Dalton McGuinty is Ontario’s greenest Premier, and his government has a strong environmental record (especially in contrast to our federal government!) But environmental groups are raising concerns about Bill 55, the proposed Strong Action for Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2012. Bill 55 amends numerous statutes, including 11 environmental (or related) laws. Because these amendments form part of a bill that is intended to give effect to the provincial budget, the proposed changes are exempted from the mandatory public participation provisions under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR, section 33).
In his most recent Annual Report, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario was critical of the government’s continued use of omnibus legislation to amend various environmental statutes. At best, using omnibus legislation to amend environmental laws complicates the EBR process. At worst, it can obstruct the public’s right to participate in environmental decision making.
Ecojustice CELA Legal Analysis re Bill 55 (Budget 2012) is an analysis of Bill 55 by Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ecojustice Canada. CELA and Ecojustice are concerned that some of the proposed amendments have the potential to cause environmentally significant impacts with reduced public participation.
Bill 55 will not be debated on Tuesday (when the Budget Motion is tabled for debate and decision). As long as the government does not fall as a result of the budget debate and vote, Bill 55 will go through the usual legislative process and there will be an opportunity to make submissions on desired amendments.