Small Things Matter
The Environmental Registry is an indispensable online resource for anyone interested in Ontario environmental issues. The Registry is also a key public engagement tool, but it has not had a major update since 1997. The Environmental Registry’s platform is now outdated and confusing.
The ECO recommends that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change overhaul the Environmental Registry’s technical platform.
Read more in Part 1.2.1 of the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report.
Over the past year, the Ontario government has taken steps to better protect the Great Lakes; however, much more needs to be done. For example, the 8th Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health presents a comprehensive action plan, but funding for the agreement is likely insufficient. In addition, Ontario introduced a new greenhouse wastewater regulation aimed at reducing nutrient pollution in lakes and rivers, but it will only make a tiny dent in the Great Lakes’ massive nutrient problem. To help meet Ontario’s commitment to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Erie,
The ECO recommends that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change report annually on its progress to ensure greenhouse wastewater discharges meet provincial water quality objectives.
Read more in Parts 2.4 and 3.1 of the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report.
In 2013, an Ontario Court found that, when light reflected from office towers causes birds to collide with the buildings, that light is considered a “contaminant” under the Environmental Protection Act. This means the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change should regulate such structures. In 2014, Ontarians used the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 to ask the ministry to investigate several Toronto buildings with a history of bird collisions. Disappointed with the ministry’s response,
The ECO recommends that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change publicly clarify how it will regulate reflected light from buildings to protect birds.
Read more in Part 2.5 of the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report.
Ontario businesses that discharge contaminants into the environment often need an Environmental Compliance Approval, which sets conditions to minimize the negative effects of pollution. In 2014, two individuals submitted an application to the ECO under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 requesting an investigation of a Hamilton concrete facility. They said the facility had been periodically operating without the required approval for several years, to the knowledge of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Read more in Part 2.6 of the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report.
Huge volumes of water are taken each year by businesses and municipalities, but the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change collects very little revenue from water-taking charges. Most water takers pay nothing. The current water-taking charge of $3.71 per million litres of water, which only applies to a small portion of users, covers just a tiny percentage of what the government actually spends on water-quantity management. Another problem is that there is no public comment opportunity through the Environmental Registry for most water-taking proposals, including most high-risk and moderate-risk proposals.
The ECO recommends that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change increase the water-taking charge and expand its scope to apply to other water users, with a goal of recovering the full cost of the ministry’s water management responsibilities.
Read more in Parts 3.3 and 3.4 of the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report.
A small amount of secure funding, tied to clear strategic goals, can have a big impact on solving environmental challenges. In this year’s report, we profile two such cases. The first relates to wetlands, woodlands and other natural areas; for over 20 years, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry allocated an average of $4.7 million annually to land acquisition programs that made it possible to preserve thousands of hectares of these lands. However, the ministry has not allocated any funding to support such programs since 2013. Second, the ecosystems of many provincial parks and conservation reserves have been degraded by historical land uses and ongoing pressures; yet, ecological restoration projects have not been a priority for the ministry. In order to address both of these situations,
The ECO recommends that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry establish dedicated annual funds and strategic priorities for ecological restoration in, and land acquisition for, protected areas
Read more in Parts 4.2 and 4.4 of the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry introduced several regulations and policies over the last year that affect species at risk. In almost every case, the ECO was disappointed with the result. The ECO found that some policies were weak or vague; in other cases, the ministry failed to clearly prioritize the protection and recovery of species at risk, or to provide useful information to ministry decision makers and proponents. In response, the ECO calls for more meaningful measures that will make a real on-the-ground difference for Ontario’s species at risk.
Read more in Part 5 of the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report.