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PostPosted: November 15th, 2018, 10:17 am 
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Doug Ford's economic statement will be released this afternoon at about 1:15 with billions in cuts being planned. CBC is reporting that insider leaks suggest that the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario may be eliminated or cut. The previous ECO Gord Miller recommended that logging in Algonquin Park be phased out, along with other recommendations to protect parks and natural areas. The new ECO Dianne Saxe released a report yesterday detailing measures needed to protect and restore water, rivers, wetlands and forests.

Ontario's ECO oversees the province's Environmental Bill of Rights which ensures that public consultation is made available, residents can comment on proposed legislation and policy.

Ford's campaign included promises made for parks and waterways, the new measures and cuts being taken today might be worth a listen.



Quote:
Ontario's Finance Minister Vic Fedeli is poised to eliminate at least two provincial watchdog positions on Thursday as the Ford government launches its cost-cutting drive, CBC News has learned.

Fedeli is scheduled to deliver the fall economic statement, the first budget document under Premier Doug Ford, on Thursday afternoon. It will unveil the PCs' short-term plans for spending restraint in the face of what Fedeli says is a $15 billion deficit inherited from the previous Liberal government.

...

Three sources also tell CBC News that the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is facing cuts. Two of those officials said the position of environmental commissioner will be eliminated, while the third government source said that is not entirely accurate.

The environmental commissioner has a mandate to monitor the government's compliance with provincial environmental laws, including Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights, and to report annually on the government's progress toward its greenhouse gas reduction targets. The current commissioner is Dianne Saxe, a former environmental lawyer, appointed in 2015.



https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ ... -1.4904632

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PostPosted: November 16th, 2018, 8:18 am 
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Yesterday's news reports stated that the ECO's position will indeed be eliminated with the environmental watchdog duties being taken over by the Auditor General. It remains to be seen how public consultation and individual rights to voice environmental complaints will be carried out, since there is now nobody responsible for overseeing complaints.

The finance minister commented during interviews that this is only the beginning when it comes to making government more efficient (that means cuts to services) and "we will all need to make a sacrifices" with cost-cutting announcements coming from individual ministries between now and the new budget due about March-April next year.

Something that was not announced yesterday was the fate of Ontario Place in the news this morning... rather than being made a public-access waterfront park, it seems more likely now that it will be sold off to private ownership in the interest of bringing in land sale money to government. A more lucrative waterfront casino may be the result of park privatization, although the Toronto mayor is against it.

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PostPosted: November 16th, 2018, 8:50 am 
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Eliminating the ECO's office is bad news.

My bigger concern is that the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) will be abolished as well. The EBR gives us rights and tools to know about upcoming threats to the environment and to add our voice before a project can be started.

If that's the case, here are the rights we will lose, by the stroke of the pen....

Quote:
The EBR gives citizens the right, under specific circumstances:
    *to be notified and to comment on environmentally significant government proposals, using the Environmental Registry;
    * to ask a ministry to review a law or to investigate harm to the environment
    * to appeal a ministry decision
    * to sue for harm to a public resource
    * to sue for public nuisance causing environmental harm
    * to be protected from employer reprisals for using the above rights.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environme ... _of_Rights

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PostPosted: November 16th, 2018, 9:45 am 
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Hi Erhard, good to hear from you... I've missed your posts.

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PostPosted: November 22nd, 2018, 8:51 am 
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The soon-to-be-eliminated ECO presents the recommendations of the recent 2018 report to the press... deals with water and natural areas, describing losses to water quality, wetlands, forests, and wildlife. In spite of a wetlands protection act introduced during the early nineties, the Ontario government continues to allow losses and subsidizes development in these areas. The need for an EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) is covered, as well as the disconnect between what's been monitored and what's being done (ie. lots of paper and legislation in the office and not much on the ground).



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4thvtwrT1k

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2018, 12:08 pm 
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According to this source, Ontario residents will no longer have the right to ask an independent, unbiased authority for environmental review... instead appeals for review will now be redirected to the minister's office (not the Auditor-General where Doug Ford has repositioned the former ECO's duties).

