Keep the Doors Open to Better Environmental Decision Making
TORONTO – Hasty cutbacks, many of which were made behind closed doors, and a lack of environmental vision marked ministries’ agenda in 1996, says Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Eva Ligeti, in her 1996 annual report. The Commissioner submitted the report, titled “Keep The Doors Open To Better Environmental Decision Making”, at 9 a.m. this morning to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Throughout 1996, the ministries demonstrated an alarming lack of environmental vision, says Commissioner Ligeti, failing to put their stated environmental values into action. Instead, says her report, their activities were characterized by omnibus-style legislation, cuts to environmental programs and the shift of environmental responsibilities to municipalities and the private sector.
“Perhaps the most significant decisions made in 1996 were those that reduced the ministries’ responsibility to protect the environment,” said Commissioner Ligeti. “The extent and pace of change were daunting. Given the enormous implications of these decisions, it is disturbing that many were made with the absolute minimum amount of public consultation and in some cases, not at all.”
And, says the report, most of those decisions were made without fully assessing the potential environmental effects and with very little commitment to environmental monitoring and reporting, or to maintaining and increasing enforcement of environmental standards. There also was little commitment made to help or supervise municipalities, the private sector or other organizations that now find themselves more responsible for delivering environmental protection.
“Without those commitments, Ontario will fall behind as a leader in environmental protection,” said Commissioner Ligeti. “And if we continue along this path, our right and the right of our children to a healthy environment will be jeopardized. Commissioner Ligeti’s report is a sweeping review of environmental decisions by Ontario ministries, many of them posted on the Environmental Registry, some not. In some specific cases, cost cutting compromised ministries’ ability to protect the environment — the quality of drinking water testing, Ontario’s acid rain program and the inspection of pits and quarries among the areas affected.
“Regulatory reviews of environmental safeguards must be done with great care and with the greatest amount of public input,” said Commissioner Ligeti. “If not, the long-term implications for environmental protection are ominous.”
In 1996, the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) improved some environmental decisions when ministries used it to solicit comments from Ontarians and to avoid environmental problems. The report features stories where the public participation opportunities provided by the EBR contributed to better environmental protection.