It is difficult to assess the reason but today’s Ontario budget contains less for the environment than any provincial or federal budget in recent years. Maybe the McGuinty Liberal government has been reading too much into those headlines that state that environment has suffered a major decline in public policy importance, even though more than 40% of Canadians are still significantly concerned about the environment and understand the environment – economy connection.
The only energy or environment-related initiative to make today’s Budget speech is a plan to cap the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit at 3000 kilowatt-hours per month, meaning that the amount of electricity discount received by commercial and industrial users will be significantly reduced. GallonDaily sees that as a small but significant move in the right direction for full-cost pricing of electricity.
The Budget also announced that:
- the Drive Clean vehicle emissions program is a proposed candidate for delivery through a Delegated Administrative Authority (DAA) model, ie. private sector administration with administrative costs recovered from vehicle fees. That despite the fact that Drive Clean has been a vehicle for scandal and, GallonDaily predicts, could easily be one again.
- the ministry of the Environment has funding to manage hazardous wastes through a new grant program under the Selected Household Hazardous Waste Initiative. Funding was allocated to support the collection and management of some selected wastes through retail locations, such as pharmacies. The ministry is working on options for continued management of these wastes at a reduced cost. GallonDaily notes that this is one of the areas that has got caught up in the problems of the Ontario extended producer responsibility initiative and that a revamping of the program is overdue.
- for the Ministry of Natural Resources, new legal requirements for permitting, licensing, and the stewardship of Crown land and resources are proposed as part of the Budget. These legislative amendments would change requirements, business lines and delivery structures within the ministry to enable a shift to permit by rule rather than individual authorizations; empower the Minister of Natural Resources to delegate approval to third parties; and adjust the frequency or scale of future resource planning activities.
- for municipalities, the Budget states that the government remains committed to working with its municipal partners to help ensure the sustainability of core municipal infrastructure. Roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater systems account for approximately 70 per cent of the replacement value of municipal public infrastructure in Ontario, and are a critical component of a strong economy. Funding for municipal infrastructure has totaled approximately $13 billion since 2003. GallonDaily is disappointed, though not surprised, that this government has apparently not made a move towards full cost pricing of municipal infrastructure as proposed by former federal Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin and as legislated but never implemented by the former Ontario Progressive Conservative government.
- programs within the Ministry of Natural Resources are being redesigned to shift more financial and management responsibility to agencies outside of the provincial government. A list of these initiatives can be found at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/ch1.html#c1_ministryONRT
- fees for water takings will increase
- fees for environmental Certificates of Approval and other permits are likely to increase on a scale yet to be determined.
- fees for tracking of hazardous waste will increase, apparently on an ongoing basis.
Where past GallonLetter Budget reviews have identified more than a dozen significant environmental initiatives, the above are all we have found so far in the 2012 Ontario Budget. If you are interested in digging further, the budget can be found at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/