In his 2006/07 Annual Report "Reconciling our Priorities" Gord Miller, Ontario's Environmental Commissioner, advised the Legislature that: "Our growth plan for southern Ontario communities has some laudable features, but in some areas it calls for development that would exceed the ability of the local environment to support it." He also cautioned: "In the north, it is evident that many proposed activities and development are going ahead in the absence of any overall planning mechanism. That's a risky course of action."
The report contains a number of examples of conflicting priorities in Ontario's environmental planning and management. It also explores wetlands, road salts, the Portland's Energy Centre, and sand and gravel operations.
Commissioner Miller looked at wetland protection policies as a measure of the sustainability of the southern Ontario landscape, and found that:
"All is not well. Provincial policies purport to protect wetlands but in reality the policy system is failing. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is supposed to classify important wetlands, designate the ones that are provincially significant and see that these wetlands are identified and protected in municipal official plans. This is simply not happening to the extent required. Important wetlands continue to be drained and bulldozed." http://www.eco.on.ca/english/newsrel/2007/Remarks-annual-0607.pdf
Specific recommendations made by Ontario's Environmental Commissioner include:
- the MNR significantly speed up the process of wetland identification and evaluation and ensure that Provincially Significant Wetlands are incorporated into municipal official plans;
- the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing amend the Provincial Policy Statement to prohibit new infrastructure such as highways in provincially significant wetlands unless there are no reasonable alternatives and it has been demonstrated that there will be no negative impacts on their ecological functions;
- the provincial government reconcile its conflicting priorities between aggregate extraction and environmental protection; specifically the province should develop a new mechanism within the aggregate resources approvals process that screens out, at an early stage, proposals conflicting with identified natural heritage or source water protection values;
- reforms be made to the Mining Act "to reflect land use priorities of Ontarians today, including ecological values"; reform occur to the Public Lands Act to create a planning system that provides MNR with the tools to better protect ecological values on all Crown lands;
- MOE develop a comprehensive, mandatory, province-wide road salts management strategy to ensure aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are protected from chlorides;
- MNR improve the rehabilitation rates of Ontario pits and quarries by introducing stronger legislation and strengthening the industry's field capacity for inspections;
- relevant ministries develop quality standards that support land application of stable "pathogen-free" sewage biosolds;
- where new emitters are seeking entry into heavily burdened air sheds, MOE implement measures to minimize cumulative effects, for example, by obtaining emission off-sets and speeding up the process of updating older C of A's in that air shed."
Annual Report, pages 206-207