Ontario’s post-COVID economic recovery bill: a big miss for a green and just recovery

Toronto – In an enormous piece of legislation, tabled this week as Bill 197, the Ontario government proposes changes to over eleven laws, many of them directly affecting the health of our communities and environment. While the stated intent of the bill is a pandemic economic recovery, it largely ignores worldwide calls for a green and just recovery.

Instead, the bill includes a smorgasbord of environmental deregulation. In particular, the bill removes numerous safeguards to ensure procedural fairness for involvement in environmental decisions that affect the public.

Legal staff at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) are analyzing the bill and will make detailed comments. “Our initial reaction is disappointment and discouragement, although the bill contains some measures we can support,” stated Theresa McClenaghan, CELA Executive Director and Counsel.

“While this government admirably recognized the importance of science-based responses to the pandemic, it is out of step with public sentiment by not applying the same science-based approach to its pandemic economic recovery effort and confronting the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss,” McClenaghan added. “For the most part, the proposed changes serve to speed up development at the expense of environmental protection and public participation rights,” she added.

“Further, the many procedural and public participation rights could have greater impact in low income and vulnerable communities, the same people that are already disproportionately affected by the pandemic and by existing or proposed activities with environmental impacts,” she added.

“If enacted, Bill 197 has the potential to weaken numerous environmental and public health protections in Ontario through changes to the Environmental Assessment Act, the Planning Act, the Drainage Act, the Building Code Act, and many other laws,” noted CELA Counsel Richard Lindgren.

“In tabling this omnibus bill the Province has provided no justification for removing multiple legal accountability and public participation mechanisms to achieve a post-COVID economic recovery,” Lindgren added. “Moreover, a common theme across many of these proposed changes is to remove this accountability by placing new and broad discretionary powers in the hands of individual Ministers.”

CELA’s detailed review of Bill 197 will be posted to our website soon.

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For more information:

Additional background on changes proposed to specific laws

  • For interviews, please contact:
    Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel theresa@cela.ca (regarding changes to the Development Charges Act)
  • Richard Lindgren, CELA Counsel 613-385-1686 (regarding changes to the Environmental Assessment Act)
  • Ramani Nadarajah, CELA Counsel, ramani@cela.ca (regarding changes to the Planning Act, Ministerial Zoning Orders)
  • Anastasia Lintner, CELA Counsel, anastasia@cela.ca (regarding changes to the Drainage Act)
  • Kerrie Blaise, CELA Counsel, kerrie@cela.ca (regarding changes to the Building Code Act)