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FORUM: Premier Ford gets an “F” (Dec. 2021)

December 17th, 2021 · No Comments

Auditor general’s report shows Ford is failing the environment

By Jessica Bell

On November 24, the auditor general released her annual report on the environment.  It reads as a dry and horrifying account of Premier Doug Ford’s assault on our natural environment, health and future. Here are the lowlights. 

Ontario’s new Minister of the Environment David Puccini likes to wax on about his participation in Canada’s delegation to the Glasgow climate negotiations in the legislature, but the government is on track to meet just 20% of its promised carbon reductions by 2030. Ontario’s elected leaders are failing to do their part to stop climate change. 

Furthermore, the Ford government is failing at tracking and reporting on the health of our environment. The auditor general’s report says that currently, our government ministries do not adequately track and report on water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, soil health, pesticide use, pollinator health, hazardous spills, and wetland preservation. Doug Ford doesn’t want to know the harm he’s causing, so we’re not allowed to know either.

The Ontario government is regularly violating the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). Ontario’s EBR law enshrines our right to information and public consultation on environmentally significant decisions, as well as the right to ask for a review or to appeal these decisions. 

The government didn’t use the EBR process when it approved Ministerial Zoning Orders to bypass land-use planning rules, nor did they use the EBR process when it gutted conservation authorities’ power to protect us from flooding. Our EBR law should be strengthened, not ignored. 

Now on to waste management. Our province is a competitor for most waste per person in the world, and we do a very poor job of recycling and reusing the waste we create. Condos, apartments, industry, business, and big institutions, like schools, are the worst offenders. The vast majority of this industrial and commercial waste ends up in landfill. Materials that have been separated into recycling and compost bins are often re-diverted to landfill by the poorly regulated waste management industry. 

To incentivize recycling and reuse, provinces like Nova Scotia and Quebec have increased the cost of landfill use by banning the dumping of certain products and increasing landfill fees. There is also huge value in taking upstream measures to reduce the production of waste in the first place: banning single use plastic, strengthening consumer protection and warranty rights to improve the quality of products sold in Ontario, and instituting right to repair rules to stop companies from stymieing the production and sale of generic replacement parts, can all help. 

Ontario companies spill hazardous materials about 8,000 times a year into our air, land and water. Most of these spills are from the oil and gas sector. The Environment Ministry does not tell Ontarians where a hazardous spill has occurred, who caused the spill, or what specific impacts a spill could have on human health and the environment. The government has also reduced its inspection and enforcement power to stop companies from repeatedly spilling. In 2021, companies operating in this province can spill with near impunity. This is immoral. 

If we don’t take meaningful and bold measures to protect and respect the living world, the people of this province face a harsh and miserable future. You and I know this. It is our responsibility to guide Ontario towards a sustainable, thriving and fair future. It’s why our Green New Democratic Deal platform to transition to a truly sustainable and green society and economy is a priority for us. Doug Ford is clearly incapable of doing anything close to this. His time in the premier’s office should end.

Jessica Bell is MPP for University–Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Opinion