Media Release

Environmental Commissioner's Office Not to be Touched: Minister

Sep 22 1999

Toronto. In the wake of reports that the Harris government is considering amalgamating the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario with the office of the Ombudsman, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Wildlands League, Canadian Auto Workers, Pollution Probe and almost 50 other environmentally concerned groups issued a letter on September 10, 1999. They called on the government to provide the public with its assurance that the Environmental Commissioner's Office would not be amalgamated with the Ombudsman's office.The groups told Premier Harris and the Minister of Environment that a move by the government to omit this independent officer or to amalgamate the position with another office would send a clear signal that the government gives environmental issues low priority and that the functions of the Environmental Commissioner's Office were being down-graded by the government.On September 20, 1999, Tony Clement, Minister of Environment, in a meeting with Canadian Environmental Law Association stated that the Environmental Commissioner's Office "is not going to be dismantled, is not going to be merged with any other office and is not going to be radically altered in any way" by his government.The Minister stated that the government is in the process of seeking a high quality candidate for the position of Environmental Commissioner, and that it would be following an all-party process in the appointment of the new Commissioner, by the end of the current three-month appointment held by retired senior environment ministry civil servant Ivy Wile. The Minister stated that he will be at arm's length from the appointment process because the Commissioner's role includes scrutiny of his performance. The Minister acknowledged the important role of the Commissioner, including her review of his Ministry and his government's compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights."Perhaps this is a turning point in the government's heretofore dismal record on the environment," said Paul Muldoon, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Wildlands League Executive Director Tim Gray noted the importance of the process by which the new commissioner will be appointed. "We look forward to an independent, credible appointment of a non-partisan Commissioner dedicated to and specialized in environmental protection" he said.- 30 -For more information:Canadian Environmental Law Association:Paul Muldoon, Executive Director(416) 960-2284 or (416) 564-6397 (cell)Theresa McClenaghan, Counsel, (416) 960-2284 or (519)751-9873 (cell)Wildlands League:Tim Gray, Executive Director, 416-971-9453