The staff in the ministry may argue that they will review appeals objectively, but as anybody knows, there are political forces at work with an agenda and unbiased oversight probably doesn't exist. Unlike the soon-to-be-eliminated ECO who did not have to answer to the political body currently in power.

https://tvo.org/article/current-affairs ... -important

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2018, 2:40 pm 
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According to the info Erhard posted, the previous situation only gave the right "to ask a ministry to review a law or to investigate harm to the environment" as opposed to creating any obligation for the ministry to be forced to do a review. In that context it isn't clear that there has been any meaningful change in the situation.

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2018, 3:10 pm 
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Not sure I follow what it is you're commenting on... Wikipedias can be written by anybody on the internet and aren't necessarily accurate. In neither instance, previous or current, can the ministry be forced into a review. The change going on now with the Ford administration's new bill is there will be no unbiased and independent ECO to oversee that the EBR is carried out fairly and without political bias. The ECO was responsible to the legislative assembly only and did not answer to Doug Ford or any minister... an independent overseer of the EBR without any political ties or influence.

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2018, 3:29 pm 
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While the ECO being "independent" (although they are never truly independent as someone still controlled who was appointed to the position) was a nice thing from a public visibility standpoint, I have yet to see anything that shows the ECO had any real power.

For example, I haven't seen anything to suggest that the ECO could *force* a Ministry to undertake, or reopen, or expand an environmental review. Nor have I seen anything that said the ECO could over turn an approval if they felt an environmental review was incomplete, inaccurate, or being ignored.

Can you point me to a source that you consider reliable that shows that the ECO had real power to do anything? Other than from a PR perspective, does the elimination of the ECO position have any material impact?

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2018, 4:45 pm 
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The ECO helps ordinary Ontarians ensure that government is carrying on in an environmentally responsible manner by assisting with EBR requests to review laws and policy, by providing background research, environmental lawyers and to investigate and report on environmental wrongdoing and going further with subpoenas if necessary. The above report gives an example with soils and there's more info in the most recent ECO report as well as at the website.

The most relevant here would probably be park plan reviews, protecting natural areas, ensuring that water quality isn't degraded and governmental policy and initiatives along those lines. Once the ECO is eliminated, Ontario residents will be on their own, without the ECOs assistance to help carry reviews forward.

I haven't got time right now to go through the above source, spending time on it should turn up the info.

PS... the political effects of bringing poor government policy and lawmaking into the public eye carries some power... governments don't want bad press and the ECO's annual reports helped show where something needed to be done. As well as identifying when government action brought something good to residents and the environment.

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PostPosted: December 1st, 2018, 9:10 am 
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Something that could affect interests here directly in the near future is Doug Ford's campaign promise that committed the administration to “protect and preserve our waterways” as one of its priorities. That still remains to be seen, esp with the new budget coming in March 2019 but failure to make good on this could be a reason to investigate why not.

If the Ford administration becomes reluctant to release information on protecting and preserving waterways, the soon-to-be-eliminated ECO would have had the power to bring the premier or minister forward to do so. And the ECO would have had the ability to release information once the science and facts were established.

The EBR, assisted by the ECO, provides the tools with which ordinary residents can see postings of new initiatives and policy on the Environmental Registry, can ask for reviews of current laws and policy, as well as investigate environmental wrongdoing and shortcomings.

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PostPosted: December 8th, 2018, 9:54 am 
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Side note... the current ECO, Dianne Saxe, has stated in news reports that wilderness canoeing is a favorite interest. So with the elimination of the ECO, the canoeing community may lose out in representation and visibility in government.

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PostPosted: March 25th, 2019, 7:45 am 
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Here's a more recent report on the ECO... despite the Ford administration's election promise that no Ontario government jobs would be cut, the current ECO, Dianne Saxe "will not be required" in the new reorganized oversight. The former promise of no job cuts has been modified to no cuts to front line staff. The ECO's most recent report recommended greater protection for natural areas, lakes and rivers.

