Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner reports on government inaction

portrait of Gord Miller, Environmental Commiss...
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Toronto – The government is failing to follow through on all of its environmental promises, says Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller. “This government rightly prides itself on the progress it has made in passing legislation to protect the environment,” says Miller, “but actions on the ground often undermine it.”

In his 2009/2010 Annual Report released today, Miller points to a number of cases where bureaucratic or political inaction has threatened the environment and undermined the government’s stated environmental policies. The Environmental Commissioner’s report found:

  • The Ministry of the Environment has failed to keep an up-to-date inventory of closed landfills that could be polluting nearby groundwater.
  • Municipal wastewater discharges are worsening the pollution of our Great Lakes because the Ministry of Environment’s discharge rules fail to factor in the rapidly increasing population of southern Ontario.
  • Ontario’s air quality standards are not airtight, allowing the government to exempt whole sectors of industry from tougher provincial rules.
  • One billion more trees need to be planted in southern Ontario – far more than the government’s target of 50 million trees by 2020 – to conserve biodiversity and respond to the challenges of climate change.
  • Legislation has been introduced to protect half the boreal forest in the Far North, but ineffective oversight by the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry has allowed mining service companies to set up illegal camps and landing strips.
  • The government made a commitment to protect the dwindling number of caribou in the province. But the Ministry of Natural Resources has not protected their habitat from mining or forestry to prevent their likely disappearance from Ontario.

The Environmental Commissioner also says Ontarians need to develop a new approach to conservation, or face the significant consequences of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Miller says “current policies have already degraded the environment in the long-term and significantly compromised the ability of future generations to meet their needs. We must make do with less, and use what we have more wisely. This is not a choice for us but a reality imposed by the world we have created.”

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