Managing New Challenges
This report contains dozens of stories. Here are some highlights…
Toronto, 7 Oct. 2014 – Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change must do more to resolve the health crisis at a First Nation community near Sarnia.
In his 2013/2014 Annual Report, “Managing New Challenges,” Gord Miller says the Aamjiwnaang First Nation receives millions of kilograms of air pollution from the nearby petro-chemical complex known as “Chemical Valley.”
“This is a historic failure. Current land use rules would not allow such a concentration of industry so close to a residential community,” says the Commissioner. “The government’s existing approach to regulate pollution on a facility-by-facility basis makes this problem worse.”
In 2009, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change agreed to look into using pollution reduction plans for environmental hot spots, such as the Aamjiwnaang First Nation. The Ministry also said the review would look at the cumulative effects of air pollution from individual facilities. Five years later, the review still has not been completed. “While the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change drags its feet, the people of Aamjiwnaang are left to cope with pollution in their community.”
- A 2013 study found that mothers and children in Aamjiwnaang First Nation are exposed to a number of pollutants, including cadmium, mercury and PCBs.
- The incidence of cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses are higher in the region than elsewhere in Ontario.
- Following a chemical leak in January 2013, residents were told to stay indoors and seal their doors and windows. They later complained of headaches, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.
The Environmental Commissioner says the ministry must do much more to address the severity and persistence of the health threats to the Aamjiwnaang First Nation. “Such a situation would be intolerable for any community, but given the history of our treatment of First Nations, this case is truly shameful.”
Toronto, 7 Oct. 2014 – Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says the government should commit to end logging in its flagship provincial park.
In his 2013/14 Annual Report “Managing New Challenges” released today, Gord Miller pointed out that logging is banned in all of the other 338 provincial parks in Ontario.
“Algonquin is Ontario’s oldest provincial park,” says Miller, “and it’s high time that we brought it in line with modern values. Right now, it does not even qualify as a protected area under international standards.”
The Environmental Commissioner says there are more than two thousand kilometres of logging roads in Algonquin Park and several thousand kilometres more of abandoned ones. “These roads cause a number of problems in the Park, damaging habitat, harming wildlife and acting as pathways for invasive species.”
The government recently reduced the area of the park open to logging, but almost two-thirds of Algonquin is still potentially open to timber harvesting. (See map on next page.) Miller says logging in Algonquin is unnecessary, as there is an ample wood supply in the areas outside of the park.
“I am deeply disturbed that Ontario’s flagship park continues to receive the lowest level of protection of any of the province’s protected areas. This flies in the face of the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, which says that ecological integrity should be the top priority for managing and operating all parks.”
Toronto, 7 Oct. 2014 – Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner is concerned that Ontario’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe is not on track to meet its goal of curbing urban sprawl in this rapidly growing region.
In his 2013/14 Annual Report “Managing New Challenges,” Gord Miller says the 2006 Growth Plan was intended to reverse the pattern of unsustainable growth and development within the Greater Golden Horseshoe. “Driving population growth towards urban areas helps create stronger communities and make more efficient use of infrastructure. Better managed growth also protects our agricultural lands and natural areas from the relentless sprawl of development.”
The Environmental Commissioner is troubled, however, about how the Growth Plan is being implemented. Despite the goal of intensification, the Ontario government has authorized lower density targets for 9 of the 15 municipalities in the outer-ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe beyond the Greenbelt. “The government is allowing communities to continue the pattern of low density development that is too sparse to support even basic transit services.”
As well, last year the government extended the population and employment forecasts in the Growth Plan to 2041, essentially pushing out the status quo growth pattern for another 10 years. “If the Growth Plan is not on track to curb sprawl and increase intensification, continuing on the same trajectory only aggravates existing problems, and puts pressure on municipalities to open more land for development,” says Commissioner Miller.
Indeed, the extended forecasts continue to allow low density development to sprawl into the less urbanized outer parts of the Greater Golden Horseshoe rather than concentrate more growth in the more urbanized inner ring. Says the Commissioner, “I expect the government to address these issues when it reviews the Growth Plan in the next few years.”