Ford Moves to Kill Province’s Independent Environmental Watchdog. And Only Enough of Us, Standing Up in Opposition, Can Stop Him
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted November 17th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Industries in Ontario that want to carry on polluting our air, water and soil, or developers who think they need to take out more of our wetlands or wooded areas, or anyone else who views despoiling the environment as a mere business practice, , must be feeling a little bit happier today.
Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier and boss hog of his self-described “Government for the People” who vows to make the province more “open for business,” apparently at any environmental cost, announced plans this November 15th to shut down the 24-year-old office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.
That means that Ontario’s independent environmental watchdog – an non-partisan agency citizens across the province can go to if they have reason to believe another private party is engaged in activities that compromises environmental health and that other government bodies like the Ministry of Environment or Natural Resources or a Conservation Authority are not responding effectively – is being closed.
This has got to be one of the more welcome pieces of news environmental despoilers on this continent have received since a certain climate denying, coal burning character across the border in the United States was sworn in as president 22 months ago.
And this latest assault on Ontario’s environmental protection this system since the Ford government was sworn in four and a half months ago, this move to shut down the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario – as appalling as it is – should not come as a surprise.
It is part of a very clear pattern of decisions and actions Ford and his Ontario Tories across the province have taken since they formed a government this past June with only 40 per cent of the popular vote, but apparently enough in their eyes to govern like a dictatorship.
One of the first things Ford did when he formed a cabinet was removing the words ‘climate change’ from the title for the Ontario Ministry of Environment, before proceeding to make good on the promise he made to his climate denying base to cancel the program the previous Liberal government had begun to place a price on climate changing carbon emissions.
This September, Ford also moved to repeal the Green Energy Act – virtually assuring that Ontario will be left in the dark ages while other jurisdictions in the world corner the market on electric cars and rapidly improving solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies. All this to appease a base of supporters that hope to binge one last time on cheap gas, and a tin-foil hat crowd convinced by Dr. Strangelove logic that wind farms pose a greater risk to their health and the environment than smog, oil spills, nuclear waste and all the damage being done by more frequent and severe weather-related disasters.
It is clear from all of this and more, right up to the latest move to blow away the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) that this Ford government, like most Conservative and Republican governments in North America over the past couple of decades, couldn’t give a flying fig about protecting and preserving what we have left of our natural heritage, and about environmental protection in general.
That was evident even before Ford formed a government this past June when he was secretly caught on a video tape that surfaced during the election, telling a group of developers supporting his campaign that he would be prepared to sell off “chunks” of Ontario’s protected, world-recognized Greenbelt in the greater Golden Horseshoe, including Niagara, for housing.
When the tape went public, igniting and explosion of opposition, Ford quickly walked it all back, but I am sure the premier, who used his sudden and shocking decision this past July to slash the size of Toronto’s city council and cancel elections for regional chair in Niagara and three other regions in the province as an occasion to tell us that he has a mandate to do almost anything he wants now, will bring the promise to sell off chunks of the Greenbelt back again.
The Ford government is now trying to telling us that it is not getting rid of the independent watchdog role the ECO office has played completely. It will work to move it in to the already hyper busy office of either the Ontario Ombudsman or Auditor General.
Ontario Nature and other conservation and environmental groups across the province are already saying that this would be nowhere near as effective as continuing with an office with an expert staff, dedicated to addressing environmental concerns.
And any argument around saving taxpayers money doesn’t add up either. The ECO’s entire annual budget is somewhere between about three and four million dollars – far less than what the Ford government is already likely paying in legal battles against Ontario’s teachers over rolling back the sex-ed program, against the federal government over programs to reduce carbon emissions, and the City of Toronto over slashing the size of its council.
Have no doubt. The real reason Ford is moving to get rid of Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner is that his more conservative business supporters don’t want the office around, pressing them to operative in a manner that is more protective of our air, water and other essentials of a life-sustaining environment.
Dianne Saxe, a veteran environmental lawyer who is Ontario’s current Environmental Commissioner, was asked, not that long ago, what she considers to be the most pressing environmental challenges currently faced by the province.
“To permit a good quality of life without continuing to degrade and destroy the physical and biological systems on which our lives depend,” Saxe responded. “We need much more rigorous and effective land-use and transportation planning. Finding our way to a low-carbon economy and biological diversity are both key issues. Adapting to the enormous climate changes that are already on their way will be challenging.”
Indeed, those of us who share her concerns about these challenges and the urgent need to address them cannot allow Ford and the Neanderthals who support him to shred systems for protecting the environment that it took successive Ontario governments, working with responsible businesses and citizens, decades to build.
For the sake of healthy, life-sustaining communities for ourselves and future generations, we cannot let the ignorance and short-sighted greed behind this drive to destroy our environmental protection services win.
Stand up. Raise your voices. Resist!
To add your voice and support a campaign launched by Ontario Nature, a province-wide, non-partisan citizens organization, to save the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, click on – https://ontarionature.good.do/peopleandenvironment/support/thanks/drapers%40vaxxine.com/ .
Learn more about the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario by clicking on its website at – https://eco.on.ca/
To read news Niagara At Large posted, just this November 15, on the Ontario Environmental Commissioner’s latest and possibly last report on what needs to be done to protect our environment in the province, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/11/16/raw-sewage-toxic-runoff-plague-ontarios-lakes-and-rivers/ .
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .