Where the government goes from here is an open question, but there is an old saying that if you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first thing you do is to stop digging, writes Mark Winfield.
Dec 26, 2019 Opinion by Mark Winfield (Professor of Environmental Studies at York University)
A defining feature of Ontario politics in the aftermath of the October federal election has been the emergence of a rebranded version of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government.
The bombastic, aggressive tone of the government’s first year in office has, for now, been replaced by one of moderation.
But there’s been one notable exception to the Ford government’s supposed willingness to change direction. On environmental and energy issues, the government remains on the same path of disruption and destruction that defined its first piece of legislation that dismantled the previous government’s climate change strategy.
That point was highlighted again in the provincial auditor’s recent report. The report from the auditor, whose office has taken on the former environmental commissioner’s responsibilities, makes clear that there are major gaps in the government’s so-called made-in-Ontario environmental strategy tabled last year.
In addition to highlighting the gaping holes in the government’s climate change plans, the report highlighted a host of other environmental challenges facing Ontario, including ongoing urban sprawl, air pollution, water quality and biodiversity protection.
Rather than changing direction in response to the auditor’s report, the government’s assault on the environment seems to be continuing. Its most recent iteration is Bill 132, a massive omnibus bill ostensibly aimed at reducing “red tape” adopted last week. Buried in its details is an attempt to undo the previous Liberal government’s moratorium on neonicotinoid pesticides, widely identified as posing serious risks to pollinators.
Other provisions of the act weaken the rules around forestry operations, mining, water taking, gravel pits and quarries and pollution.
The government is moving forward with a parallel proposal that would dismantle the province’s regulatory framework for controlling industrial water pollution, first established in the early 1990s as the Municipal-Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) program.