March 2017 Bulletin

(Photo credit: Francis Mariani/Flickr)

 News & Activities

Electricity bill reductions for low-income Ontarians

CELA is a founding member of the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN). We were pleased that the Ontario Fair Hydro Plan will provide households with an average 25 per cent reduction on their electricity costs, while low-income, northern and rural households will receive an even bigger reduction. Under the enhanced Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP), low-income families will benefit from a 50 per cent increase in the monthly on-bill credits. In addition, the OESP credit will be available to more households.

Agriculture Committee meddles with pesticides approval process

CELA and other leading environmental groups, health advocates and campaign movements issued a joint media release to raise concerns about MPs’ one-sided review of the proposed phase-out of pesticides formulated with imidacloprid, one of three controversial neonicotinoid insecticides in widespread use. Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) proposed the phase-out due to diverse impacts in freshwater and marine ecosystems as well as impacts in terrestrial ecosystems. The Commons Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food sought to extend the comment period so they could hear from the pesticides industry. In response to our media release, this one-sided review was expanded, last minute, to include two environmental groups. CELA’s senior researcher Kathleen Cooper blogged about this activity, noting that it was unusual, inappropriate, and smacked of political interference. CELA also provided comments on the PMRA proposal, expressing our strong support for the proposed phase-out and recommending that the three to five-year time horizon be reduced.

Urging Wal-Mart Canada to limit toxics in products

CELA and the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada urged Wal-Mart Canada to adopt the same approach to product safety as instituted by Wal-Mart in the United States to reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals of concern from the personal care, paper, cleaning, pet and baby products it sells. This policy is reported to impact roughly 90,000 items made by 700 companies. In April 2016, Walmart reported it had achieved a 95 per cent reduction, by volume, in use of a list of “high-priority chemicals” from certain products sold in U.S. locations. It also stated that use of a broader list of priority chemicals decreased by 45 per cent.

Strengthening Canada’s position on upcoming international meetings on chemical agreements

CELA made a submission to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change with recommendations on Canada’s position for the upcoming international meetings of Parties to key chemicals agreements to the Stockholm, Basel, and Rotterdam Conventions which takes place in April in Geneva, Switzerland. We suggested that public engagement should be strengthened and the Ministry add additional substances to the limitation list. We further suggested the Ministry commit to reviewing and reconsidering its position on pentachlorophenol (PCP), considering there are safe and economically viable non-chemical alternatives. We also joined with other organizations to urge the Minister to take action on the listing of chrysotile asbestos during the COP.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Encouraging Radon Policy Advocacy in the Child Care Sector

CELA has prepared a briefing note for child care sector leaders on policy measures to achieve better radon protection in the child care sector. The briefing note and associated radon fact sheet will be discussed with child care leaders in a pilot project taking place in British Columbia this week. The briefing note discusses four policy areas that child care professionals can consider for law reform or better implementation in order to increase radon protection in child care facilities across Canada.

CELA retained by residents in landfill case

CELA has been retained by a residents' group opposed to the establishment of a proposed landfill in southeastern Ontario. In the 1990s, several municipalities jointly initiated an environmental assessment process that ultimately resulted in the 1998 issuance of approvals under the Environmental Assessment Act and Environmental Protection Act for a new landfill site known as ED-19. However, the landfill was never constructed over the past two decades. The two approvals remain unused and unchanged, and CELA's client is concerned that the landfill site may be sold to a private waste disposal company.

Raising concerns about Naturally Resilient strategy

CELA expressed our concerns with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) about its "Naturally Resilient: MNRF’s Natural Resource Climate Adaptation Strategy (2017- 2021)". We requested that the public consultation be halted, the Environmental Registry notice be withdrawn, and the Ministry reconsider their approach to the proposal. While CELA applauds the Ministry’s efforts to embed climate change adaptation into their areas of operation, the current proposal does not meet that goal. We are disappointed that nothing in Naturally Resilient reflects the detailed recommendations of the Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation, particularly with respect to water resources.

(Photo credit: Indigo Skies Photography/Flickr)

CELA’s lead in drinking water webinar now online

CELA hosted a 45-minute webinar examining Ontario’s response to lead in drinking water. Presenters included CELA executive director Theresa McClenaghan and speakers from the Drinking Water Management Division (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change) and the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council. (The accompanying PowerPoint presentation is also available.)

