Ontario’s budget and changes to environmental law

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Ontario’s budget, which passed first reading last month, would, if passed, amend several environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Public Lands Act and the Crown Forest Sustainability Act.

As these proposed amendments are contained within a bill designed to give effect to budget implementation, the public participation required by section 33 of the Environmental Bill of Rights (BILL-ON) does not apply. There are concerns  being raised that the government is attempting to introduce amendments with the potential to result in adverse impact on the environment while denying the public the opportunity to provide input. As noted by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in his most recent “Annual Report“, the use of omnibus legislation to amend environmental laws can “obstruct the public’s right to participate in environmental decision making”.

The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ecojustice Canada have published a joint report criticising Bill 55 and providing a detailed analysis of the proposed amendments.