It is not too often that the Auditor General of Ontario focusses attention on the environmental aspects of government initiatives but the OAG’s 2014 report, released today, reviews both Ontario’s Smart Meter program and source water protection with follow-ups on Drive Clean vehicle emissions testing and Metrolinx regional transportation planning.
With respect to Smart Meters the OAG finds:
- the smart metering program, involving homes and businesses, was rolled out without nearly enough planning or monitoring.
- as a result, the government has not met its targets for reducing peak electricity demand.
- the difference in peak and off-peak rates has not been significant enough to change consumption patterns.
With respect to source water protection, the OAG finds:
- fourteen years after the crisis in Walkerton, the locally developed source water protection plans envisioned by the Walkerton Commission of Inquiry and legislated under Ontario’s Clean Water Act, 2006, are not in place to ensure the first level of defence for the safety of drinking water for Ontarians.
- situations of non-compliance with the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 and its regulations, and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s weak enforcement activities, increase the risk that source water (water that flows into water treatment plants and wells) in Ontario is not being effectively protected.
- there is a high likelihood that spills from industrial and commercial facilities may also pose a significant threat to water intakes in the Great Lakes, but source water protection plans do not currently address them.
The OAG also finds that only a third of the recommendations on regional transportation planning in the 2012 Annual Report have been implemented. For example, Metrolinx, after consulting with stakeholders, has provided the Ministry of Transportation with an investment strategy to fund projects within the Regional Transportation Plan. The other recommendations are requiring more time to be fully addressed, such as defining the business model under which the Union Pearson Express will operate to ensure that it will be a viable and sustainable operation. In conjunction with the provincial government and transit providers, Metrolinx still needs to develop a strategy for implementing better fare integration among GTHA transit systems.
On Drive Clean vehicle emissions testing the OAG found that most of her recommendations have either been implemented or are in process.
It is reasonable to expect that the Government will act on the Auditor General’s recommendations on smart meters, source water protection, and regional transportation planning. At least the first two of these are likely to have cost implications for business.
The OAG’s report and media summaries can be found at http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/default.htm