Restoring fish habitat protection

The federal Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recently released its much-anticipated report on how to update and strengthen Canada's Fisheries Act. Among other things, the Committee strongly criticizes the previous government's amendments to the legislation in 2012, including the ill-advised removal of the Act's long-standing prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat. The Committee correctly concludes that the preexisting HADD prohibition should be restored, and the report contains 32 recommendations intended to improve the Fisheries Act, particularly in relation to monitoring, compliance, enforcement, and public participation.

(Photo credit: Russ Allison Loar/Flickr)

Open letter to Trade Ministers in Chile

CELA, along with over 200 organizations from around the world, sent an open letter to a Trade Ministers Meeting that took place in Chile in March. "It is clear that the withdrawal of the United States means that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as previously negotiated is dead. As representatives of many millions of people in a wide range of unions, civil society groups and social movements, we believe that the TPP text, negotiated in secret, served the interests of large corporations at the expense of governments’ rights to regulate in the public interest and of our fundamental rights as citizens,” the letter stated. The letter urged the trade ministers not to use TPP rules as a model for future trade negotiations.

CELA critiques federal government paper on CEPA reform

On March 21st, CELA filed with the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development a critique of the federal government's proposals to reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The critique, the ninth CELA submission on CEPA reform filed with the Standing Committee since May 2016, concluded that while a number of the federal government's suggestions would improve the overall effectiveness of the Act, others only constituted limited improvements to the existing Act, and still others were a step in the wrong direction. Federal government suggestions falling in the last category included allowing the manufacture or import of a substance into Canada while data remained outstanding. CELA argued that this federal government suggestion was reminiscent of the problematic conditional registration program under federal pesticides law that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development severely criticized in 2015. The Standing Committee has been examining the CEPA, 1999 with a view to its reform since March 2016.

Upcoming Events

Ontario Climate Consortium's annual symposium (May 12)

The theme of this year's Ontario Climate Symposium, "Just Transformations: The Next 150", aims to engage discussions across research disciplines and policy and practice communities about the future of Ontario’s society and economy as we collectively address climate change through mitigation and adaptation strategies. CELA Counsel Barbora Grochalova will be speaking as part of a panel on "Addressing Challenges Faced by Low-Income Communities." More details here.

Low-Income Energy Network AGM in Kingston (May 17)

The LIEN Annual General Meeting will be hosted on May 17th in Kingston, Ontario, by the Sisters of Providence of St Vincent de Paul. This year’s theme is Shedding Light on Ontario’s Energy Sector. Each year LIEN’s annual meeting provides an energy literacy opportunity helping to build knowledge and insight of essential energy issues. It empowers low-income communities by giving them the tools to engage more effectively with policymakers on energy issues. More details here.

CELA Spotlight: Kerrie Blaise

This month we caught up with Kerrie Blaise, a junior counsel with CELA.

What do you do at CELA?

For me, a day in the life at CELA can involve projects about water and its protection, nuclear power plants and their emergency response plans, and pipelines and their proposed approval or reform. Most recently, I began collaborating with First Nations in Southern Ontario to devise a legal framework to protect source water and alleviate threats. This spring, I will be in New Brunswick presenting before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, underscoring the need for greater emergency response plans for the public living around nuclear generation stations. And, I’ve been involved in the ongoing review of the National Energy Board and will be submitting CELA’s comments on reform and ways forward in the very near future (stay tuned!).

What brought you to CELA?

CELA is highly regarded in the field of environmental law and therefore after articling with the Ministry of the Attorney General, Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario, I was exceptionally honoured to join the team. The path that brought me to CELA started years ago, first as a dedicated volunteer with many environmental non-profits and then, as a graduate student in environmental studies, living overseas and studying marine protection and energy regulation. After graduating with an MSc from the University of Edinburgh, I pursued a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and UBC, in their clinical environmental law program.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law?

For me, environmental law came as a natural progression resulting from years of environmental campaign work and an education in environmental studies. From working with the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition to save Canada’s spirit bear to collecting data on waterbirds (while sitting in a blind with a colony of 30,000 birds), I gained an acute passion for wilderness. I am very solution-oriented by nature and law, with its grounding in research and meticulous review, provided me with the foundation to propose solutions and contribute to ways forward.

What is the most important thing you've learned from working at CELA so far?

Dedication and hope: CELA has been in existence for nearly 50 years and with that, they have not only witnessed the wax and waning of our environmental laws, but the changing state of the physical environment. I have learned at CELA that through the dedication of many individuals and collective action over decades, positive change is indeed achievable.

When you’re not at CELA, what do you like to do?

I love discovering new ecosystems and find new plant and animal life so intriguing. I’m an avid kayaker, and also a violinist who can be found playing J.S. Bach when I need to focus my mind!