Bill bypasses notices on the Environmental Bill of Rights web site
14 April 2012
Bill 55, the Ontario Budget Bill, also amends 69 different statutes in its schedules, including the Endangered Species Act, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and the Public Lands Act.
Laws such as these are prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR). Normally, when the government proposes to amend legislation that is prescribed under the EBR, it would post a proposal notice on the Environmental Registry and solicit public comments for a minimum of 30 days. However, Budget Bills are excluded from such a requirement.
Linda Heron, head of the Ontario Rivers Alliance, has studied Bill 55 and finds that a recurring statement throughout many of these amendments is “The Minister is permitted to delegate any or all of his or her duties and powers under this Act to any other person.” These same amendments also stipulate that the Minister may impose any conditions that the Minister deems appropriate on the exercise of the powers by the delegate but that the Crown is not liable for the delegate’s acts.
For more information, and for addresses of to whom to write to protest this highly undemocratic move, please go to the ORA web site here:
You’ll find there as well a letter to Premier David McGuinty.
20 April 2012
CELA and EcoJustice: Legal analysis of Budget Bill 55 (2012)
The Canadian Environmental Law Association and EcoJustice have produced a detailed legal analysis of Bill 55 (251 KB), Ontario’s 2012 Budget Bill.
Their overall concerns are twofold:
“OMNIBUS BUDGET BILLS, which contain amendments to several environmental statutes, do not
ensure adequate time for the public to participate in government decision making regarding legislative proposals that may be environmentally significant. The exception from the public participation requirements mandated in the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 specifically for
amendments to law and policies that give effect to budget implementation presumes that the
impact of the proposed amendments will not be environmentally significant.
INCREASED REGULATORY DISCRETION will mean less transparency, certainty and predictability. This is an inevitable and unacceptable consequence of streamlining public interest legislation.”
The report’s Introduction further states:
“CELA and Ecojustice are deeply concerned that some of the proposed amendments have the potential to cause environmentally significant impacts and are not being given the degree of public participation guaranteed by the EBR. We recommend that the environmental statutes, particularly those related to species protection, sustainable forest operations, protected areas, lakes and rivers protection, and public lands be withdrawn from the Schedules of Bill 55 and that the proposed amendments be reconsidered in light of our comments. Proposed changes can then be reintroduced as stand-alone bills, providing the opportunity for public participation in compliance with Part II of the EBR.
CELA and Ecojustice are also concerned about the numerous provisions which give the Minister and/or the Lieutenant Governor in Council (LGinC) open-ended discretion to exempt any person or body from key requirements under these environmental statutes. The public policy basis for these provisions is not obvious in many cases. We will not be able to fully assess the impact of the actual exemptions until draft regulations are made available for public consultation.
We anticipate that any regulations enacted under any new powers established with the passing of Bill 55 will be subject to the usual EBR process. More generally, however, CELA and Ecojustice are concerned about the overall increase in Ministerial or regulatory discretion. More regulatory discretion will mean less transparency, certainty and predictability. This is the inevitable and unacceptable consequence of streamlining public interest legislation.
We recommend that the government consider our detailed comments and suggestions below, in order to ensure the amendments in Bill 55 do not have any unintended environmental consequences.”
28 June 2012
Ontario Budget Bill: Amendments to the ESA deferred
Ontario Nature reports:
The provincial government has given endangered species in Ontario a reprieve.
In April Ontario Nature found out about proposed changes buried in the provincial budget bill that struck at the heart of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and severely weakened other key environmental laws. We sprung into action and vehemently defended these laws…
Thankfully, we convinced the government to take another look, and when the province voted on the budget bill all amendments to the Endangered Species Act were removed and deferred to the fall for reconsideration. This means we have more time to ensure the government upholds our environmental laws so that they continue to protect Ontario’s most vulnerable species and precious habitats – the wild species you love and wild spaces where you find peace.