By: The Working Forest Staff
Ontario’s government is modernizing its almost 50-year-old environmental assessment process by focusing on projects that pose actual, real risks to our environment and communities, streamlining approval timelines and eliminating duplication.
The government has released a discussion paper that outlines a more modern environmental assessment process, including immediate, short-term fixes to reduce the burden and serve the interest of Ontario families and communities. Our proposed modernized plan will ensure strong environmental protections, enable electronic submissions, help address duplication, streamline processes, improve service standards to reduce delays and better recognize other planning processes that have evolved over the past four decades.
“We are proposing sensible, pragmatic solutions to modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment process,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks. “Low-risk projects that have positive impacts in our communities shouldn’t be held up by lengthy approvals. This review will ensure that the public’s voice is heard, and the proper environmental protections are in place, particularly that climate change and increasingly extreme weather is considered in project planning.”
The province is proposing to exempt low-risk projects from having to undergo an environmental assessment like all other provinces have done to focus on projects of higher risk. Low-risk activities include snow plowing and de-icing operations, constructing roadside parks and adding bike lanes. This will help reduce burden, save money and time and ensure Ontario families and communities benefit from these projects without delay. At the same time, it will free up ministry resources to focus on higher-risk activities.
Modernizing environmental assessments is one of the many recent actions the province is taking to deliver on it’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan including:
- cancelling the cap and trade carbon tax and saving money for Ontario families and businesses
- ending the Drive Clean program for passenger vehicles and redesigning the emissions testing program for heavy-duty vehicles
- proposing increase renewable content in gasoline by 15% as early as 2025 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without increasing the price at the pump
- proposing emissions performance standards for large industrial emitters to ensure polluters pay their fair share for their greenhouse gas emissions and help Ontario achieve its share of Canada’s 2030 emissions target
- releasing a waste discussion paper that proposes banning food and organic waste from landfill
- proposing amendments to ensure conservation authorities focus and deliver on their core mandate protecting people, property and natural resources from the threats and impacts of extreme weather and flooding
- proposing changes to the Endangered Species Act that would better enable positive outcomes for species at risk while streamlining processes where inefficiencies and uncertainty exists.
The Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan considers our province’s specific priorities, challenges, and opportunities, and commits to reducing our emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, a target that aligns with the federal government’s Paris commitments, without imposing a carbon tax.
“Our plan serves as proof that you can both oppose a carbon tax and continue to do more to fight climate change – you don’t have to choose,” said Minister Phillips, “Ontario deserves both a healthy environment and a healthy economy and we will continue to deliver on our plan a make this a reality for Ontario business and families.”
- Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act was created in 1975 and has remained largely unchanged, with amendments in 1996.
- The environmental assessment process is paper-based, time-consuming and costly, taking five years on average for full EAs.
- Ontario manages and protects 340 provincial parks and 295 conservation reserves, totaling 9.8 million hectares or nine percent of the province – an area larger than the entire province of New Brunswick.
- Ontario remains committed to meeting our share of Canada’s 2030 target. We have already made significant reductions: from 2005 to 2016, we reduced our emissions by about 22%.
* The Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commits to reducing our province’s emissions output to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 without imposing a carbon tax.