The new Ontario budget will be released April 11 and should provide insight on where things are going. In the news this morning were reports that teachers may strike and health care worker positions are being cut.

Quote:
Some Ontario environmental watchdog employees, including Saxe, to be axed, despite Ford’s election promise they would not be

By Ben Spurr

Thu., March 14, 2019

Some provincial employees at Ontario’s environmental watchdog were informed Thursday they will be laid off, despite Premier Doug Ford’s election promise that no workers would lose their jobs in his push to trim the province’s budget.

The Ontario PC government announced in November, as part of its fall economic statement, that it planned to merge the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario into the auditor general’s office in an effort to cut costs.

In an email Thursday, Christine Pedias, a spokesperson for the auditor general, confirmed that five full-time, non-management employees were not offered positions as part of the transition, which is scheduled to take place by May 1. The commissioner’s office has a full-time staff of about 25.

“As of today, the Office of the Auditor General has offered positions to most of the technical, specialized staff of the Environmental Commissioner’s Office, including its management team,” Pedias said.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to offer positions to the remaining staff because they duplicate our existing in-house resources, or their specific roles are not required under our expanded mandate.”

In addition to the five employees, Dianne Saxe, who has been commissioner since December 2015, is expected to lose her position.


In a statement, the premier’s spokesperson Simon Jefferies said the government wasn’t responsible for the job cuts. He said its decision to merge the ECO under the auditor general had “strengthened and expanded the oversight of the auditor general into the environment field. This is in line with other jurisdictions, including the federal government.”

“Any staffing decisions made during the process were made by the office of the auditor general,” he said.

One of the affected ECO employees, who asked not to be named out of concern for future job prospects, said they felt betrayed because they had taken the premier at his word.

“I’m pissed off, because Doug Ford said there’d be no job losses,” the employee said.

The person said they felt the premier had acted out of vindictiveness because the ECO had issued critical reports about government environmental policy.

“This is typical Doug Ford …. He retaliates, right?” the employee said.

The ECO’s stated goals are ensuring the legislature and the public receive accurate information about the province’s implementation of the Environmental Bill of Rights and “government progress towards its environmental, climate and energy conservation goals and responsibilities.”

The commissioner has the ability to issue reports, but doesn’t directly intervene in environmental issues.

When the Ontario PCs announced, last fall, they would eliminate the office, environmentalists urged them to reverse the decision, arguing that the commissioner was a strong independent voice crucial to holding the government to account on promises to curb pollution and combat climate change.

Ian Arthur, the Ontario NDP’s environment and sustainability critic, warned, in a statement Thursday, that the layoffs at the environmental watchdog are only the latest cuts that would affect services that families depend on.

“While Doug Ford continues to make things up and claim that he won’t cost people their jobs, the layoffs have already started,” Arthur said.

“Everyone from nurses to autism therapists and social workers are already seeing job losses as a result of Ford’s cuts. Families are right to be concerned that this is just the beginning, and (are) left wondering who will be next to lose their job, and who will be next to find their services impacted — from health care to autism therapies.”

In addition to merging the environmental commissioner’s office under the auditor general, last fall the government also announced plans to combine the child and youth advocate and French language services commissioner with the ombudsman’s office.

At the time, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said the move would “reduce unnecessary cost,” but didn’t say how many jobs would be lost.

In February, Ombudsman Paul Dube confirmed that some employees with the child advocate would lose their jobs as part of the move.

While on the campaign trail last summer, Ford pledged not a single employee would lose their job. But, in recent weeks, he and his ministers have shifted to saying no “front-line” workers will be cut.

On Wednesday, Ford confirmed that management-level jobs would be axed under the government’s plan to consolidate 20 provincial health agencies.

He said the losses would affect “the CEOs that are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, the big silos they have there, the big executives, presidents and vice-presidents making outrageous amounts of money.”

The premier pledged “to take that money and put it to the front lines.”


https://www.thestar.com/politics/provin ... ot-be.html

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