Getting on with the Business of the Environment
Environmental protection measures generally make economic sense; paying the upfront costs of reducing pollution and safeguarding resources is often more cost effective than financing the clean-up and fallout caused by inaction. In this part of the Annual Report, the ECO discusses the business of environmental protection, and considers opportunities for the provincial government to make an investment in something with enormous returns: environmental and public health.
The bulk of the responsibility for protecting Ontario’s environment and natural heritage falls to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Unfortunately, their operating budgets have not kept pace with the scope, volume and complexity of their mandates. Although MOE and MNR’s budgets increased after the ECO released a Special Report in 2007 on underfunding, in this part of the Annual Report we examine recent numbers and find that these ministries’ share of Ontario’s operating budget continues to decline.
As a result of underfunding and lack of capacity, MOE has struggled for years with the overwhelming volume of new and outdated Certificates of Approval. Here we review MOE’s new approvals framework, which is expected to dramatically reduce administrative burdens for both business and MOE, and allow MOE to focus resources on activities that pose the greatest risk to the environment and health. Although the ECO believes that MOE has ultimately developed a reasonable framework, the ECO has concerns about whether its potential benefits will be realized.
MOE has also struggled for decades with how to increase Ontario’s waste diversion rate. Unfortunately, of the four MOE policy proposals posted on the Environmental Registry that deal with Ontario’s waste diversion framework, none have become decisions, and the ideas they offer have largely gone unimplemented.
Similar to Ontario’s problem with generating too much waste, Ontario consumes excessive amounts of water. This year, the government passed the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act, 2010 to foster growth of water and wastewater technologies and services in Ontario, and to promote water conservation. In this part, the ECO reviews this decision, noting that Ontarians’ excessive consumption of water can be attributed, at least in part, to municipalities charging water and sewer rates at only a fraction of the true costs of the services.
Finally, the ECO reviews MOE’s decision to consolidate the regulations for ozone depleting substances into one comprehensive regulation. Although this consolidation should facilitate compliance, the new regulation leaves some unfinished business.
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|This is an article from the 2010/11 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.|
Citing This Article:
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2011. "Getting on with the Business of the Environment." Engaging Solutions, ECO Annual Report, 2010/11. Toronto: The Queen's Printer for Ontario. 80.