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Alternatives Journal, Environment, Ontario Politics

Environmental Legislation Killed by the Ontario Election

Bill 91, Waste Reduction Act

Introduced by: Environment Minister Jim Bradley

The skinny: Calling the monopolies that oversee household hazardous waste, tire and electronic recycling “cartels,” Environment Minister Jim Bradley introduced legislation to dramatically overhaul the recycling sector in Ontario in an attempt to drive up the province’s mediocre 25 per cent waste diversion rate. For industry, that rate is an abysmal 13 per cent.

Bradley’s bill would have done away with the existing overseers and created a new entity called the Waste Reduction Authority. It would have made it easier for companies to rethink their packaging in an effort to make their products and the cost of recycling them cheaper. The bill also would have allowed for industry to pay for more than 50 per cent of the residential blue box program which they cannot do now.

The problem: Despite calls from industry to be given greater flexibility in how they process their materials, municipalities eager to offset blue box costs onto industry and recycling groups eager to see diversion rates increase, this bill died on the order paper because of Progressive Conservative opposition and nothing more.

The bill received substantial debate from September until December, 2013 before the government realized the Tories, who argued the Waste Reduction Authority was simply more red tape, were intending on calling every member of their caucus to speak in the House in order to eat up the clock.

Status: After being debated on 16 sessional days, Bill 91 didn’t even make it to committee. It died at second reading.

Bill 138, Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act

Introduced by: Environment Minister Jim Bradley

The skinny: The Liberals have been promising to eliminate coal-fired electricity generation from the province’s energy mix for a decade now, but 2013-14 finally saw the last of the dirty fossil fuel burned in Ontario coal plants.

After making the elimination of coal a cornerstone of their environmental achievements—they even had noted environmentalist Al Gore speak in Toronto on achieving the coal-free milestone—the Liberals wanted to make sure smog days in the GTA were a thing of the past.

Bill 138 would have made it illegal for future Ontario governments to burn coal to generate power without having to go through the legislature and have a full public debate on the topic. Though the Liberals would never admit it, the bill was an attempt to shore up their signature environmental gain and throw up a roadblock to any future Tory government more sympathetic to the cases made for burning coal.

The problem: This bill was never a priority. After basking in the accolades of Gore and environmentalists who cheered Ontario’s coal-free announcement, the government took advantage of the goodwill afforded them to introduce legislation to keep the province from ever sliding back into the habit of trying to lower hydro bills by burning cheaper coal at the sake of human health and the environment.

Passing the bill could have been problematic, as shoring up Tory support may have been impossible. But surely the government cared enough about protecting one of their greatest environmental accomplishments to do whatever it took to pass those protections, right?

Status: Wrong. It was never called for second reading.

Bill 167, Invasive Species Act

Introduced by: Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti

The skinny: Acting quickly is critical in the detection and eradication of invasive species, but overlap between municipal, provincial and federal regulations can seriously delay efforts from the Ministry of Natural Resources. Had it passed, Ontario would have become the first jurisdiction in Canada with stand-alone invasive species legislation.

The bill, which MNR staff began work on last summer, would give the government greater authority, including over banning particular species. It also would have strengthened the ministry’s inspection and enforcement capabilities to make sure companies and individuals comply and face stiff penalties when they don’t.

The problem: It’s a complex bill, proposing changes to numerous pieces of existing legislation while laying out how invasive species can be transported in the province and what powers MNR has to enforce the law and penalize those who break the rules. This means not only did it take a long time to draft, it would have taken a long time to debate thoroughly.

Status: It was introduced on February 26, 2014 and got a single day of second reading debate on April 8 before it, too, died on the order paper.

This article appeared previously at Alternatives Journal.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.

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