Photo: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment/Flickr

This week, the Environment Commissioner of Ontario issued the most scathing criticism I have ever seen from a government watchdog.

Gord Miller could not have been more critical in his annual report, citing the government’s contempt for environmental rules, and the deliberate defiance of the Environmental Bill of Rights by many ministries. In previous years he has warned of the growing intransigence on the part of government but this year he has taken extraordinary steps to fully document it in a stand-alone report.

Many communities across Ontario have had first-hand experience of the government’s disregard for the Environmental Bill of Rights. The examples given by Commissioner Miller serve to illustrate a small part of a much larger problem — the systematic dismantling and budgetary starvation of environmental laws and their enforcement by the provincial government. Anything that is an obstacle to development has been “streamlined” or “right sized” or simply ignored regardless of the rights and interests of those that are most impacted. We are told we must trust the professionalism of experts hired by proponents, and the government does not see any need to verify or test what the professionals tell them — even when the public brings incontrovertible evidence to their attention.

This Saturday marks the third anniversary of the amazing, 11th hour victory over Dump Site 41 in Tiny Township. The most important lesson from that inspiring story can be read between the lines in the ECO’s report: The government is not going to protect your community, your water, your children’s future. It is up to you. The people who are stopping the megaquarry in Melancthon know this as do the people stopping the dumps in Embrun and Russell. Same with those fighting the proposed  gravel pit in Paris and the sewage sludge plant in Southgate. As Canada’s largest citizen’s advocacy group, we support these communities and dozens more like them across the country through our campaigns, organizing and communications work. We also do everything we can to hold governments accountable to the people they are meant to serve. Our thanks go out to Gord Miller and his team for their fearless and determined efforts to do the same from within the system.

Photo: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment/Flickr

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