Under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), you can ask the Ontario government for a new environmental policy, act or regulation, or for changes to existing ones. This is one of your most important rights.
For example, Ontarians have used the Application for Review process under the EBR to request:
Since this tool was created, Ontarians have submitted over 600 Applications for Review, sometimes prompting the government to change laws, regulations, policies, approvals, and permits. And even when the government has denied a request, applications have often resulted in improved environmental protection and conservation by drawing attention to important issues. Well-prepared requests for review can move a topic up a ministry's priority list.
Note that you can only request reviews of certain ministries and certain laws.
There are two kinds of reviews that you can request: you can ask a minister to review existing policies, acts, regulations or instruments (for example, perhaps you want the government to review its drinking water quality standards to ensure they are strong enough); or you can ask a minister to review the need for new policies, acts, or regulations.
You may only ask for a review to be undertaken by a ministry that is prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) for purposes of Applications for Review (see Ministries Prescribed for Applications for Review).
When preparing and submitting an Application for Review, you must follow the process set out in the EBR.
1. Download and print an Application for Review form, or contact the ECO to have one sent to you.
2. Complete all sections of the application form. Make sure you include:
a) Your names, addresses and declarations that both applicants are Ontario residents.
b) The name of the policy, act, or regulation that you want reviewed, or the ministry reference number of the instrument you want reviewed.
c) The reason you are requesting a review.
d) A summary of evidence supporting your request.
If you need assistance filling out your application form, contact the ECO. All personal information is kept confidential. However, an applicant’s personal information may be disclosed if the review results in further government action outside of the EBR, such as a prosecution or other administrative action.
3. Make sure both you and your co-applicant sign and date the application.
4. Send your completed application, including all attachments, to the ECO. Remember to keep copies for yourselves.
5. Within 10 days of receiving your completed application form, the ECO will forward it to the appropriate ministry, or will contact you if there are any problems with your application that need to be addressed before it can be forwarded to the ministry.
6. Within 20 days of receiving your application from the ECO, the ministry will let you know it has received it. If your application relates to an instrument, the ministry will also notify anyone who may have a direct interest in the issues you raise in your application, particularly if you have asked for a review of a licence or approval issued to a company. However, the ministry will not disclose your names, addresses or any other personal information about you.
7. Within 60 days of receiving your application, the ministry will let you and the ECO know whether or not it will undertake the review that you requested. To decide whether a review will be undertaken (i.e., whether the public interest warrants a review), the ministry may consider the following:
a) The ministry’s Statement of Environmental Values;
b) The potential for harm to the environment if the review is not undertaken;
c) Whether the matter is already subject to periodic review;
d) Relevant social, economic, scientific or other evidence;
e) Submissions from anyone else with a direct interest in your application;
f) Resources needed to conduct the review;
g) How recently the act, regulation, instrument or policy was proposed or approved;
h) The extent to which the public had an opportunity to participate in the development of the policy, act, regulation or instrument; and/or
i) Any other matter that the minister considers relevant.
If the policy, act, regulation or instrument you want reviewed was approved in the past five years—and underwent public participation consistent with the EBR—a ministry must deny a review on the basis that it is not in the public interest. However, the minister could decide to undertake a review if you can show that there is new evidence that failing to undertake the review could significantly harm the environment, and that this evidence was not taken into account when the decision was made.
8. If the ministry denies your application (i.e., decides that it will not undertake the requested review), the application for review process comes to an end at this point.
9. If the ministry agrees to undertake the review that you requested, there is no time limit on how long the ministry can take to complete the review, provided the review is carried out within a reasonable time. (Note that the ECO tracks outstanding requests for review and score ministries on how they are handled. See ministry pages for current outstanding requests.) The ministry must notify you and the ECO of the outcome of its review within 30 days of completing the review. The ministry will also let you know what action (if any) will be taken as a result of the review. The Application for Review process then comes to an end.
10. Once the Application for Review process has come to an end (either because the ministry denied the application, or completed the review) the Environmental Commissioner will review and report on how the ministry handled the application in the ECO’s annual report to the Legislature.
New Rules for Excess Soil Management
Two Ontario residents used the an EBR application to ask for a new province-wide policy to address compromised soil and to regulate the disposal of fill. Large fill sites have created huge conflicts in many parts of rural Ontario. The MOECC agreed to undertake the review to address this significant environmental issue.
Eliminating Restrictions on Outdoor Clotheslines
Andrew Moeser and Nalin Sahni were University of Toronto law students when they noticed that restrictive rules were preventing some homeowners from using outdoor clotheslines to dry their laundry – a simple energy-saving action. So in 2007, they submitted an Application for Review asking the Ministry of Energy to pass a new regulation that would make such restrictions invalid. The ministry agreed to their request and as a result, restrictive covenants and agreements that ban the use of outdoor clotheslines are now illegal.
Improving the Rehabilitation of Ontario’s Aggregate Pits and Quarries
Ric Holt and Ed James were frustrated that gravel, sand and stone pits and quarries were not being adequately rehabilitated in Ontario. They turned to the EBR and submitted an Application for Review on behalf of Gravel Watch (a non-profit environmental organization) requesting a review of the Aggregate Resources Act. The Ministry of Natural Resources agreed to the request, conducted a review, and concluded that there were indeed weaknesses in its oversight of aggregate rehabilitation. The ministry produced a report agreeing with Ric and Ed’s concerns and took various steps to strengthen the monitoring and enforcement of rehabilitation.