Lack of public consultation undermined purposes of Environmental Bill of Rights: auditor general
In her 2021 audit report entitled, “Operation of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993,” Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that some Ontario government ministries had undermined the purposes of the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) in their failure to consult the public about matters which carried a significant environmental impact.
Since 2019, the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario has been responsible for reporting annually on the operation of the EBR, including the public use of environmental rights and government compliance with the EBR. It also reports whether government decisions are consistent with the EBR.
The report cited some cases in which some Ontario ministries avoided consulting the public on decisions impacting the environment which were subject to the EBR.
In one case, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Park had avoided consulting the public on major amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act and the Conservation Authorities Act. The ministry did not keep the environmental registry updated with changes related to the EBR.
In another case, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing had failed to consult the public on amendments to the Planning Act that enhanced the minister’s power to issue zoning orders.
The report further revealed that the lack of staff training and supervision contributed to the ministries’ continued non-compliance with and ineffective implementation of the EBR. In addition, some ministries did not provide outreach educational programs to the public about their rights under the EBR.
“These findings point to a lack of commitment by prescribed ministries to not only meet the EBR requirements in a technical way, but also consistently meet those requirements in a manner that achieves the purposes of the EBR and respects Ontarians’ rights,” said in Lysyk the report.
“In our 2020 report, we recommended that. . . the cabinet secretary incorporate compliance with the EBR into the annual performance reviews of the deputy ministers; we will follow up on this recommendation in 2022,” Lysyk added.