Sierra Club of Canada: 1996 Rio Report Card

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1993 Grade: -

1994 Grade: -

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: F

The budget cutting of the government of Premier Mike Harris gives Ontario the new distinction of being the most environmentally regressive of any government in the country.

The number of initiatives which seriously jeopardises biodiversity is difficult to even list in report card format. They include: allowing the de-listing and sale of the 300,000 acres of Conservation Authority lands, the removal of requirements for permits before logging or road building on public lands, the opening of Temagami once again to both logging and mining, and the lay off of 2,170 people over the next two years from the Ministry of Natural Resources, with a plan to allow the forest industry to monitor itself. Furthermore, according to analysis by the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, changes in wildlife management in the Ministry of Natural Resources suggest that the government is abandoning any consideration of biodiversity in forest management. The government also made sweeping changes in Bill 20 (The Land Use Planning and Protection Act). These changes would reduce protection for important ecosystems across the province, from wetlands to critical wildlife habitat, to forests.

Cuts to the Niagara Escarpment Commission also threaten the ecological integrity and biodiversity of this provincial icon. Funding to Algonquin Park has also been cut by one quarter.

The Harris government has yet to act to finalize the protection of the Wabakimi Protected Area, for which we gave the provincial government credit last year. This nearly 900,000-hectare wilderness area is an essential element of recovery of the endangered woodland caribou.

None of these initiatives were part of the campaign mandate of the Progressive Conservatives. Our concern is that the drastic and ill conceived moves of this government will prove to be irreversible. Biodiversity, wilderness, and important ecological values could be lost forever.


Ontario - Climate Change

1993 Grade: D 1994 Grade: C 1995 Grade: C+ 1996 Grade: F

Carbon dioxide emissions (kilotonnes)
1990: 147,282
1994: 142,040
Decrease: 3.6 %

Decreases in power production emissions from 25,935 in 1990 to 15,949 in 1994 because of Darlington, and industrial and cement reductions obscure increases in emissions in:

kilotonnes 1990 1994
Residential 16,452 19,298
Commercial 8,398 9,572
Light-duty trucks 6,719 8,679

And this is the province considering LOWERING efficiency requirements in building codes!

Ontario, with its Common Sense Revolution, now rivals Alberta for backwardness. The two provinces now can share more than political ideology, they both get an F.

A report prepared by the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP) on the impact of the Common Sense Revolution on Ontario's environment1, had this to say about Energy and Land Use policy impacts:


"The 'Common Sense Revolution's' only reference to energy issues was a commitment to a 5-year rate freeze for Ontario Hydro (announced Oct.3, 1995). However, once in office, government has eliminated virtually all of the Ministry of Environment and Energy's energy research and efficiency programs.

"In addition, there have been major reductions in the budget of the Ontario Energy Board. There have also been moves to de-regulate the activities of Ontario's gas utilities, including proposals to permit utilities to use consumer gas rates to cross-subsidize their non-natural gas supply related business activities."

The Ontario Government also is considering privitization and increased competition in the electricity market. The MacDonald Commission released its report June 6, 1996 recommending privitization of Hydro's fossil fuel plants and most of its hydro generation. While the Government has not yet committed to implementing the recommendations, greater competition could increase the incentive to extend the life of coal plants, increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ontario budget cuts include: Energy conservation grants, cutting $700,000; for 1996/97, Green Communities (a residential retrofit program) cut by $1.7 million; home green-ups cut by $8.4 million; energy education, training, standards development and conservation cut by $1.2 million and the Ontario Energy Board by $0.5 million.

The Ministry of Housing released "Back to Basics" in January, 1996 focusing on streamlining and simplifying the Building Code. Key directions:

  1. set only minimum standards for health and safety
  2. reduce or eliminate energy efficiency and environmental standards in the Building Code; and
  3. reduce construction costs; harmonization with National Building Code.

If implemented, these changes would result in higher energy costs for consumers and more energy-related pollution.

Changes to Bill 20, the Land-Use Planning and Protection Act will remove protections for ecologically sensitive land and encourage urban sprawl, a key factor in growing greenhouse gas emissions from homes and vehicles. Also according to the CIELAP report, "major reductions in the Ministry of Natural Resources budget for forest managment, seem likely to virtually eliminate provincial oversight and management of Ontario's public forests. Little consideration seems likely to be given to non-timber values, such as biodiversity conservation, (or carbon sinks) in the management of Ontario's forests. In addition, major reductions have been made in budgets for forestry research and the monitoring of forest conditions, and for public consultation in forest management. Responsibility for ensuring that Ontario's forests are managed sustainably will rest almost entirely with the forest industry.

The Ontario Government announced June 5, 1996 that it was cutting support for public transit capital projects by 25 per cent. Municipalities will now be responsible for funding 50 per cent of public transit capital spending. These cuts are in addition to that already announced for fiscal 1995/96: $42 million from the rapid transit budget, and $15 million from GO transit, and deferral of new GO Transit commuter rail services. Municipal road spending cut - a good thing - by $74 million; provincial highway and other Ministry of Transport initiatives cut $69 million BUT commitments were made to $100 million in funding for the Red Hill Creek Expressway in Hamilton-Wentworth and for the completion of Highway 416 between Ottawa and Highway 401.

21 - The Common Sense Revolution and Ontario's Environment: An Interim Report, prepared by Mark Winfield, PH.D., and Greg Jenish, April 22, 1996.

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