One year ago today, the Ford government was elected in Ontario. We look back at some of the worst cuts and the growing resistance from people fighting to protect our environment.
Bulldozed Land & Species Protection
The Royal Assent (passage) of Bill 108 on June 6th, 2019 includes a number of potentially devastating impacts to the environment to satisfy profit-seeking developers. Conservation authorities may have less authority to protect the people and properties in a watershed from poorly planned developments (which could lead to more flooding) and developers could “pay to slay” endangered species found on land that would otherwise be protected. Some major developments like mines, transit, and real estate could become exempt from environmental assessments, which are in place to identify risks to human health, animals and plants, air quality and water quality (to name a few). TEA was part of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance’s submission to speak out against the environmental impacts. As a member of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, we also spoke out against what Bill 108 might take away from communities such as affordable housing, parkland and ability to oppose or negotiate where & how developments get built in our city.
Eliminated the Toxics Reduction Act
In the midst of reducing other worker protections, the government also eliminated the Toxics Reduction Act, which required toxic chemical reporting and the development of toxics reduction plans at industrial facilities. The Ford government also eliminated the ability to develop ‘right to know’ labeling so that people know about the toxic ingredients in consumer products. A recent City staff report back on the impacts of Bill 66 in Toronto confirmed that the elimination of the Toxics Reduction Act could harm public health since we will lose our right to know about the use, creation and air pollution caused from 324 toxic chemicals and the companies will no longer be required to create plans to reduce or eliminate these toxic chemicals.
Scrapped Ontario’s Climate Action Plan
Ontario’s Climate Action Plan and the Cap and Trade Program were both scrapped, which caused immediate cancellation of climate programs across Ontario and a giant gap in revenues to fund climate action. TEA, along with many other organizations, had funding canceled mid-way through projects to achieve greenhouse gas reductions. The Made in Ontario Environment Plan that replaced the Climate Action Plan failed to adequately address Ontario’s contribution to climate change and actually intends to emit 30 megatonnes more in emissions by 2030 than the previous climate action plan. TEA appeared before a government hearing to speak about the climate action plan and the harm cutting it would cause. Read more here.
Axed the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
In November 2018, along with the Child Advocate, the Ford government scrapped the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario - the official environmental watchdog of Ontario. In her last report to the legislature, Dianne Saxe did not mince words and called the government’s replacement plan for climate action “very inadequate”.
Cut Toronto City Council in half in the middle of an election period
This immediately changed the decision-making process. This caused chaos in Toronto’s election, and afterward, required a complete redesign of Toronto’s governance structures. TEA spoke out against this anti-democratic attack on Toronto and drew attention to the ways in which it could ultimately harm civic engagement and our environment.
But with all of the cuts that have been made, municipal push back, community organizing and advocacy have helped to stop some of them:
Bill 4 - Cap & Trade court battles
The Ford government spent $30 million in taxpayer dollars taking the Federal Government to court to challenge the introduction of carbon pricing in Ontario, and they are going to lose. Saskatchewan recently lost the exact same court battle and now that the hearings are over, Ontario is just waiting for the final decision. Ecojustice and Greenpeace Canada took the Provincial government to court for illegally canceling the Cap and Trade Program, and they won. The government may have won the election, but the public is winning in court.
Bill 66 - Hands off Ontario’s Greenbelt
By opposing key parts of Bill 66, Toronto City Council sent a clear message to Torontonians and provincial representatives that our city can and will push back. Toronto City Council passed a motion to show their opposition to Schedules 3,5,9 and 10 of Bill 66 that posed harm to the environment and human health.
Schedule 10, which would have eroded clean water and Greenbelt protections to make way for more development was removed from Bill 66. This victory would not have happened without the province-wide campaign that brought together local environmental organizations, conservation groups, communities, and farmers. TEA was one of many organizations that spoke out against Bill 66 through our engagement with City Councillors and submissions to the Provincial government in coalition with the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
2019 Ontario Budget - Public Health Cuts
On May 27th, the Ford government announced they would back down from a retroactive $178 million dollar cut to Toronto’s 2019 budget, $65 million of which would have been cut to Toronto Public Health. Many organizations and residents across Toronto spoke out against the harm these budget cuts would cause. They signed petitions, called their elected officials, and protested. There are many reasons to protect Toronto Public Health from budget cuts but one role they play that is often overlooked is their environmental health policies that reduce our exposure to toxic pollution. Read more in the blog TEA wrote when the cuts were announced.
Municipalities and people across Ontario, including Toronto, must continue voicing their opposition to hasty and harmful bills, like Bill 66 & Bill 108, which put the needs of powerful lobbyists ahead of the public good.