Challenging the Ford government’s failure to consult on Bill 197

Queens Park by James G via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Program area – Healthy communities Status: In Progress
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In less than two weeks in July 2020, the Ford government steamrolled Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act), an omnibus bill that makes major changes to Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act, the Planning Act and other environmental laws.

Although the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) gives Ontarians the right to participate meaningfully in major environmental decision-making, the Ford government failed to consult the public on Bill 197. The intentional violation of the EBR and avoidance of public scrutiny of Bill 197 continues this government’s pattern of disregard for Ontarians’ environmental rights.

Bill 197 uses the premise of economic recovery to tear up environmental protections and prevents Ontarians from having a say on major projects that impact their lives. And the Ford government never consulted with Ontarians before making the bill law – which they are legally required to do.

Since being elected, the Ford government has attempted to dismantle environmental protections in Ontario. Bill 197 is the latest attack on environmental laws in the province.

Ontarians have the right to be consulted on major environmental decisions under the EBR. The Ford government has violated this law and wilfully prevented the public from expressing their concerns. This has become a recurring theme for the Ford government. Less than two years ago, Ecojustice brought the Ontario government to court for scrapping cap and trade in the province without public consultation. A majority of Ontario’s Divisional Court agreed that this was unlawful in a 2019 ruling, but stopped short of granting a legal remedy (a formal declaration) to sanction the conduct.

In May 2021, Ecojustice lawyers went to court to argue that the provincial government ignored the voices of Ontarians before ramming through major changes to environmental assessments and planning laws.

A win would see the courts confirm that Ontarians have the right to public consultation under the EBR – and the Ford government’s failure to consult on Bill 197 was unlawful.

A win would tell the provincial government that they cannot ignore laws that allow the public to participate in important environmental issues. 

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