There are different rules for different players when it comes to making decisions in Ontario. On one side, there are public interest organizations and private citizens who rely ? for financial or philosophical reasons on open public processes such as notice-and-comment to express concerns about local issues. On the other side, there are lobbyists and strategy consultants who, for a steep hourly rate, will refine your message and bring it to the ear of the government.
The influence of consultants on policy-making has been the subject of numerous media articles and question-period commentaries in recent weeks. Today, Waterkeeper brings you a snapshot of issues from the last year where influence-peddlers have tried to replace a democratic process.
Hamilton?s Red Hill Creek Expressway
Perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching examples of buying access to government was seen in Hamilton. Not only did the City of Hamilton successfully carve a path for the Red Hill Creek Expressway through a renowned park without modern approvals, it used the province?s money to help pay for the project. Meanwhile, area residents relied on peaceful protests and Waterkeeper launched a last-ditch legal appeal. The Minister of Environment still promises to ?get back to us? while the new scar in the valley is visible from outerspace (see maps.google.com).
Canada?s Nuclear Industry
While Ontario scrambles to shut down polluting coal plants, Canada?s nuclear industry is gearing up to rebuild the nuclear industry. Earlier this year, the president of the industry?s lobby group, the Canadian Nuclear Association, spoke to the Port Hope Chamber of Commerce, telling them that the town would remain the centre of the nuclear industry in Canada. Meanwhile, area residents concerned about health impacts, air and water quality degradation, and emergency response issues were threatened with a ?free speech tax?: $57.00 to erect a sign on private property expressing concerns about the nuclear industry.
The Nuclear Association is not the only lobbyist for the industry, however. Most facilities also rely on consultants and in-house lobbyists to protect their unique interests. Case in point is Cameco Corporation, which has at least 5 of its own lobbyists working on environmental issues. Cameco?s registration says that it lobbies supposedly arms-length regulators such as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the administrators of the environmental assessment process, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. As the public calls out for an independent panel review of nuclear proposals, the CNSC says it sees no need at this time.
Bill 133: the "Spills Bills" for Ontario
When the province proposed new legislation that would protect downstream communities and take the burden of paying for clean ups off of the taxpayers, Ontario?s industry leaders cried foul.
Companies like GE, BASF, Bayer, Dow, Du Pont, have all registered lobbyists to protect them from new regulations under Bill 133. Industry even joined forces to create the Orwellian organization, "Coalition for a Sustainable Environment." The Coalition members include groups like the Canadian Chemical Producers Assocation, Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, Canadian Steel Producers Association, Ontario Mining Association, Cement Association of Canada, and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.
Meanwhile, Waterkeeper and concerned citizens filed our response through the Environmental Bill of Rights process and will participate in upcoming committee hearings. Those processes are public, documented, and inexpensive.
In the end, hired guns brought in to create short cuts in the regulatory process only create dischord. Short-cuts leave the community out. They breed cynicism. In their wake, every community is left divided, every waterway debased.