Ontarians have the right to participate in government decisions that affect the environment, thanks to the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR). The EBR also empowers Ontarians to take action to protect the environment. The EBR increases the government’s accountability for its environmental decision making. Fourteen prescribed ministries have varying responsibilities under the EBR.
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) is responsible for monitoring, and reporting annually, on how well the Ontario government respects Ontarians’ environmental rights under the EBR. This year, the ECO has taken a new approach to reporting on ministry compliance with the EBR: by issuing a report card of how well each ministry executed its EBR responsibilities, supporting public engagement in environmental decisions. The results are presented graphically, depicting both the quality of a ministry’s performance of its EBR duties, as well its EBR workload relative to other ministries.
The report cards show what prescribed ministries were doing well in 2015/2016 and what they need to improve; the ECO expects this will encourage better execution of their EBR responsibilities going forward. The ECO plans to use report cards annually to track weaknesses and improvements within and across ministries over time.
This year, the ECO found that ministries with a light EBR workload generally execute their few obligations well. Ministries with moderate and heavy EBR workloads are more likely to have instances of non-compliance or poor execution of their responsibilities. Fortunately, those ministries are making clear efforts to improve, and to comply with their EBR obligations. In December 2015, the ECO gave all ministries notice that we would be using a report card approach to report on their EBR compliance in 2015/2016; we are proud to report that many of them took advantage of this opportunity to make improvements to their EBR performance before the end of the 2015/2016 fiscal year. In early 2016, every prescribed ministry reaffirmed their commitment to the EBR in writing.
There are four priority areas of EBR responsibilities in which ministries need to significantly improve in 2016/2017:
- Content of instrument notices posted on the Environmental Registry;
- Posting decision notices promptly;
- Avoiding outdated proposals; and
- Avoiding overdue applications for review.
All prescribed ministries have the potential to improve the way they implement the EBR to better serve the public. And serving the public is what this is all about: ensuring that the EBR is being implemented in a way that doesn’t just meet the letter of the law, but that recognizes the purpose of the law itself; to enable the public to meaningfully participate in government decisions that affect the environment.
To view individual ministries’ EBR report cards, go to Government Performance on this website and select the ministry of your choice.