Ontario’s Environment Commissioner : Our Planning Processes (Related to Growth and Development) Are Taking Us Down The Wrong Road

Environment Commissioner of Ontario : Our Planning Processes Related To Growth and Development “Start Society Down A Path… Without…Considering Whether” We “Should Be On That Path In The First Place” (Longer Title)

This bulletin summarizes the “Remarks” of Ontario’s Environment Commissioner, Gordon Miller, given on December 4, 2007. Mr. Miller’s 2006-2007 complete report was titled “Reconciling Our Priorities”. Most of the statements made about Ontario apply to all other areas of Canada and to most areas in the world.


Major Points (Taken from Ontario Environment Commissioner’s December 4, 2007 “Remarks”) :

(1) The 2006-2007 report is called “Reconciling Our Priorities” ” because, in standing back and taking a broader view of the environmental issues related to our plans for growth and development in the province, it becomes evident that we (as the expression goes) are trying to have our cake and eat it too”.

(2) There are two parts in this report: (a) the challenge of creating sustainable communities in southern Ontario ; (b) the need for a sustainable planning system for northern Ontario.

(3) The first part of the southern Ontario analysis compares the plans for growth in southern Ontario (Greater Golden Horseshoe particularly) with the carrying capacity of the area to handle the growth. It concludes that the population projections for communities exceed the “available local water supply and the natural limits of the rivers to receive and assimilate the treated sewage”.

(4) The areas are trying to densify, but the car culture will probably result in a million more vehicles and demands for more roads. This will “consume even more of the limited green space remaining on this crowded landscape”.

(5) “Some of that threatened green space is wetlands.” The province pretends to protect these areas, but in reality, “important wetlands continue to be drained and bulldozed”.

(6) “The overall conclusion of this look at Southern Ontario planning and development is that the planning and approval processes that we use were designed for a former simpler time and are no longer adequate. They do not include an ‘a priori’ discussion of the need for any given project. Nor do they permit a similar public debate about the conflicting consumptive uses of the land versus the natural heritage priorities involved. They are weighted in favour of extractive and destructive uses of the land and they are deterministic in nature. They start society down a path toward approving a proposed undertaking without sufficiently considering whether Ontario should be on that path in the first place.”

(7) A comprehensive sustainable planning system for Northern Ontario does not even exist. Over 80% of Northern Ontario is crown land and “that land is coming under increased development pressure from expanded forestry, mining, hydroelectric projects, transmission lines and recreational uses. Yet most of the Crown Land isn’t subject to any kind of planning regime at all. My analysis concludes that the three ministries involved in the North–Natural Resources, Northern Development, and Mines, Energy and Environment–all operate in isolation with little effort to co-ordinate or integrate the impacts of their approvals and activities”.

(8) “We need to plan our use of the land and development of its resources for the socio-economic needs of the northern communities which are under so much pressure at the present time. And we also have to appreciate that the vast forests and tundra of Northern Ontario have ecological significance on a continental if not global scale, and we have an obligation to manage and sustain those ecological values.”

(9) We don’t have the necessary legislation in place and we need to reform the Public Lands Act to take care of that. Significant pieces of legislation have been enacted and indicate progress in protecting our environment and natural heritage. Strangely, however, the Ministry of the Environment “denied an application for a review of the standards governing the quality of sewage bio-solids” and approved “a new air pollution emitter in a highly urbanized area already burdened with the accumulating effects of neighbouring existing emitters”.


The above remarks are available in full at http://www.eco.on.ca/english/newsrel/2007/Remarks-annual-0607.pdf

The complete report is available at http://www.eco.on.ca/english/newsrel/2007/Annual_report-0607-FINAL-EN.pdf