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Environment ministry gets grilled by COCA

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by By Grant Cameron last update:Aug 24, 2006

The Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) maintains the provincial government is ignoring the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) process by moving ahead so quickly with legislation known as Bill 133.

Bill 133 process ignored: Frame

staff writer

The Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) maintains the provincial government is ignoring the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) process by moving ahead so quickly with legislation known as Bill 133.

The association has launched a formal complaint with Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller. COCA president David Frame sent a letter to Miller recently, asking that the legislation be delayed for proper review and analysis before it proceeds.

“Our main concern is the appearance that the government is sidestepping the Environmental Bill of Rights process,” Frame said in the letter.

He noted the bill was posted for comment until Jan. 7 but COCA members have now been told that no changes will be made or even entertained.

“If the full function of the EBR and your office is indeed being ignored, we believe you should speak out. In particular, we believe you should suggest that the bill be sent to a standing committee for proper, in-depth analysis before it proceeds to second reading and approval in principle.

“There are many parts of Bill 133 that are objectionable and you must have heard about many of them,” Frame states. “From our point of view, however, we believe the effect of the bill on the environment will be negligible to deleterious. In particular, we believe the emphasis on arbitrary punishment will make co-operative, collaborative action between industry and the Ministry of the Environment virtually impossible.”

Frame says there has been no meaningful consultation with any groups and it appears that the legislated consultation via the EBR is a “sham.”

COCA — a federation of 40 associations representing more than 10,000 companies in Ontario — objects to the legislation because it appears to have been introduced without consulting any of the groups most clearly affected by its provisions. While COCA members firmly support reducing hazards in the environment, they believe that such consultations could have produced a better bill.

Specifically, the association is concerned the government is insisting on absolute liability for environmental penalties. The association also maintains the bill would make due diligence worthless and erode the practice of wo- rking collaboratively with government.

David Surplis, a consultant with COCA, says he’s been told by Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky that Bill 133 is going to second reading exactly as it was first written.

“So all of the submissions were for nothing and they’ve just trashed the EBR process, so we’re asking by letter that the environmental commissioner get involved and say: ‘Hey, wait a minute government, you can’t do that. You’ve got to follow your own rules.’”

Surplis says he’s been notified that the bill will be called for second reading in April with no changes.

“What really hurts in the construction industry is that our guys have worked and worked and worked to get ISO registered and we’ve got safety groups at the WSIB and a huge part of safety in the construction industry is due diligence — you check everything. You check it, check it, check it.

“Well, what this bill is saying is that due diligence is worthless because you get penalized no matter what you do. It’s a huge disincentive.

“Just now, especially if there’s a spill or you’re doing sewer and watermain stuff or anything with a lagoon, you ask for advice. But with Bill 133 you wouldn’t have the guy on the site. Next time somebody from the Ministry of the Environment shows up you’re going to have your lawyer there instead of working co-operatively.”

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly. The commissioner reviews how ministers exercise discretion and carry out responsibilities in relation to the Environmental Bill of Rights and reports annually to the Legislature.

'There are many parts of Bill 133 that are objectionable and you must have heard about many of them'

David Frame

last update:Aug 24, 2006

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