1999/2000 Environmental Protection Report

Changing Perspectives

Key Findings

Central Theme of the 1999/2000 ECO Annual Report: Many of Ontario’s environmental problems are due to the failure of provincial ministries to look at environmental issues from an ecosystem perspective. In the report, Commissioner Miller urges provincial ministries to keep in mind the larger context of environmental problems, before they become issues of significant concern.

  • Ecosystem Monitoring: Ontario’s ecosystems cannot be protected nor proper planning decisions made without scientific information about the natural environment. Ministries do not have the resources to operate effective monitoring systems or report results. (Pages 128-131)
  • Ecosystem Fragmentation: There is an urgent need for ministries to monitor the massive transformation of Ontario’s natural landscapes into built environments, especially in southern Ontario, in order to slow down and, where possible, reverse the erosion of our natural heritage and the extinction of plants and animals found nowhere else in Canada. (Pages 135-139)
  • Great Lakes: A federal/provincial agreement has failed to meet its own goals to clean up the Great Lakes, whose threatened water quality reflects the use of land and release of contaminants in surrounding ecosystems, where vast areas have been developed and degraded. A new agreement, with clear objectives and timelines, is required. (Pages 43-47)
  • Sales of Government Lands: During the reporting period, the Ontario Realty Corporation continued to sell public lands without carrying out required environmental studies. There should be full public consultation on sales affecting environmentally significant lands and independent auditing of ORC’s compliance with environmental regulations. (Pages 56-59)
  • Genetically Modified Organisms: Because of the risks posed to Ontario ecosystems by the manipulation of the genetic components of living things, the province should establish an advocate for ecosystem protection, independent of the provincial ministries that actively promote GMO technology. The government should also fund research into related ecological questions.(Pages 132-134)
  • Protection of Groundwater and Intensive Farming. Released as part of an ECO special report, July 2000. (Pages 35-42 and 52-55)
  • Protection of Species at Risk: Many species in Ontario may be heading toward extinction because of disruption of Ontario’s ecosystems and reluctance by the Ministry of Natural Resources to infringe on landowner rights. An overhaul of Ontario’s outmoded laws and policies is needed, along with a public debate on how to prevent the continuing loss of species at risk. (Pages 48-51)
  • Ontario’s Living Legacy – Land Use Strategy establishes new parks and conservation reserves, but also opens the door to uses such as mineral exploration in new protected areas. (Pages 60-62)
  • MNR’s Natural Heritage Reference Manual will help to protect Ontario’s natural heritage only if ministries work with municipalities to ensure the manual’s advice is followed. (Pages 68-69)
  • A new regulation exempting facilities such as racetracks from requiring approvals from the Ministry of the Environment may lead to inconsistencies in the control of noise among municipalities. (Pages 71-72)
  • An EBR application for investigation into the abandoned Kam Kotia Mine near Timmins highlighted the public safety and environmental hazards that can be caused by Ontario’s 6,000 abandoned mine properties. (Pages 105-107)
  • An EBR application for investigation alleging that an aggregates operation excavated deeper than allowed by its site plan emphasized the need for the Ministry of Natural Resources to improve its monitoring of aggregates operations. (Pages 108-111)
  • The Ministry of the Environment turned down an EBR application asking the ministry to review the regulations and policies for managing hazardous waste. The applicants allege that the health and safety of Ontario residents are at risk. (Pages 100-102)
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