Ontario Budget continues to ignore most aspects of the environment

The newly re-elected Ontario government today introduced its 2014 budget. As promised, the budget was essentially identical to the May 1st budget that led to defeat of the government and the recent election. As previously, the budget contains little for the environment except for transportation and infrastructure funding and management.

However, the government recently posted an updated summary of those measures recommended by Don Drummond in his report of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services, tabled in 2012, that it considers it has implemented. This document may be as good an indicator of the Ontario government’s direction on environment and sustainability issues than either the Speech from the Throne or the Budget. Drummond measures which the government claims to have implemented and which are relevant to environment and sustainable development include:

  • Proposing Bill 141, the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2014, that, if passed, would require the Province to regularly table a long-term infrastructure plan in the legislature covering a period of at least 10 years.
  • Improving how municipalities plan and prioritize their infrastructure needs through the Municipal Infrastructure Strategy.
  • Seeking efficiencies in the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) by proposing to merge them into a single, more efficient organization that would help eliminate duplication, better meet today’s electricity needs and save ratepayers money.
  • Launching emPOWERme, a new, interactive website to help energy consumers take charge of the power they use by better understanding the province’s electricity system.
  • Committing to work with Matawa-member First Nation communities on long-term environmental monitoring, socioeconomic and community development, regional infrastructure and resource revenue-sharing as part of developing the Ring of Fire region [mining] opportunities.
  • Continuing to implement risk-based approaches to environmental approvals across more program areas to improve environmental outcomes and address business needs by leveraging current technology.
  • Continuing to coordinate and integrate environmental approvals with other governments to reduce duplication.
  • Exploring policy and legislative options that would support the implementation of the polluter-pay principle. This includes policies focused on prevention and minimizing future provincial liabilities resulting from contaminated sites.

The Speech from the Throne, delivered on July 3, contains only the following commitments related to the environment:

  • The new Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change will co-ordinate action across government to limit greenhouse gas emissions and will renew work with communities across Ontario on adaptation to the growing impacts of climate change.
  • Ontario will work with other provinces and territories to develop a Canadian Energy Strategy, which includes co-ordinated efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and which recognizes the important role of renewable energy and energy conservation.

The 2014 Ontario Speech from the Throne is at http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2014/07/building-ontario-up-speech-from-the-throne.html

The 2014 Ontario Budget is at http://www.ontario.ca/government/2014-ontario-budget

The report on Progress on Implementing Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services’ Recommendations is at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/progress/

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