Important Environmental Law Amendments in the Ontario 2012 budget bill

April 17th, 2012 by Laura Bowman

The Ontario Government recently introduced Bill 55 – Strong Action for Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2012.   Budget bills are exempt from the posting and public consultation requirements of the Environmental Bill of Rights.  As a result, the public does not have the same opportunities to contribute to decision making when a number of environmentally significant laws are changed in a budget Bill.  Overall the budget Bill adds exemptions both in law and through additional regulatory powers to a variety of environmental processes.

New exemptions and longer timelines under the Endangered Species Act

Schedule 19 would add exemptions to the habitat and species protection provisions in the ESA for infrastructure repairs, alterations near private residences, and eliminate health and safety permits and permits for activities that will assist in species protection, creating new exemptions for those activities.  Timelines are extended for long periods for the requirement to create recovery strategies, respond to recovery strategies, and respond to management plans.  These amendments would put Ontario species at much greater risk of extinction or extirpation than the current act.

New exemptions under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act

Schedule 15 would add an exemption from the requirement that the Minister require that a forest management plan be prepared for a management unit.  There are further exemptions to harvesting limit and compliance with management plans to be enacted by regulation based on activity purpose.

Exemptions from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act

Schedule 23 would allow new regulatory hunting exemptions, allowing prescribed persons to hunt without a licence, including with dogs.  It would also allow authorizations and exemptions for the destruction of bird nests and eggs.  Exemptions are also included for the keeping of live game and consumption of game and transport of game out of Ontario.  There are also provisions allowing custodians to kill injured wildlife.  The bird nest and eggs amendment may place this provincial law at odds with federal migratory bird protection legislation and international treaties.

Other amendments

Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, Schedule 44 would make minor amendments to s.17 which addresses the process for reviewing the plan.

Ontario Clean Energy Benefit Act, Schedule 46 is amended to limit financial assistance in respect of electricity costs to a maximum of 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per eligible account per month. Cabinet may prescribe a different maximum number of kilowatt hours for multi-unit complexes and may make regulations governing the determination of the maximum financial assistance to which consumers are entitled under the Act.

Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, Schedule 58 would amend subsection 10(6) which deals with public consultation of reviews of management plans and management statements.  A new subsection 14 (2.1) would authorize the Minister to issue new land use permits in respect of land in provincial parks and conservation reserves.   Cabinet approval would be removed for agreements respecting access roads, making it easier to have roads approved in protected spaces.

Public Lands Act, Schedule 59 would amend the Act to allow Ministerial delegation.  Regulation making powers would be broadened for activities carried out on public lands and shore lands and to allow the Minister to exempt persons from obtaining a work permit for those activities.

Filed in: Energy and Resources, Environment

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