during the ECO’s 2017/2018 reporting year, and that the ministry did not complete a review that the ECO identified as overdue last year (although it did complete that review in April 2018). On a positive note, the OMAFRA’s new practice of posting information notices on the Environmental Registry to provide updates on the status of its EBR reviews should serve the public well.
Quality of Performance
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) appreciates the Environmental Commissioner’s commitment to the Environmental Bill of Rights and monitoring ministries’ performance. OMAFRA is committed to meeting its obligations under the Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 1993. The ministry will consider the Environmental Commissioner’s recommendations to improve OMAFRA’s Environmental Bill of Rights performance.
In our reports, the ECO makes recommendations to improve EBR compliance and environmental protection. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has several outstanding ECO recommendations, including:
- The ECO recommends that the MECP and the OMAFRA ban, province-wide, the spreading of phosphorus-based agricultural materials, including manure, fertilizer and sewage sludge, on frozen or saturated ground (2017 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).
- In 2015, two Ontarians submitted an application for review asking the government to develop a new law to encourage farmers to transition to a health-focused approach to soil management. The application prompted the OMAFRA to develop a new Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy, released in 2018.
- In 2014, the public submitted over 52,000 comments through the Environmental Registry on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' proposal to enhance pollinator health and reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The ministry reported that it carefully considered the public's comments in developing a draft Action Plan.
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 received the ECO Recognition Award once:
- In 2017, for the Pollinator Health Strategy and Action Plan (in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry)