Talk To Your Provincial Candidates About These Three Active Bills

Feb 9, 2014

The article reproduced below emphasizes how critical it is that as voters, and environmental champions in particular, that we be as probing and critical as ever in selecting our next wave of Provincial representatives at Queen’s Park.

There are three active and very relevant bills, described by Greenpeace Canada’s Yossi Cadan below, that could easily get lost in the increasing momentum of our expected Spring election.   All relevant; all of importance to CCKT.

Pay particular attention to the anti-SLAPP bill, the Protection of Public Participation Act.  Organizations like CCKT depend on using our clear voice to raise awareness of issues, especially controversial ones where we risk being silenced from deep-pocketed interests (this is typically the situation we find ourselves in).  This bill would ensure our voice, and it should be passed, along with the other two excellent environmental bills profiled here.

Oh yes:  Don’t forget to ask your candidates about their their positions on the upcoming 2015 reviews of the Oak Ridges Moraine, Greenbelt and Niagara Escarpment Plans. If you want to see a good example why, read this recent post.

Comments anyone?  Please go to the very bottom of this post and type away!

 

Still time for Ontario to pass environmental legislation
Yossi Cadan
Toronto Star, Sunday February 9th, 2014

 

Election fever is starting to rise at Queen’s Park, which could mean even more dysfunction in an already tumultuous minority legislature. But before MPPs begin pounding in lawn signs and knocking on doors, there is still work to do in the House, including passing three widely supported pieces of environmental legislation that seem to have fallen prey to political jockeying.

These three bills — the Protection of Public Participation Act, the Great Lakes Protection Act and the Waste Reduction Act — all address major holes in Ontario’s environmental protection safety net. All have wide public and stakeholder support. And all parties have acknowledged the need for legislation in these areas.

The free speech measures in the Protection of Public Participation Act, for example, were recommended by a blue-ribbon panel of legal experts, including judges, to help protect the rights of citizens who want to speak out on contentious issues, whether it is addressing pollution in their community or opposing ill-planned developments. The bill is a response to the legal tactic of so-called SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) suits, where powerful interests take legal action against ordinary citizens and community groups in order to silence opposition.

SLAPP suits are bad for our communities and bad for democracy. They usually have little legal merit, but the expense and stress they impose on ordinary people is often enough to silence — or at least mute — opposition to controversial proposals. Dozens of Ontarians have been subject to such suits and have had to endure the personal stress and financial anxiety of fending off deep-pocketed opponents in expensive but largely frivolous legal actions. It’s time to relevel the playing field by nixing this odious tactic once and for all.

Ontario borders four of the five Great Lakes, meaning it has a huge stake in the health of these inland seas. The threats facing our lakes, however, seem to multiply by the day — everything from falling water levels to the potential invasion of voracious Asian carp, an event that could make the introduction of zebra mussels look like an ecological picnic by comparison.

Efforts to take better care of the lakes, however, involve a tangle of jurisdictions, treaties, laws and regulations, with responsibility spread widely across the provincial government and no clear central authority. The Great Lakes Protection Act seeks to make greater sense of our efforts to help the lakes by better co-ordinating actions to protect water quality and quantity, prevent pollution, and restore and protect natural ecosystems. It’s a “must have” if we are going to have any chance of keeping one of our greatest natural assets — and the source of drinking water for millions of people — thriving in the face of major threats like climate change, invasive species and a growing continent-wide thirst for water.

The Waste Reduction Act, meanwhile, is Ontario’s response to the global trend toward extended producer responsibility — a fancy way of saying that companies that produce waste through excessive packaging, throwaway products and other wasteful practices should pay the full cost of dealing with the waste they create. For too long companies have had little incentive to reduce waste and rethink packaging thanks to our publicly subsidized municipal waste disposal systems, including our underfunded blue box system.

Through product and packaging redesign, manufacturers and importers can help lift a heavy burden off municipal taxpayers and our environment, while saving consumers the hassle of trying to extract products twist-tied to cardboard, sealed in plastic blister packs, padded with Styrofoam and locked inside hermetically sealed boxes.

This act needs to move to committee for further study and refinement — including closing the door on dangerous and costly waste incineration — as quickly as possible so that we make further progress on capturing the energy and materials that are currently being wasted by being sent to landfill.

You don’t have to be on the left, right or in the middle to support any of these bills because they all represent a society-wide consensus about the right thing to do: reduce waste, protect our Great Lakes, and keep democratic decision-making strong. So there is absolutely no reason these bills shouldn’t be moved on quickly by our MPPs when they return in mid-February. If all three bills die on the order paper because of political squabbling, all three parties are going to have some explaining to do when they meet voters on the doorstep this spring.

Yossi Cadan is Campaigns Director for Greenpeace Canada.