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Steward's Notes

Environment, Making and Everything in Between

ECO Reports

With the impending closure of the environmental commissioner’s office it would be a great loss to loose 25 years of reporting done by Dianne Saxe, Gord Miller, Eva Ligeti and their staff. On this page you can find all of the annual reports produced by the office.


On November 13, 2018, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario released her 2018 Environmental Protection Report, Back to Basics, to the Ontario Legislature. Delivered as four individual volumes, the report calls on the provincial government to limit water pollution, commit funding towards programs that protect municipal drinking water sources, as well as increase the protection of wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife across the province.


On October 24, 2017, the Environmental Commissioner released her 2017 Environmental Protection Report, entitled Good Choices, Bad Choices: Environmental Rights and Environmental Protection in Ontario, to the Ontario Legislature. The report calls on the provincial government to make environmental justice part of its reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. From species at risk, to algae, to environmental rights, the Environmental Commissioner’s annual Environmental Protection Report highlights both environmental successes and failures. 


On October 26, 2016, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario released Volume 1 and Volume 2 of her 2015/2016 Environmental Protection Report: Small Steps Forward, to the Ontario Legislature.


In this volume the ECO makes recommendations on the Environmental Registry, The Great Lakes, bird fatalities, environmental compliance, water taking, Protected areas and species at risk


In this volume the ECO makes recommendations on pollinators, healthy soil, commercial logging in Algonquin, ministry compliance and drinking water cost recovery.


this volume the ECO makes recommendations on the transformation of the MNRF, protected areas planning, the ring of fire, invasive species, pharmaceuticals and air emissions.


In this volume the ECO makes recommendations on wind turbine fatalities, drought preparedness, wildlife monitoring, food waste, marine mammals and brook trout protection


Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner is worried that Ontario has lost momentum when it comes to the province’s pressing environmental issues. In his 2010/2011 Annual Report “Engaging Solutions”, Gord Miller says there’s no shortage of talk about the problems such as climate change, waste diversion, and the loss of biodiversity. “But when it comes to doing something” says Miller, “there doesn’t seem to be a lot actually happening.


The government is failing to follow through on all of its environmental promises, says Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller. “This government rightly prides itself on the progress it has made in passing legislation to protect the environment,” says Miller, “but actions on the ground often undermine it.” In his 2009/2010 Annual Report, Miller points to a number of cases where bureaucratic or political inaction has ended up threatening the environment and undermining the government’s stated environmental policies.


Citizen groups fighting to protect natural areas need some protection against intimidating legal tactics, warned the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in his new Annual Report, released today at Queen’s Park. As Commissioner Gord Miller noted, “The land use planning system is hugely weighted in favour of the development industry. Citizen groups wanting to protect natural heritage can face enormous legal costs at hearings; it can be a frightening prospect.”


Ontarians have grown up believing the province has a limitless supply of fresh water, and our water management laws and policies have been largely based on that belief. But there are many signs that we need to rethink how we value this essential resource. Over the past ten years, Ontario has experienced some of the driest conditions ever on record for the province.


Ontario’s plans for growth and development are not reconciled with our priorities of preserving and protecting our natural environment, warned Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). Miller, who monitors compliance by provincial ministries with the Environmental Bill of Rights, released his 2006/07 annual report, “Reconciling our Priorities,” to the Legislature.


Ontario has not yet developed a formal strategy to deal with adaptation to climate change, an approach now considered essential for ensuring that the province’s ecosystems and built environments – such as bridges, dams, sewage treatment plants, or drainage systems – will be able to withstand the effects of climate change. Projections are that the change in climate will bring more unpredictable weather, including intense rain and ice storms, heat waves and droughts, lower water levels in the Great Lakes and increased costs for cooling buildings, along with threats to the health or even survival of local plant and animal species.


The Ministry of Municipal Affairs made valuable changes to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) in 2005 to deal with urban sprawl, traffic congestion and inappropriate development, said Commissioner Miller. But because “infrastructure” is exempted from the environmental restrictions of the PPS, he explained, critical elements of Ontario’s natural environment – woodlands, wetlands, valleylands, species at risk, water quality – are not protected from aggregate extraction, utility corridors, or highway construction.


This year, I am happy to report that there has been progress in some of the areas that I have highlighted in previous ECO reports. There has been improvement in the monitoring of aquatic ecosystems by the Ministry of the Environment. Wolf and coyote hunting in the townships surrounding Algonquin Park has ended. People applied to have the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act prescribed for reviews under the EBR – and that has been done. The Kawartha Highlands Signature Site has been created. This is the first provincial park in Ontario that has ecological integrity as its legal priority. And the recently announced Five-Point Plan for Cleaner Air could address many of my concerns relating to air quality.


With that caveat, I am presenting a report today entitled “Thinking Beyond the Near and Now.” The title is both a challenge to and caution for the Legislative Assembly. Perhaps understandably, we as a society seem to be very much in reactive mode these days, and that’s reflected in our response to environmental decision-making. Short-term concerns dominate our thoughts and actions, while the far-ranging or long-term consequences are not given much serious attention.


“What’s most frustrating is that Ontario has made international, national and provincial commitments to conserve biodiversity, and those commitments are being completely ignored,” said Miller, who monitors compliance by provincial ministries with the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). He called on the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to develop a provincial biodiversity strategy before Ontario faces a major crisis in this area.


“Having regard” to Provincial Policy Statements includes having regard to the capability of land to support the demands being placed on it. Provincial ministries and agencies involved in land use planning must recognize there are limits to the growth and development that can be placed on Ontario’s landscape beyond which there will be serious damage to basic ecological processes.


Many of Ontario’s environmental problems are due to the failure of provincial ministries to look at environmental issues from an ecosystem perspective. In the report, Commissioner Miller urges provincial ministries to keep in mind the larger context of environmental problems, before they become issues of significant concern.


“My 1998 Report has many examples of how people used the EBR to slow the decline of environmental health and protection in Ontario,” Ligeti said today at a news conference held at Queen’s Park. “However, the province has not used the tools it has available to achieve environmental goals. In fact, the Report documents the decline of Ontario’s capacity to protect the environment.”


I regret to report that in the past year there has been little substantive improvement in the actions taken by provincial ministries toward protecting the environment,” Ligeti said at a news conference held today at Queen’s Park. Her 1997 annual report shows the results of three years of budget cuts by the provincial government, the commissioner added.


Hasty cutbacks, many of which were made behind closed doors, and a lack of environmental vision marked ministries’ agenda in 1996, says Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Eva Ligeti, in her 1996 annual report. The Commissioner submitted the report, titled “Keep The Doors Open To Better Environmental Decision Making”, at 9 a.m. this morning to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.


This report is the beginning of my examination of the stated environmental values of Ontario ministries, and how they are reflected in laws, policies and practices. We are starting to appreciate the full dimension of the relationship between the environment and other social, economic and scientific factors,” said Commissioner Ligeti. “The Environmental Bill of Rights recognizes the connections among these factors and insists that government honour them when it makes decisions that affect environmental quality. It’s my job to make sure these connections are honoured.”