Have you heard about the Ontario government's "Legislative Framework for Modernizing Environmental Approvals"? This is a policy proposal that would see Ontario's most important environmental laws radically rewritten - and not in the name of clean air and clean water.
- Click here to read Waterkeeper's full submission
The Ontario government's proposal is quite simply the most alarming we have ever seen. It pretty much eliminates the notions of "environmental rights" that have made Ontario a world leader when it comes to environmental aspirations. Industry will adopt a form of self-regulation, essentially promising to play by a set of pre-written rules and then letting government know when it is not able to comply. Public rights to learn about new proposals, comment on proposals, and appeal bad decisions will disappear in many cases.
The "modernization" aspect of the proposal is really just spin. The word "modernization" is used to gloss over the fact that, with good management and a few extra resources, most of the truly good ideas in the policy proposal could be implemented tomorrow - like making licences available digitally. If you do not need to change the laws to make those improvements, it begs the question: why would you change the law? The defense that laws need to be updated just because they have been around for a while rings hollow.
It is especially discouraging that clawbacks to environmental protection laws in Ontario are being made at the exact same time as clawbacks to federal environmental protection laws. The federal government, unhappy that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of science and the rule of law, has decided to rewrite the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act rather than protect the environment.
The provincial government, in the same month, is telling Ontarians that the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Ontario Environmental Protection Act, and the Environmental Bill of Rights are standing in its way. So these protections, too, must go. If the trend continues, we could be back to where we were forty years ago.
Happy Earth Day.
The legislative modernization proposal is also the topic of this week's Living at the Barricades:
Music in this show
Modern Guilt by Beck
Modern Mafia by Athlete
Modern Symptoms by John Jerome and the Great 88 (from the benefit CD "Petitcodiac")
Modern Sleaze by Portishead