December 2016 Bulletin

The Board and staff at CELA extend warm holiday greetings to all of our Bulletin subscribers!
We wish you all a green and peaceful new year.

Federal government anounces plan to ban asbestos

The federal government announced that it will ban asbestos use by 2018. The long-awaited measure will protect the health and safety of Canadians and is expected to eventually reduce the rate of asbestos-related diseases. Although CELA and other groups expressed their support for the announcement, they also noted their expectation for additional federal work needed to fully achieve protection from asbestos for all Canadians. “The federal announcement to ban asbestos in Canada comes at a crucial time as the health data confirm that deaths from asbestos-related diseases have continued to increase in Canada,” says CELA researcher Fe de Leon. The announcement comes just after more than 60 health, labour, and environmental organizations as well as 50 individuals urged Prime Minister Trudeau to ban asbestos and establish an expert review panel to address ongoing challenges associated with nation-wide asbestos management and disposal.

Reviewing the OMB for land use planning

The Ontario government is currently reviewing the role of the Ontario Municipal Board in the province’s land use planning system. Under the Planning Act, the Board holds public hearings and renders legally binding decisions in relation to appeals brought against various municipal or provincial decisions. CELA's submission to the Ontario government concludes that the Board should continue to exercise its current appellate jurisdiction, but identifies several key reforms which would enhance citizen participation in Board hearings.

Auditor General slams outdated EA Act

In the wake of the damning report by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk in which she directed harsh criticism at the province’s environmental assessment (EA) program, environmental organizations are encouraged by Environmental Minister Glenn Murray’s commitment for ‘substantive reforms’ to modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment process.

The Great Lakes need great laws

CELA endorsed a submission on the Standing Committee’s review of changes to the Fisheries Act in the context of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The submission is endorsed by 11 Great Lakes non-government organizations, including four U.S.-based groups interested in a strong Canadian Fisheries Act. The recommendations to the Standing Committee included restoring habitat and fish protections, strengthening protections for fish and fish habitat, and ensuring healthy aquatic ecosystems, among several others.

Ontarians strongly support Environmental Rights

In a recent Nanos public opinion poll, Ontarians expressed overwhelming support for stronger environmental rights and more effective governmental action to protect the environment. This public support comes as numerous residents and groups are calling upon the provincial government to amend Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) to include a substantive right to a healthy environment. It is anticipated that the government will release its proposals for EBR reform in early 2017.

Ontario proposes much-needed radon reforms to Building Code

CELA joined the Lung Association (Ontario) in commenting on proposed revisions Ontario’s Building Code currently being undertaken by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. If enacted, Ontario will finally catch up to most other provinces with strong radon protection measures. In addition to harmonizing the Ontario Building Code with the National Building Code, proposed changes would mandate post-occupancy radon testing and make Ontario a North American leader in radon mitigation. CELA strongly supports these reforms.

Expressing concerns with the Aggregate Resources and Mining Act

CELA partnered with Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence to express our disappointment with Schedule 1 of Bill 39 - Aggregate Resources and Mining Modernization Act, 2016. After more than four years of consultations, it fails to deliver the changes needed to address the environmental and social impacts arising from aggregate extraction in Ontario. The proposed amendments fall far short of the expectations created by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry when it released its A Blueprint For Change in 2015. We outlined our concerns and made several suggestions to strengthen proposed changes to the Act.

Celebrating the Pan-Canadian Framework

CELA was heartened to see that the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change released on December 9th includes recognition of the role of natural green infrastructure in responding to climate change threats. We urged PM Trudeau and the Premiers to recognize Canada’s role--especially in regards to its terrestrial and marine ecosystems-- in reducing emissions, and helping all species adapt to a changing climate. The Paris Agreement on climate change specifically states that parties should act to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, which refers to forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems.

Disconnected customers get winter relief

The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) welcomes Hydro One’s announcement that it is restoring electricity service to all residential customers who are currently living without power due to bill payment arrears. Hydro One advises that they will be reaching out to each of these 1,425 customers to assist them in addressing the financial difficulties that led to their loss of service.

BLOG: Auditor General emphasizes EA Reform

Ontario’s Auditor General has recently released her 2016 report, which deals with climate change, environmental approvals reform and other key challenges facing the provincial government. Arguably, the most welcome component of the 2016 Report is Chapter 3.06, which reviews and endorses long-standing concerns raised by CELA, other stakeholders and the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario about the continuing inadequacy of Ontario’s environmental assessment (EA) program, explains CELA counsel Rick Lindgren in this blog post.