Ontario’s Auditor General says Premier Doug Ford and the provincial government have broken Ontario’s environmental laws with the passing of Bill 197.
After concerns raised by the NDP Environmental critic Ian Arthur, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says the government not only broke the law, but that she had warned the government about passing the bill a week prior.
According to reports from the NDP, Lysyk told the province that two portions of Bill 197 violated environmental laws.
On Wednesday, Premier Ford told the press that he “respectfully disagrees” with the Auditor General.
The NDP’s Arthur responded quickly on Twitter, telling the Premier he “can respectfully disagree with a law all you want. But it’s still a law.”
“Once again, Doug Ford has been caught breaking the law and undermining critical protections to our environment,” says Arthur. “And this certainly isn’t the first time Ford has been caught breaking Ontario’s environmental laws. Last year a court ruled that Ford violated the Environmental Bill of Rights when he dismantled Ontario’s pollution pricing regime without any consultation. Again, Doug Ford has been caught helping developer insiders at the expense of protecting our environment.”
Under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, governments are required to consult the public for 30 days on measures that impact the environment.
Critics of Bill 197 say it makes some concerning changes to environmental law. Most concerning is the lack of public consultation before passing the legislation.
The NDP say “Ford’s Bill 197 makes dangerous changes to Ontario’s environmental assessment process, yet the government failed to hold public consultations on the legislation, and rammed it into law with minimal debate.”
According to Ontario Nature, Bill 197 puts wildlife and habitat at risk, while reducing air quality and negatively impacting the health of Ontario communities and the environment for years to come.
“For the most part, the proposed changes serve to speed up development at the expense of environmental protection and public participation rights,” says Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).
Ontario Nature adds that “changes to the Environmental Assessment Act would mean that no industrial or development projects are automatically subject to an environmental assessment, a measure in place to ensure an upfront public examination of potential impacts before projects proceed.”
In addition, according to Ontario Nature, “changes to the Planning Act will make it easier for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to unilaterally issue zoning orders which circumvent expected public participation in important land use planning decisions about the future of our communities. Minister’s zoning orders provide no opportunity for public input and are not subject to appeal. The amendment would allow the Minister to reach even more deeply into the planning process and overrule decisions by municipal councils and planning staff.”