Today the Ontario Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services released its report, a report that Ontario Finance Minister described as “very sweeping” and “very controversial”. However, those hoping for changes in the way the Ontario Government conducts its environmental business or those hoping for a transition to a Sustainable Development path will be very disappointed in the Drummond Report. The report never once uses the term Sustainable Development, recommends nothing for the environment except more studies, something the Ontario government is, in this journal’s opinion, already perpetuating to an absurd extent, and gives absolutely no recognition to the linkage between the environment and the economy. It appears that hiring this team to recommend a new economic pathway for the Government of Ontario may have been one of the bigger environmental mistakes of the many committed during the McGuinty Liberal Governments term of office. Task force Chair Don Drummond was Chief Economist of TD Bank. TD Bank was, and may still be, one of the greener among the coterie of Canadian Banks. However, little to none of this green economic thinking seems to have rubbed off on its former Chief Economist.
Drummond Commission recommendations for the environment are miserable at best:
13-1: Move towards full cost recovery and user-pay models for environmental programs and services.
13-2: Rationalize roles and responsibilities for environmental protections that are currently shared across levels of government.
13-3: Employ a risk-based approach for environmental approvals that focuses on improving outcomes and prevention.
13-4: Review opportunities to further streamline the environmental assessment process, such as co-ordinating further with the federal government’s process or integrating it with certain approvals.
13-5: Place greater emphasis on prevention and the polluter-pay principle for contaminated sites using appropriate financial tools, such as financial assurance.
13-6: Review the effectiveness of the current governance structure of the Ontario Clean Water Agency to evaluate the merits of restructuring it as a for-profit, wholly owned government entity.
13-7: Rationalize and consolidate the entities and agencies involved in land use planning and resources management.
13-8: Ensure that the government’s approach to the Ring of Fire maximizes opportunities for Aboriginal Peoples and all Ontarians.
In other areas, Drummond recommends:
3-1: Do not simply cut costs. The imperative to restrain spending should instead be an opportunity to reform programs and service delivery. [Wow, Don. Your meaningless rhetoric exceeds that of even the most seasoned politician!]
3-8: Higher priority should be assigned to programs and activities that invest in the future as opposed to those that serve the current status quo.
3-11: Boundaries between public- and private-sector activities should be shifted and, in many cases, removed. For the most part, policy development needs to remain in the realm of the government, though various stakeholders and community groups could and should be more involved. External groups should even be involved in advising the most senior
government decision-making bodies, including the Cabinet.
11-1: Government needs to publish an “economic vision” for Ontario.
12-2: Implement full cost pricing for water and wastewater services. [Legislation to do this was passed by the Conservative government years ago but was never implemented. This may be the most useful but among the most unlikely to be implemented recommendations of the Drummond report.]
12-4: Following the precedent set by the Toronto Transit Commission, begin charging for parking at GO Transit parking lots. [And hence encourage yet more people to use private polluting automobiles rather than the more environmentally responsible public transit!]
12-5: Pursue a national transit strategy with the federal government, other provinces and municipalities.
12-10: Eliminate the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit as quickly as possible.
12-11: Review all other energy subsidy programs against measures of value for money and achievement of specific policy goals.
12-14: As part of the review of the feed-in tariff (FIT) program, take steps to mitigate its impact on electricity prices by:
- Lowering the initial prices offered in the FIT contract and introducing degression rates that reduce the tariff over time to encourage innovation and discourage any reliance on public subsidies17; and
- Making better use of “off-ramps” built into existing contracts.
12-15: Procure larger [electricity] generation facilities through a request for proposal process.
20-5: Advocate for federal greenhouse gas mitigation programs to provide fair and equitable support for Ontario’s clean energy initiatives. [Another Wow – as if Ontario’s Liberal government spending more money advocating for climate change initiatives with the Federal Conservative government would achieve anything useful at all!]
It is not GallonDaily’s mandate to review anything but the environmental and Sustainable Development aspects of government initiatives. For the many other recommendations of the Report, including a few other proposals that may have negative environmental impact, readers are referred to the full report at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/index.html
In the spirit of making constructive suggestions, GallonDaily recommends that Premier McGuinty reinstate the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy and task it with producing an economic document that leads the province into a greener economy while at the same time reducing the costs of government services. The Round Table produced a better document along these lines in 1989 than Economist Drummond and his team have produced in 2012.
[Note: GallonDaily’s editor was a member of the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy.]
To be better informed of government (in-)action is to open oneself to utter discouragement and outrage. No surprise that an economist produced a report about cost-cutting opportunities and spending inefficiencies.
Your comment regarding the absurdity of perpetuating the number of studies is well taken. At a cost of SSS, this and many other Commissions appear to have usurped the mandate of the Auditor General?! And I’m not convinced that it is the policy of either provincial or federal governments to ACT on the recommendations made by these commissions.
Regarding your comments about clean energy initiatives (20-5): Why can’t Ontario become the leader in this area, following California’s example?! Industry may make a lot of noise, but a lot of those executives live in areas frequently blanketed by smog. Toronto has become what L.A. was 20 years ago.
(Mexico City too could also benefit greatly by stepping up and taking ownership – their big solution was to issue license plates that only allow you to drive every other day, so now there are twice as many cars!)
I realize my perspective may appear naive to someone who has been immersed in these issues for decades. I see green initiatives as being mainly consumer driven. Businesses’ incentive to reduce packaging of retail goods for instance is to appear more appealing to the public. Whether their production initiatives are as green is not generally known, and “planned obsolescence” or shorter lifespan for consumer goods seems to be creeping back into ever decreasing expectations of the public.
What if the largest tax incentives were given to businesses who develop the means to efficiently reduce the footprint of other businesses and to those businesses that could demonstrate a smaller footprint? (Let new commissions audit that.) Perhaps you might offer your services not just to businesses…
Why do emissions reductions only bring to mind the auto industry?
Are green initiatives and cost-reductions mutually exclusive?
Can “green profit” become the standard of industry?
If government green initiatives at any level simply live or die depending on the depth of the taxpayers pockets, the status quo will prevail: React only faced with a crisis, and hopefully before tragedy strikes, if not, postpone to next mandate and let someone else take on a ‘political hot potato’.
Forgive my rambling…