Toronto – Ecojustice, on behalf of its clients former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gordon Miller and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), welcome the Ontario government’s revocation of the suspension of public participation under all of Part II of the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR).
In early April, the Ontario government, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, passed a regulation that effectively suspended all public participation rights under the EBR, including notice and public comment on proposals, ministry compliance with Statements of Environmental Values, and seeking leave to appeal instruments such as licences.
Ecojustice, on behalf of its clients, filed an Application for Review under the Act, asking Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek to review and revoke the regulation, and signed a letter to the Minister led by the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
While these groups welcome the Ontario government’s repeal of Regulation 115/20, they remain concerned about known decisions made during the EBR exemption period, such as recent exemptions for petroleum refining and petrochemical operations granted at the behest of industry lobbying, and unknown decisions that have not yet seen the light of day because they were never posted on the Environmental Registry.
Rob Wright, Ecojustice lawyer, said:
“This is a welcome move by the Ontario government but we are still wary of some industries having received a pass from public environmental scrutiny. It is clear that Ontarians understand that re-opening the economy and protecting public health and the environment go hand-in-hand.”
Gordon Miller, former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, said:
“The provisions of the Environmental Bill of Rights are critical to responsible government decision making about the environment. The Registry keeps the public informed as to what decisions are in play and the Statements of Environmental Values help keep the ministries accountable. Suspending these rights was unnecessary and irresponsible. It is good that this mistake has been corrected.”
Robin Edger, executive director and CEO of CAPE said:
“There was no rationale to suspend online public consultation during this period. It was cynical to do so and we are happy that the government has changed tracks.”
Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
CAPE works to better human health by protecting the planet. We make change through important contributions to the public conversation on planetary health and direct conversations with government decisionmakers at all levels.
Gordon Miller is an ecologist and environmental policy analyst. He served 15 years as the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, until May 2015. He now does public speaking on environment and energy topics, occasional consulting projects, and chairs the Board of Directors for Earthroots.