After 25 Years, Ontario No Longer Has an Official Environmental Watchdog
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted April 1st, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Here we are on the first day of April – just 21 days away from celebrating the 49th anniversary of the first Earth Day – and what I am about to mention is not an April Fool’s joke.
This past Friday afternoon (March 29th), Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, Dianne Saxe, and her staff turned off the lights in the Environmental Commissioner’s Office (ECO) for the last time because as of this April 1st, thanks to Premier Doug Ford’s self-described “Government for the People,” that office is officially closed.
The Ford government announced it would be closing the ECO, which has served as an official, independent watchdog on provincial government affairs when it comes to environmental protection, in November of last year.
The announcement came shortly after the Office released a major report titled; Climate Action in Ontario – What’s Next, which included the following summary remarks on the challenge the province faces now –
“Although climate disruption is already starting to hammer Ontario,” states the report, “we continue to emit high levels of greenhouse gas pollution. It is no longer possible for us to have what we all want: both a safe, predictable climate that sustains our lives and economy, and unlimited fossil fuel use.”
“Like other places, Ontario must take most fossil fuels and other sources of greenhouse gases out of our economy, and soon. … Despite the odds, Ontario can still meet this challenge.”
But maybe not this Ford government which, unlike the governments of NDP Premier Bob Rae, Conservative Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, and Liberal Premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, is apparently not prepared to accept the kind of criticism they all sometimes received for not doing enough to protect and preserve our environment.
Indeed, why would a Ford government that, as recently as today (this April 1st), circulated news that it has now closed down a program for testing emissions from trucks and cars, and has done away with the former Liberal government’s plan to place a cost on climate-changing carbon emissions (referring to the plan as a “tax” as a way of branding it as something that is completely negative), want to keep an office that puts out reports on the actions we need to take to address something as threatening to our future as climate change?
An independent environmental watchdog would probably also not serve this Ford government very well as it moves forward with plans, as it certainly will, to make it easier for developers to pave over woodlands, wetlands and other green areas.
This past Friday, March 29th, one last publication popped up in my inbox from the ECO that just happened to be called ‘Climate Pollution: Reducing My Footprint’.
“Ontarians have large carbon footprints” relative to people in many other regions of the world, the report began.
When this report popped into my inbox at 3:29 on that Friday afternoon, I made one last quick call to the ECO, using a number I almost knew by heart from years of calling it for one document or another, and the staff person on the other end said the Office simply wanted to get whatever other useful information it could out to the public before closing time.
“It is tragic that an office like this is closing,” said the staffer. “If you agree, call your provincial representative and let them know.”
Here is a little more from that final document that I received from the ECO, with a link to the entire report below –
REDUCING MY FOOTPRINT
Ontarians have large carbon footprints. The average Ontarian personally causes about 11 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.* More than half of the average Ontarian’s carbon footprint comes from just four activities: driving, heating our homes, flying, and eating beef. For most people, the opportunities to reduce the most emissions are in those same four activities.
Individual actions are not enough to protect our global climate, but they are a great place to start.
STUFF WE BUY AND THROW AWAY
The other half of the average Ontarian’s personal carbon footprint is mostly from stuff and services we buy. Especially stuff. Many of us have too much of it. Buying fewer goods, making them last and throwing less away would really help. Recycling helps a little, but much less than we think.
OTHER ENERGY USE
Anything that burns fossil fuels is doing climate damage, including diesel generators, gasoline recreational vehicles, propane barbeques and natural gas power plants. Over 90% of Ontario’s electricity is carbon free, but we often use natural gas to generate the extra electricity needed when demand is very high
I’M NOT AVERAGE…
Everyone’s life is unique and so is their carbon footprint. Whether you live in the city or the country, you can reduce some of your carbon footprint through individual actions. But other reductions depend on collective action and good government policy.
SPEAK UP FOR COLLECTIVE ACTION
Climate change is everyone’s problem. We all share the same planet, and we have to work together to solve this problem. That requires good government policies, like making polluters pay for the damage caused.
Individual action is a great place to start, but it would be a terrible place to stop. Will you speak up?
To see more of this report, try clicking on the following link if the file is still available – file:///C:/Users/owner/Desktop/Climate%20Pollution_%20Reducing%20My%20Footprint%20_%20Environmental%20Commissioner%20of%20Ontario.htm l .
What follows is a recent News Release from Ontario’s New Democratic Party, denouncing the closing of the Environmental Commissioner’s Office –
Statement from the NDP Environment critic in response to the ECO’s final report
QUEEN’S PARK — The NDP critic for the Environment and Sustainability, Ian Arthur, released the following statement in response to the final report on energy conservation by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dianne Saxe:
“Ontarians deserve clean air to breathe, water to drink and a less polluted environment for generations to come.”
But since taking office, Doug Ford has systematically demolished policies and programs put in place to conserve energy, slow the advancement of climate change and promote a cleaner economy.
Ford cancelled the cap-and-trade program that limited greenhouse gas emissions, removed the incentive for major corporate polluters to curb their heavy carbon pollution, and axed nearly 800 green energy incentive programs for homeowners and businesses — a cut that experts have deemed an ‘assault on green energy.’
Just last week, the Ford government slashed a series of programs designed to save energy in buildings. He is proposing to weaken policies that “protect against increased urban sprawl, which encroaches on farmland, forests and wetlands; and makes commutes, congestion and fossil-fuel pollution worse. He has, twice, tried to punch holes in the Greenbelt.
As Saxe puts it in her report: ‘Without effective government action to conserve energy, especially fossil fuels, Ontario will continue to damage its finances, climate and well-being.’ Ontarians deserve a government that protects our valuable natural resources, invests in our health and prosperity and does all it can to slow the crisis of climate change. Ontarians deserve more, not less, from their government.
The Official Opposition thanks Dianne Saxe for her work, and for this report — the final one for the Environmental Commissioner. Doug Ford has axed that watchdog, because he doesn’t want to be held accountable for what he’s doing to our province.”
To read a news commentary posted on Niagara At Large last November, 2018 when the closing of the Environmental Commissioner’s Office was first announced, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/11/17/its-party-time-for-despoilers-of-the-environment-in-ontario/ .
To read a news release from the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency, opposing the Ford government’s closing of the ECO, click on – https://www.cela.ca/MR12032018 .
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 .
“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders