Wednesday 16 October 1996
Environmental Approvals Improvement Act, 1996, Bill 57, Mr Sterling / Loi de 1996 sur l'amélioration du processus d'autorisation environnementale, projet de loi 57, M Sterling
Ministry of Environment and Energy
Hon Norman W. Sterling
Mr Bob Shaw
Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association
Mr Mark Nantais
Mr Blake Smith
Mr Paul Hansen
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Mr Richard Lindgren
Ontario Waste Management Association
Mr Terry Taylor
Great Lakes United
Mr John Jackson
Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada, Ontario division
Mr Brian Collinson
Mr Blake Smith
Lambton Industrial Society
Mr Walter Frais
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Président: Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce PC)
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean PC)
*Mr JackCarroll (Chatham-Kent PC)
Mr DavidChristopherson (Hamilton Centre / -Centre ND)
*Mr TedChudleigh (Halton North / -Nord PC)
*Ms MarilynChurley (Riverdale ND)
Mr DwightDuncan (Windsor-Walkerville L)
*Mrs BarbaraFisher (Bruce PC)
*Mr SteveGilchrist (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
*Mr PatHoy (Essex-Kent L)
Mr Jean-MarcLalonde (Prescott and Russell / Prescott et Russell L)
*Mr BartMaves (Niagara Falls PC)
Mr BillMurdoch (Grey-Owen Sound PC)
*Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa PC)
*Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre PC)
*In attendance /présents
Substitutions present /Membres remplaçants présents:
Mr TedArnott (Wellington PC) for Mr Murdoch
Mr DougGalt (Northumberland PC) for Mr Baird
Clerk / Greffièr: Mr Todd Decker
Staff / Personnel: Mr Ted Glenn, research officer, Legislative Research Service
ENVIRONMENTAL APPROVALS IMPROVEMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 SUR L'AMÉLIORATION DU PROCESSUS D'AUTORISATION ENVIRONNEMENTALE
Consideration of Bill 57, An Act to improve the Efficiency of the Environmental Approvals Process and Certain Other Matters / Projet de loi 57, Loi visant à améliorer l'efficience du processus d'autorisation environnementale et concernant certaines autres questions.
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Seeing quorum present, I ask the committee to come to order on this our first day of hearings on Bill 57. The first order of business today will be to accept the report of the subcommittee on committee business. Every one of the members should have a copy in front of them there.
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I move to approve it.
The Chair: Mr Carroll has moved adoption of the subcommittee report. Any discussion? Seeing none, all those in favour of accepting the subcommittee report? Contrary? It is deemed to be carried.
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
The Chair: That leads us then right into our opening statements on the bill. Again, by agreement of all three parties, there'll be 10 minutes in opening comments from the minister and then 10 minutes in response from each of the two opposition parties. With that, Minister, welcome to the committee.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. I appreciate the time the committee is giving to me today to address it on Bill 57. My parliamentary assistant, Doug Galt, will be assisting you through some other parts of the proceedings, but I will be leading off and will be available to him to answer any questions you might have with regard to amendments which committee members might like to put forward.
I'd like to put out a few a words about why the government is bringing this bill before the Legislature. The context of the bill, and the spirit of the new legislation, is the urgent need to restore common sense and efficiency to government operations.
For more than two decades, Ontario has been a leader in Canada and other parts of the world in terms of the environmental protection legislation it has. Way back in 1976, for example, Ontario was the first Canadian province to introduce environmental assessment legislation. Since then, other jurisdictions in this country have followed our lead. The fact is that Ontario has an outstanding track record for its commitment to protecting the quality of its air, water and other resources. We have earned that record by passing effective legislation; by putting in place laws that are relevant, tough and fair.
Protecting the environment is one our government's highest priorities. We also believe that the province's environmental protection legislation must be efficient, effective and workable. As it stands now, many of our procedures and protocols have proliferated to the extent that they no longer work well together towards desired results. We need to fix this. Protecting our environment is, of course, the whole point of what my ministry does. We need more rationalized, clear and efficient means of achieving that result.
I'd like to outline the objectives of Bill 57. This bill represents an important step in this process. The bill is designed to accomplish four main objectives:
First, Bill 57 will make the environmental approvals process more efficient by getting rid of unnecessary duplication and red tape and the considerable costs they involve. The bill achieves this improvement in efficiency without in any way compromising the high standards of environmental protection that are currently in place.
Second, Bill 57 contains provisions to close a government agency, the Environmental Compensation Corp, or the ECC. The ministry is getting out of the compensation business by this move.
Third, Bill 57 repeals the Ontario Waste Management Corporation Act. This will bring down the curtain on one of the most expensive wastes of time and money in provincial history.
Fourth, Bill 57 consolidates the Ministry of Environment and Energy's ability to charge user fees for some of the services it provides to recover the administrative costs of providing them.
I would like to talk this afternoon about these four objectives in more detail. As I mentioned, one of Bill 57's most important provisions is to improve the efficiency of Ontario's certificate of approval process. The bill will deliver a process with clear, precise rules, and the changes we are proposing will affect only those activities that have predictable environmental effects.
Under the terms of the existing provincial legislation, a certificate of approval is required for any activity that might result in any emissions or discharge in the natural environment. That's any activity at all and any discharge at all. Technically, we could require certificates for venting public washrooms or even for hot dog vendors.
Under the existing statute, every new restaurant opened in Ontario must apply for a certificate of approval when it installs a ventilating fan. Water treatment plants needing a new pump must obtain a certificate before they can replace that pump if it is not in fact identical to the pump being replaced. These applications involve considerable cost for the proponents, while ministry staff are required to review each application, with little result in terms of saving our environment from any hazard.
With a standardized approvals process in Bill 57, regulations can be developed specific to activities that they regulate. This means that certain classes of activities, people or things will be exempted from the certificate of approval process. Of course, the amendments will also enable conditions or rules to be attached to the exemption to ensure that all aspects of a project are covered off in terms of their potential to adversely affect the environment.
We need effective environmental legislation in this province. To keep it effective, we need to amend it when it's faulty or when it ceases to make sense. After 20 years of experience with the environmental assessment process, for example, we know that there are many activities with predictable environmental effects and that those effects are relatively easy to mitigate. For these types of activities, Ontario developed the class environmental assessment process, which now accounts for something like 90% of all EA projects we handle each year. Class EAs have streamlined the approvals process for a wide range of activities. At the same time, they have ensured consistent protection for Ontario's environment.
Bill 57 brings the same kind of efficiency with the same high level of environmental protection to the process involved in obtaining a certificate of approval. Instead of spending considerable time and effort in, in effect, creating a customized regulation for each individual instance, a standardized approval can effectively be applied. This new mechanism will be used with common classes of activities with consistent and predictable parameters that we can identify.
In the debate during second reading of this bill, I heard some members opposite express the view that it is part of the government plan for environmental deregulation. That, quite frankly, is wrong. I would like to lay it to rest today. My job as Minister of Environment and Energy, and that of my staff, is to set standards for environmental protection in Ontario and to ensure they are being met. Governments are not in the business to prescribe in minute detail exactly how those requirements will be met. Government should not be in the business of micromanagement.
For activities with predictable environmental effects, Bill 57 delivers a more straightforward approvals process, with rules that are clearer, more efficient and effective. The new process does not in any way alter Ontario's existing standards of environmental protection. The environment will be protected.
Regulations will be developed for those classes of activities that qualify for the new process. Those regulations will be developed with full consultation. Other activities will continue to be subject to the existing process.
When Bill 57 becomes law, industry, businesses and municipalities will have more flexibility to meet standards in innovative ways. But make no mistake, the same tough environmental standards that applied in the past will continue to apply in the future.
When we hear phrases like "environmental deregulation," it's important to distinguish between common sense and partisan sentiment, between reality and rhetoric. Improving the law is not deregulation, and streamlining the process to save time and money for industry, business, communities, taxpayers and your government does not constitute dismantling of Ontario's environmental legislation.
The second aspect of Bill 57 involves winding up the Environmental Compensation Corp, or ECC. Over the past decade, this corporation has cost us, the taxpayers, approximately $3 million. That's over a period of 10 years at $300,000 per year. In that same period, the corporation paid out about $700,000 to 89 applicants, an average of about $69,000 a year. You can see the inefficiency of this organization immediately. The operational costs outstrip the amount actually getting to the public by a ratio of four to one. This is not a responsible use of taxpayers' dollars.
We now have more than 10 years of experience with the spills bill. During that period of time the overwhelming majority of businesses in Ontario have demonstrated that they're willing and able and responsible for cleaning up the spills. The court system will remain the avenue for pursuing the rest. It is time for the government to get out of this business of providing compensation.
Winding up the corporation will in no way affect the important environmental safeguards that protect the public from the consequences of spilled materials. Ontario law in this area remains clear and unchanged. Part X of the Environmental Protection Act makes the owners and controllers of spilled substances responsible for the cleanup, restoration and compensation, regardless of who was actually responsible for causing the spill. The same legislation requires spills to be reported to the ministry and other relevant authorities. In this regard, Bill 57 will save taxpayers money, while delivering the same level of environmental protection they currently enjoy. We will be able to spend some of that money in actually cleaning up the problem.
I'd like to comment briefly on two other aspects of Bill 57: the repeal of the Ontario Waste Management Corporation Act and provision of a new cost recovery mechanism for my ministry.
I do not have a great deal to say about the Ontario Waste Management Corp. What can be said about pouring taxpayers' money into the endless studies and research that never produced any real results?
As the members know, the corporation had a mandate to solve our hazardous waste management problems, and it worked on that mandate for some 15 years. Ultimately, a site in west Lincoln was selected, and this was followed by a lengthy environmental assessment hearing, which was unsuccessful. The corporation's efforts over those last 15 years have cost us, the taxpayers, some $145 million, but at the end of the day, the people have nothing to show for their money, or very little.
Bill 57 repeals the Ontario Waste Management Corporation Act. In so doing, it writes the final chapter in this corporation's history. It is the final formality required to tie up the loose ends.
I want to comment on one other aspect and one final aspect of Bill 57 this afternoon, and that is the provisions allowing my ministry to recover some of the administrative costs of the programs and services we deliver. The ministry has several existing legislative authorities that enable it to charge fees for services such as certificates of approval, examinations, licences, permits and copies of documents, plans and drawings. Bill 57 consolidates these authorities into one and allows the ministry further flexibility to recover the real costs from the specific recipients of our services.
The ministry will use this new authority to introduce fees to recover the costs of providing services such as generator registration and waste manifests. These systems, as some of you know, track hazardous and liquid industrial waste from generation to disposal. The fees we collect will help ensure that those who use these services will pay for them. As well, the fees will assist the ministry's efforts to recover some of our administrative costs, consistent with our business plan and the government's corporate direction in this regard.
To sum up, I'd like to remind you that Bill 57 should be considered in the context of our government's efforts to deliver services more efficiently and cost-effectively. Bill 57 offers environmental protection that is just as good or better, because we can concentrate now on the important things, than the protection we currently enjoy. Moreover, it offers significant savings of both time and resources for industry, business, municipalities and taxpayers.
The bill can be seen as part of the government's plan to foster the creation of new wealth and prosperity, new opportunities and jobs. By making our approach to environmental protection more efficient, we strengthen the competitive ability of our Ontario businesses to make Ontario a more attractive place for new investment and those great jobs that flow out of it.
Bill 57 eliminates unnecessary red tape and duplication, it streamlines the environmental approvals process, it gets the ministry out of the compensation business, it gets an unnecessary statute off the books and it expands the broad concept that those who use certain government services should pay for them.
I'm grateful for this opportunity to introduce to the members of the committee this bill this afternoon. I appreciate your attention, your work on this bill. I will listen to your comments and concerns over this bill and any proposed amendments you might have to this legislation.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister, for that overview. We appreciate you appearing before us here today. With that, we'll move to the official opposition for a 10-minute response.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): We Liberals have a number of concerns with this bill and I'm pleased that we'll have the opportunity to discuss with the witnesses some of our key concerns and questions. Our most important concern is, like so many other bills, we're being asked to review and pass legislation that provides the Minister of Environment and Energy with sweeping regulatory powers, yet we are never provided with any of these proposed regulations at the time the bill is being discussed.
With this bill, we're being asked to sign a blank cheque. Liberals demand to see which activities the government has proposed to exempt from the Environmental Protection Act before the bill is passed. The Minister of Environment and Energy has cut his budget by over one third, and the staff in his ministry has also been cut by one third. Is this bill being driven by the staff reductions?
With so few inspection staff left -- for example, there is only one air quality inspector left for the entire province -- will there be sufficient staff left in the ministry to adequately monitor environmental practices?
The certificate of approval process provided an important educational component for small businesses, for example, paint shops. Will small business be adequately informed of the new environmental standards they are expected to meet? In addition, MOEE has stated that it will have to rely on an already overstretched municipal education system for industries to help monitor their compliance. Will municipalities be given any additional resources by the province?
On the issue of eliminating the Environmental Compensation Corp, we question whether it should be wound down when it is so difficult to obtain private insurance. Has the government adequately examined means of streamlining and reducing the cost of administering the program before it scraps the entire program?
While we are focusing specifically on this bill today, our party will be relating the changes proposed in this bill to all of the other dismantling of the province's environmental regulatory powers and protections. We can't forget, when this minister says to trust him with these new policies, to give him this blank cheque, to exempt any person, thing, activity, contaminant, substance, waste, material, spill or any other material from any provision of the Environmental Protection Act, the Waste Management Act or other regulations, that this government has shown itself to be one that cares more about cutbacks than it does about the environment.
Finally, I'm pleased that there has been such a strong demand by witnesses to appear before the committee and express their views. I look forward to a good discussion on this bill.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I appreciate the minister taking the time to be with us today. Let me say in the few minutes I've got that I have a lot of trouble with the bill and I don't think it is as benign as the minister likes to say it is and put a very nice face on it. It's part of the mantra of doing more with less, which is not the fact here.
There are a number of issues that my Liberal colleague alluded to briefly, and we'll be getting into more details throughout the hearings. But because I have a very short time and the minister is here for a very short time, I want to tell him my major concerns and ask the minister specifically if he is willing to accept amendments to these areas.
One is the collection of fees. I'm speaking directly to the minister here. Minister, I'd like to ask you, I believe you mentioned in the -- you missed all my thank-yous for being here today. I do thank you for coming. I know ministers can do three things at once. Anyway, the fees that you referred to -- and I generally support that the fees should be raised and that we should find other ways. I also believe in the concept of the polluter paying. I just wanted to ask you quite specifically, and let's try to keep our questions and answers short, because I only have 10 minutes, are you willing to accept an amendment that would expressly require that any fees paid under the EPA or OWRA should go into a specific fund or account administered solely by the MOEE and used exclusively for environmental protection purposes? This is not new; it's done in Alberta, I believe, and in other areas. Are you willing to accept such an amendment?
Hon Mr Sterling: I'd love to be able to accept such an amendment, but I don't think my Treasurer would allow me to accept such an amendment.
Ms Churley: Would you fight for that? Because it's not saying --
Hon Mr Sterling: I will talk to my Treasurer about it, but the whole notion of dedicated revenues in this government and in previous governments has never been accepted. You remember we had the old tire tax under the Liberals and it was called a tire tax, but it was not a tire tax; it was a tax which went into the general revenue fund and was spent for various and nefarious expenditures of the government. I don't hold out a lot of hope in changing the general overall policy of the treasury or Finance over this particular issue.
Ms Churley: Could I interrupt? Because I only have 10 minutes and I have a few other questions.
Hon Mr Sterling: Okay, sure.
Ms Churley: I will point out to you later that in fact the Ontario government has done it under, I think, Ag and Food -- oh, no, the Ministry of Natural Resources, fees generated through parks. It's been done in Alberta and the feds, so it wouldn't be setting -- I understand your concerns, but it may be possible to do this.
Another area that I have really big concerns about: It's been expressed that the permit by rule, as written to date, could imply that it could be anything. I know you said you don't mean it that way, but it's so ill-defined that anything, as it's written now, could come under it. When I asked the previous minister for a list of what would come under that, I wasn't provided with that list. I was given examples, maybe paint shops, dry cleaners, restaurants.
I have real concerns, for instance, about cumulative effects around even paint shops and dry cleaners and the fact that if it's permit by rule -- a whole class given the permit by rule -- the public will be shut out because it won't be announced or posted in any way. Therefore, communities will be shut out of that process. There's concerns about the cumulative effect.
My question to you today is, do you have the list available for us today of all of the activities which will be included in this permit by rule? Have you got the list for us today so we can put this into a context?
Hon Mr Sterling: I don't have a complete list, but you can find some of them in our regulatory reform document.
Ms Churley: Will there be more?
Hon Mr Sterling: We haven't really decided that. There will be a process, of course, that will be gone through in terms of them being posted on the regulatory registry through the Environmental Commissioner before they are put through or they would be regulated under a certificate of approval process.
Ms Churley: You don't have it today, though.
Hon Mr Sterling: I have a list here. I have a list of eight candidate activities which I'm quite willing to share with you and with members of this committee.
Ms Churley: Perhaps if you could leave that with us.
Hon Mr Sterling: I certainly will.
Ms Churley: But I just want to be clear that there will be others, but we don't know what they are yet. A process will be gone through to reach the others. Will there be public consultation around that?
Hon Mr Sterling: There will always be public consultation as you're moving into these areas, because you'll be consulting with people who are in the business and the people whom it will affect.
Ms Churley: Also the communities who have an interest and environmentalists; people who have an interest: Will they be --
Hon Mr Sterling: Absolutely.
Ms Churley: I also wanted to ask you about your hazardous waste program, which you don't have in fact. My biggest concern about the cancellation of the OWMC -- and generally given that the activity finally was stopped through the end of the EA process, I understand the reasoning behind cancelling it. However, our government decided to use that corporation to continue to work on hazardous waste reduction and elimination plans, which is now at the OWMC.
That possibility for dealing with hazardous waste is gone. We put in place a whole series of programs and activities, some of which came under the OWMC, which is now gone. I again don't have time to get into them in these few minutes, but I'm just wondering what you're going to be doing. Do you have a hazardous waste program to replace the one that's gone from there and that had been cancelled by the previous minister?
While you're consulting on that, I have a few other areas.
Hon Mr Sterling: Perhaps I could have one of my officials, if you would introduce yourself.
Mr Bob Shaw: I'm Bob Shaw. The hazardous waste management issues are primarily being addressed right now through the regulatory review document, which is out in front of the public, and once the comments have come back in the ministry will consider them in putting together a position.
Ms Churley: Is the minister confirming that he will allocate funds to put a hazardous waste program in place?
Hon Mr Sterling: I don't know what I can allocate or promise at this point, when we haven't decided what we're going to do. It's a problem I've got to deal with. It's my responsibility to deal with it, so presumably I'm going to have to put some resources, one way or the other, to deal with this problem.
Ms Churley: You do know that under the Canada-Ontario agreement the province has a responsibility to decommission, for instance, 90% of high-level PCBs and accelerate the destruction of low-level PCBs by the year 2000. Those are areas that we'll be watching for action.
As my last question -- I have other concerns and I'm sorry you can't hear them now, but the members of your government will -- I'd like to ask you what I think is a profound question that overrides this bill and a lot of other bills that I say is one of deregulation. I would say that every environmental group in all of Ontario says it's serious deregulation and will have serious impacts on the environment. Three respected bodies or agencies recently -- the final one was the auditor's report, the Environmental Commissioner before that, the IJC before that, as well as all environmental groups -- have been telling you that this and your other bills are deregulation, that the public is being shut out, that the Environmental Bill of Rights and the registry are not being used properly and people are not told about what's going on. Every environmental group is expressing this concern, yet you object and say, "No, they're wrong."
Can you tell me why you think you're right and that every environmental group is wrong, including environmental lawyers and policymakers who have been in the field for years and years and have nothing to gain personally? I just don't understand how there can be such a discrepancy in views.
Hon Mr Sterling: As an engineer I'll put on my engineering hat for this answer. I am quite willing to deal on a one-by-one basis with any specific charge anyone in this province has about the fact that I am deregulating any particular environmental standard. I will not accept a generic condemnation that we are deregulating, because I don't believe we are. I have yet to have somebody come in and say, "Norm, you are deregulating this regulation and here's how you're doing it." If they show me that, I won't deregulate it.
Ms Churley: I can give you a list of very specific deregulation.
Hon Mr Sterling: I wish you would.
Ms Churley: I've pointed some out in the House, not just generic, but specific.
Hon Mr Sterling: I wish you'd give them and I'd love to answer you.
Ms Churley: If we can prove, which I can, that certain measures, which are clearly deregulation, are going to put more pollution into the environment, will you make a commitment that you will repeal the changes you have made?
Hon Mr Sterling: I will listen very closely to what you have to say. I will not always agree with what you say, because I will take my technical advice and respond --
Ms Churley: You're an engineer, you said.
Hon Mr Sterling: That's right, and I want to listen to people who have a sound technical argument as well.
Ms Churley: So you're not making a firm commitment to change, repeal, make amendments to if it can be proven that the environment will be or is being harmed.
Hon Mr Sterling: If it can be proven to me, I will not make an environmental regulation more lax than it is now. I will not relax any environmental regulation in this province.
Ms Churley: Will you repeal those you have that have already done that?
Hon Mr Sterling: I have to look at what's been done and what people are relying on in terms of the present-day situation. I can't turn back the clock on some situations, but let me know what you're talking about and I'll be pleased to deal with them on a one-by-one basis.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister, for taking the time to be here and take a few questions. With that we move into our consideration of presentations of various groups that have expressed an interest in speaking to this bill.
MOTOR VEHICLE MANUFACTURERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our first group up this afternoon is the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, if I could ask them to come forward to the table. If you'd be kind enough to introduce yourselves for the benefit of Hansard I'd be grateful.
Mr Mark Nantais: Good afternoon, members of the committee. The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association and its member companies, which include the Big Three auto makers -- Chrysler, Ford and General Motors -- as well as Volvo Canada and Canada's heavy-duty truck makers, certainly appreciate this opportunity to present their views on Bill 57.
My name is Mark Nantais. I am president of the association. Today I'm fortunate to have accompanying me Mr Paul Hansen, manager of environmental affairs for Chrysler Canada Ltd; Mr Bruce Reid, director of the office of the environment for General Motors of Canada Ltd; and Mr Blake Smith, manager of environmental quality for the Ford Motor Co of Canada Ltd.
Our member companies, if you're not aware, collectively employ about 72,000 Canadians directly in vehicle assembly operations, with the vast majority of that employment right here in Ontario. Ontario is home to more than 93% of all automotive manufacturing activity in Canada. Automotive manufacturing is the engine of economic growth and stability in this province.
The industry as a whole employs more than 500,000 Canadians, which demonstrates the spinoff effects of our industry, and accounts for one in six jobs in Ontario. In 1995 the automotive industry represented 45% of Ontario's total merchandise exports, valued at more than $55 billion.
Automotive manufacturers' investments over the last decade exceed $15 billion, which essentially translate into about $2 billion in capital expenditures per year, on average, over the last five years.
Overall, members of the MVMA support the Ontario government's intention to reform regulation, remove duplicity and simplify compliance requirements governing the operation of manufacturing and businesses in this province. We, like the Ontario government, firmly believe that efficiency improvements to the environmental approvals process can be achieved without any degradation in overall environmental protection and quality.
Our industry remains committed to working with this government to improve efficiencies while maximizing environmental performance. We have numerous examples establishing that flexibility and innovativeness in manufacturing processes and technology play critical roles in determining how manufacturing facilities respond to the ever-present need to remain efficient and competitive. In our case we respond to this need in ways which enable our facilities to meet production schedules in the "short-notice" demand for product in a volatile marketplace. Essentially we strive to maximize efficiencies at every level. Anything which is not used in the actual vehicle during manufacturing is thought to be waste. It is waste which for economic and environmental reasons is limited to the greatest extent possible.
It is our view that the amendments to the approvals process are indeed needed and cannot come too soon. However, the proposed amendments venture into regulatory powers which go beyond their purpose: to create efficiencies in the environmental approvals process itself.
While Bill 57 is intended to make the approvals process more efficient and minimize potential obstacles which may hinder manufacturing operations or delay the construction of new facilities, it may have quite the opposite effect as it is currently written.
While certain amendments in Bill 57 combine existing regulatory powers found in the Environmental Protection Act, Bill 57 also expands the ministry's regulatory powers, increasing the likelihood of additional regulation unrelated to the approvals process. Other amendments enable the enactment of prescriptive regulations governing the establishment and discontinuance of facilities, including staffing, planning, design, operations or the maintenance of facilities. In simple terms, prescriptive regulations afford government the authority to dictate to manufacturers exactly how they should go about building and operating their facilities by citing the type of technology or the manufacturing process that must be employed, perhaps regardless of cost, availability or even the practicality.
On the other hand, performance-based regulation sets specific requirements or numeric targets and allows manufacturers the flexibility to determine what technologies, processes or other structures are needed to be compliant with the regulation. These are vastly different approaches.
We suggest that prescriptive regulation as opposed to performance-based regulation could represent an actual barrier to new projects in Ontario by causing delays and unnecessary added costs. Clearly this is a direction which the government should not pursue, nor do we believe that it is the intended direction. Manufacturing operations need the flexibility provided by performance-based regulations, which allows them to be compliant with requirements of the law and with the policies of the ministry.
Let me move from more general remarks to more specific remarks as they relate to various sections of Bill 57.
First, regarding subsection 175.1(b): This section combines, but also expands, the number of regulatory powers previously found in the EPA, which appear to be completely unrelated to the approvals process.
Previously, regulations could be enacted regulating or prohibiting the operation of a class or type of motor vehicle to prevent discharge of contamination, and prohibiting, regulating or controlling the discharge of contaminants. Now the powers extend to "prohibiting, regulating or controlling...the making, use, sale, display, advertising, transfer, transportation, operation, maintenance, storage, recycling, disposal, or discharge...of any contaminant...motor vehicle...waste...substance...product...packaging...spill...or thing."
Motor vehicles advertising, use, sale etc should only be subject to regulation where the purpose is to prevent the actual discharge of contamination. While this may be implicit, as any regulatory powers extend only top powers under the EPA, it would be preferable to clearly state this in the provisions of the act.
Regarding subsection 175.1(c): This section proposes amendments with respect to prescribing fees for applicants of approvals and licences. In our opinion subsection 175.1(c), which deals with the fees provision, should be limited to reasonable fees that are based on actual administrative costs incurred and provide for refund of fees if required. Subsection 175.1(c) provides for enactment of regulations that charge fees where an activity has been carried on under an exempting regulation. This would appear to be an unjustified mechanism to generate revenue for the ministry, and it's our opinion it should be deleted. Any Ministry of Environment and Energy costs associated with this type of activity would appear to be nominal. We believe it is important to note that subsection 175.1(c) also enables the enactment of regulations for fees "in respect of any registration" by the EPA "or the regulations." This could include waste generator registrations and manifests. We are uncertain as to the need of this in the context of approvals reform.
With respect to subsection 176.1(h): This proposed section will enable the enactment of prescriptive regulations governing the establishment and discontinuance of facilities, which I've commented on generally. It is our opinion that the government should not enact regulations governing the planning, design, siting, establishment, facilities, staffing, operations or maintenance of facilities. Any such regulations could represent a barrier to new projects in Ontario by causing delays and unnecessary costs. Regulations should be performance-based and should not get into the actual nuts and bolts of how a business operates by prescribing planning and staffing requirements.
The meaning of "improvement" in this provision is unclear and also should be deleted. Finally, the Environmental Bill of Rights governs public notification and consultation. It is therefore unnecessary to create regulatory powers with respect to public participation in the EPA.
Subsections 176(h.2) and (l.1) enable regulations deeming approvals to exist for installations exempt from approval requirements by the regulations. It is unclear why a deemed approval is necessary for an exempted activity. A simpler way would be to have a conditional exemption.
Regarding section 177, specifically subsections (4) and (5): The provisions therein enable the reference to standards and codes, and this is actually a concern to the MVMA. It is proposed that the standards could be adopted and modified from time to time and we would suggest that incorporation of such standards by reference into regulation is a procedure which may have in fact real dangers associated with it. While it is tempting to see such incorporation as an alternative to the expense of developing new regulations, standards are sometimes created without a means of broad consultation. Unless the standard or code has been created by an open and transparent process, it runs the risk of being much more suited to the needs of a particular sector than the broad needs of industry as a whole. The necessity of this provision in relation to reforming the approval process is unclear.
Let me turn briefly, if I may, to the Ontario Water Resources Act.
The MVMA in fact has similar concerns relating to the proposed amendments to the OWRA. Subsections 75(1)(s) and (t) are replaced by a section similar to the proposed section, 176.1(h) to the EPA, enabling the enactment of prescriptive requirements governing the planning, design, siting, public notification and consultation, establishment, facilities, staffing and improvements and closure of water and sewage works.
Members of the MVMA wish to ensure that the efficiencies in the approval process are enhanced in an effective manner and, accordingly, offer their support for this initiative. However, we strongly recommend that the excessively far-reaching and prescriptive powers afforded to the ministry by virtue of these amendments be revisited and further adjusted in light of our comments which we respectfully submit.
We trust that our comments will be helpful to the committee as it deliberates over Bill 57. In its present state, however, Bill 57 affords the ministry, in our view, unnecessary and excessively far-reaching powers to regulate approvals which is the basis of our industry's concern.
Again, we thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today. Both myself and my colleagues would be pleased to answer any questions you may have at this time.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Nantais. We appreciate your presentation and that affords us just over two minutes per caucus. I would remind members today that we have been told there'll be a vote at 6 o'clock, so we'll certainly want to keep on schedule if we can this afternoon.
Mr Hoy: And it's a very important vote indeed.
Ms Churley: To your riding, John.
Mr Hoy: -- and I'd appreciate it if we do make that vote.
Thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon. It's a very comprehensive one in the areas in which you are speaking. On page 2, you say that, "Bill 57...expands the ministry's regulatory powers, increasing the likelihood of additional regulation unrelated to the approvals process." Are there areas where you would like these regulations that we'll say you are fearful of -- that you would like to see in the act, up front and rather through the regulatory process? Is there anything you might suggest that you want to see definitely put in the act?
Mr Nantais: I don't think we would have anything that we'd want to see up front and centre at this point in time. The remarks there were really designed or intended to reflect the prescriptiveness of the regulation.
Take, for instance, requirements that would prescribe staffing levels. We firmly believe that is a prescriptive requirement that should be left totally up to the company or the industry who in their position are best able to determine what staffing levels are appropriate for a particular facility, both from an operational standpoint and from a maintenance standpoint. Does anyone have anything you wish to add to that?
Mr Hoy: On page 3, you are talking about reasonable fees based on actual administrative costs incurred and provide for a refund of fees. I would be in your position too if I was charged too much for any particular service. But don't you think the onus is on the ministry to correctly identify the amount of fees that are asked for rather than getting into a system of refunds, delay, burden of proof and all those matters?
Mr Blake Smith: The observation about refunds was in respect to things like novel technology where companies are kind of stepping out and doing something unusual at great expense to themselves or in cases where there's a voluntary improvement. The fee structure in the province of Ontario at present, its 2% basically equipment fee, is actually a barrier to doing the right thing. It's a disincentive. What nobody wants to see is the kind of financial disincentives to making life better.
Ms Churley: I appreciate your coming and representing the views of your organization in terms of this bill. I frankly don't quite understand some of your points. It's my fault. I just don't know enough about your relationship to the Ministry of Environment, frankly, to understand all of your concerns, and I don't have time to get into it now. I would like to know a bit more about it, but I guess in this short time, what I'd like to know, given your comments -- if you can put it in a nutshell, you've mentioned a few areas where you see problems with this bill for you, and I appreciate that you're not commenting on the bill overall to every other sector. I believe you're coming to talk about how you perceive it'll impact on you. What is different from what you have to do now or don't have to do now that this bill changes? Is that possible to answer in a minute?
Mr Smith: It's not possible of course at present to crystal ball what regulations we're going to see at some point in the future. What this bill is doing is basically enabling regulation-writing powers. What happens in the future, we don't know, but certainly it's our view that the enabling here goes beyond what's necessary for reforming the approvals process. It has the potential to go well beyond what's necessary for protecting the environment.
The Chair: Very briefly.
Ms Churley: I can follow up at a later date. That's fine, thanks.
Mr Nantais: I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have in addition.
Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): Thank you, Mr Nantais, for your presentation today in what I'm sure is a very busy time for you right now. I take it from your comments that you would support a performance-based approach in the application of environmental regulations. Given that in our society, and I think increasingly so, it's important for companies and industries to be seen to be green, to be encouraging and supportive of the environmental regulations, what types of incentives do you see that might be able to assist the ministry in the application of regulations and how we administer these programs that would encourage companies to not only meet regulatory regulations but to exceed them and to go beyond?
Mr Nantais: Maybe I'll just make a general comment and then turn it over to my colleagues who might be able to give you some more specifics, but I think one of the incentives of course is to ensure that industry has flexibility and creativity and the innovativeness available to them, and I think Blake touched on this, to use perhaps new technologies, new ways of manufacturing and clearly having a set of rules or regulations that don't constrain that in any way.
In the auto industry, which in many respects may be unknown to a lot of people, we tend to be on the cutting edge of new technologies, that we're constantly looking into research and development of new technologies that take us almost a leap forward, in some cases, in terms of manufacturing, in terms of environmental performance even.
One example, for instance, is an existing MOU, memorandum of understanding, that we have with Ontario and the federal government on pollution prevention. You will see in our fourth progress report, which is now available, a myriad of case studies which show some substantial reductions in various chemical substances and other contaminants of concern. Things like a memorandum of understanding or instruments like that, or tools we might call them, are a real incentive for industry.
I want to be absolutely clear that when we look towards an MOU, for instance, in terms of environmental protection and performance, that is an MOU which goes beyond regulation. In other words, the regulatory backdrop remains; that is the base line for compliance. What the MOU allows us to do is to use that flexibility and perhaps go beyond that regulation.
That's exactly what we've done, for instance, on our pollution prevention program here in Ontario, which is very successful. That would be one area to give an example, and I turn to my colleagues here perhaps to give you some additional specifics.
Mr Paul Hansen: Certainly, if you saw the Globe and Mail today, Chrysler's looking at getting a new paint shop in Windsor and certainly this is assisted by an MOU that we're working with the Ontario government on paint shops and emissions coming out of those areas. What we need in industry is certainty of regulation and certainty of what's coming when we plan these large programs. Indeed, we feel we have that.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today. We appreciate it very much.
CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ASSOCIATION
The Chair: That leads us now to our next presentation from the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Good afternoon and welcome to the committee. Again, just a reminder, we have 20 minutes for you to divide as you see fit between either presentation time or questions and answers.
Mr Richard Lindgren: Good afternoon, members of the committee. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to come here today to speak to Bill 57. My name is Richard Lindgren. I'm a staff lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association or CELA.
As some committee members know, CELA was established in 1970 for the purpose of using and improving laws to protect the environment. Since 1970 we've had lots of experience using the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act to protect the environment, and those are the very laws that Bill 57 attempts to amend.
For example, we've been in the courts to conduct prosecutions under these laws. We've been participants in a number of public hearings before the Environmental Appeal Board and the Environmental Assessment Board under these laws. We've launched civil litigation involving breaches of these laws. We've been involved in judicial review applications and statutory appeals; you name it, we've done it, probably, under these laws.
CELA has been doing it for 26 years; I've been doing it for over a decade and, in short, I think we've got a considerable background to draw upon when we review and analyse Bill 57. So that's what we've done. We've used our extensive background and experience and our public interest perspective to look at Bill 57 and our conclusion is this: While there are some discrete aspects of the bill that we can support, and I'll touch on those, the remainder of Bill 57 has too many provisions which are too open-ended, too vague, too ambiguous, too discretionary to be supportable.
That's why CELA does not support Bill 57 as drafted, and we recommend that Bill 57 be substantially amended before it goes on to third reading, royal assent and proclamation.
I distributed to the clerk earlier today the written submission that we prepared on Bill 57 and I'm pleased to see that committee members have it. It's entitled Submissions by the Canadian Environmental Law Association to the Ministry of Environment and Energy regarding the Environmental Approvals Improvement Act, 1996, Bill 57. It's just a wonderful title, self-explanatory.
Essentially, this is the written, detailed critique of the bill that we produced in July 1996. We submitted it to the ministry at that time because it wasn't clear that the bill was going to go to this committee for public hearings so we thought we better get something in, get it in writing and throw it into the hopper. I commend this scintillating work to the committee. I'm not going to take my time now to go through it in any particular detail, but in short, not much has happened since July 1996. All of the concerns, all of the comments, all of the recommendations are still valid and I commend them to the committee.
What I'd like to do in my remaining time is just highlight some of the recommendations we've made in this submission. A summary of these recommendations can be found starting at page 1 of this submission. What I'll do is go through each of the recommendations briefly; there are six of them.
The first appears at the bottom of page 1 of the submission, and it is that public comment on Bill 57 must not be limited to the 30-day comment period prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights. Assuming that Bill 57 receives second reading, the bill should be referred to committee hearings and be amended during clause-by-clause review. The operative part of that recommendation is that the bill should be amended during clause-by-clause review, because it cannot be supported in its present form.
Obviously the bill is here, so this recommendation has been partially fulfilled, and I'm glad to see that. However, if you go on to read the commentary associated with recommendation 1, you'll see that we express some concern about the fact that a lot of the regulations are not available for discussion prior to passage of this bill. That's a matter of some concern.
The Liberal member referred to this as giving the minister a blank cheque. That's a diplomatic way of saying it. I would prefer perhaps a more earthy metaphor. It's like buying a pig in a poke, because quite frankly, I am not confident that we will see the right regulations exempting the rights and setting the right performance standards. I am emboldened, I'm heartened to hear the minister committing to public consultation on these exempting regulations. I certainly intend to participate and I hope the ministry lives up to that commitment.
Let me move on to recommendation 2. This has to do with the new fee regime under Bill 57. In principle, CELA does support enhancing the ability to recover fees by the Ministry of Environment. We think that's a good idea in principle. Quite frankly, we don't care if it's called "user-pay" or "polluter-pay." It's a good idea to expand the ministry's ability to recover funds from proponents who apply for or obtain licences and approvals and certificates from the ministry.
But what's missing from Bill 57 is an important environmental safeguard, and this is something Ms Churley referred to earlier in her opening statement. Bill 57 does not guarantee that any revenue generated under this new fee regime will actually be retained by the ministry to use for environmental protection purposes. That's quite a significant omission, in my respectful submission. As Ms Churley pointed out, there are provincial and federal precedents for establishing special or separate environmental funds, and that's what recommendation 2 is all about.
I heard with some interest the minister comment that this is a matter he will discuss with Mr Eves. He wasn't sure if Mr Eves would be favourable to setting up a separate environmental account using fees generated under this new fee regime. I can tell you that recommendation 2, which I'm about to read into the record, I stole shamelessly from the Game and Fish Act amendments. These are the amendments the Honourable Chris Hodgson, Minister of Natural Resources, has put forward under the Game and Fish Act. This is not new; this is not novel; this government is doing it in other contexts.
Let me read recommendation 2. This is our recommendation about the new fee regime: Bill 57 should be amended to expressly require that any fees paid under the EPA or OWRA shall go into a specific fund or account administered solely by the MOEE and used exclusively for environmental protection purposes. In particular, Bill 57 should include the following provisions:
All money received by the crown under the EPA and OWRA shall be held in a separate account in the consolidated revenue fund, including all fines, penalties, fees and levies paid under the EPA, OWRA and regulations.
Money standing to the credit of the separate account is, for the purposes of the Financial Administration Act, money paid to Ontario for a special purpose.
The minister may direct that money be paid out of the account to the minister or to any person specified by the minister, for environmental protection purposes, such as: responding to spills or other environmental emergencies; restoring or rehabilitating the natural environmental where it has been adversely affected by the discharge of a contaminant or pollutant; decommissioning contaminated lands that have been abandoned by the persons responsible for the contamination; funding programs that encourage or facilitate pollution prevention or waste reduction, reuse or recycling; or providing participant funding or intervenor funding to facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making under the EPA or OWRA.
The minister shall ensure that a report is prepared annually on the financial affairs of the separate account, including a summary of advice received from any advisory committee established by the minister relating to the operation of the separate account.
Finally, the minister shall submit the annual financial report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall table the report in the Legislative Assembly by April 1 of each year.
It's not rocket science. It's been done under the Game and Fish Act and can be done in this context.
We have another concern associated with the fee regime, and this is reflected in recommendation 3. As it stands right now, Bill 57 will empower the Ministry of Environment and Energy to charge fees not only for copies of documents but for "the delivery of services," whatever that means. We're quite concerned by the lack of a definition of what services could be subject to a payment or a fee or a charge. Does it mean, for example, that if someone were to phone the Ministry of Environment and request an investigation, that is going to trigger a fee request? Probably not, but that's potentially there. What about somebody who wants to file an application for a review or an application for investigation under the Environmental Bill of Rights? It's free to do it now. Is it going to cost in the future? I don't know.
In my view, and in the view of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, there should not be a fee associated with basic environmental protection services that Ontario residents already pay for by way of taxes and other revenue. That's why we make recommendation 3: Bill 57 should be amended to delete or, alternatively, to significantly limit the MOEE's ability to demand fees for public access to MOEE information, records or services.
Let me move on to recommendation 4. This has to do with the Ontario Waste Management Corp. As you know, Bill 57 dissolves the Ontario Waste Management Corp. That is a good thing, that is something we can support, but that doesn't end the matter. Simply legislating the OWMC out of existence does not make hazardous waste go out of existence. We still have lots and lots of hazardous waste in this province that requires treatment or disposal. Better yet, we have lots of waste that should otherwise be avoided or prevented from being created in the first place.
I read with interest the Provincial Auditor's report yesterday. He tells us that some two billion kilograms of hazardous waste is still being generated, transported, stored and disposed of in this province. That carries with it a whole risk of special environmental and health risks. That is why the Provincial Auditor recommended yesterday that the Ministry of Environment improve its monitoring and tracking of hazardous waste, and that is why we make recommendation 4: Bill 57 should be amended to expressly confer the power to pass regulations requiring the reduction, reuse or recycling of hazardous waste, or any class thereof.
Recommendation 5 deals with the Environmental Compensation Corp. CELA regards the creation of the ECC in 1985 as a very positive and progressive reform. We see Bill 57's proposed abolition of the ECC as a very retrogressive reform, and it's one we cannot support. In our view and in our experience, because we've dealt with the ECC, the ECC has played a very important role, not only in providing compensation to innocent victims of spills, but also in educating the public about their environmental rights, helping ensure that environmental restoration occurs and helping contain and clean up spills and so forth.
The ECC will provide money to people who incur cost even though the spill has occurred through no fault of their own. People who incur cost in cleaning it up can go to the ECC and obtain funds. That's what the bulk of the compensation has been for over the past decade. It's to people who've incurred cost in cleaning up spills. That's something that should be encouraged. My fear is that getting rid of the ECC is not amenable to quick or prompt or effective spill cleanups. That's why we make recommendation 5: Bill 57 should be amended to retain the ECC, and consideration should be given to various options for restructuring or financing the ECC.
If the minister's concern is that too much public money has gone into the ECC -- I don't accept that, but if that's a concern -- then out of the new fees that are going to be generated under Bill 57 set aside or allocate some money to the ECC so they're using money paid into a fund by polluters, not the public at large.
I have to go on to make this recommendation: If the ECC is going to be terminated, then section 10 of Bill 57 must be amended to include a new subsection that expressly provides that nothing in Bill 57 affects or limits the right of any person to obtain interim or final compensation for any claims accruing before June 3, 1996, and for which a notice of loss has been filed with the ECC prior to June 3, 1996.
There are people caught in the middle right now who have pending claims before the ECC. The ECC should not be wound down until those outstanding claims have been properly disposed of. I've got clients who have pending applications, and I understand that a lawyer in Ottawa, Mr Peter Annis, has submitted a written submission to the committee outlining his clients' concerns if the ECC is wound down without that kind of guarantee for pending applications.
Let me conclude by focusing on recommendation 6. This focuses on this much-hyped permit-by-rule regime that Bill 57 is going to implement in Ontario. In my view permit by rule, and this whole regime itself, is probably the most significant and most objectionable aspect of Bill 57 because it does give the minister virtually unfettered power to exempt any thing, any person, any contaminant, any site from the requirements of the existing legislation. People call it permit by rule, people call it standardized approval; I call it bad law. I'm not too proud to call it environmental deregulation.
The minister, earlier in his remarks, challenged anybody to show him that this is environmental deregulation or that any other initiative undertaken by the government is environmental deregulation. I can refer the minister to the very comprehensive document we filed yesterday on the regulatory review process. It's called Responding to the Rollbacks: Comments on Responsive Environmental Protection. This is in relation to the ministry's plan to gut, delete, amend, consolidate some 40 of the 80 environmental regulations administered by the Ministry of Environment and Energy. At the conclusion of my remarks, I'd be prepared and happy to give my personal copy of this to the minister so he can look at it for himself.
I should also comment that I have, since his appointment, attempted to schedule a meeting with the minister to discuss what I conceive of as environmental deregulation, ranging from Niagara Escarpment initiatives to the environmental assessment reforms to Bill 57, and I have not been successful. If anything comes out of this committee meeting, I hope it's a commitment by the minister to meet with us and other interested stakeholders. I'd be happy to take him through lots of examples where deregulation is happening, where current standards are being weakened or eliminated.
As it stands, we cannot support permit by rule. We don't know what's going to be exempted. We don't know what the performance standards are going to be. We don't know who is going to monitor, who is going to enforce. Quite frankly, there are a lot of problems with permit by rule. We're not prepared to sign off on that at this point. But I will sign off on my comments at this point.
The Chair: Thank you. That affords us only less than a minute per caucus if members have a very brief question or comment.
Ms Churley: Given the lack of time, this may be unorthodox, but I would like to facilitate a meeting between the minister, who happily is still here, and Mr Lindgren. Perhaps I can use this opportunity to ask -- I know he's not on the floor; I ask your indulgence, Mr Chair and the committee -- if the minister would commit to set up a meeting with Mr Lindgren while you're both here today. It might be easier to do it that way.
Hon Mr Sterling: I don't arrange my meetings, but I will make every attempt to meet with every group. I certainly will do that.
Ms Churley: But you can't commit to meet with Mr Lindgren?
Hon Mr Sterling: I don't know whether I can. I don't know if they're in the middle of doing this now or not. I have no idea. I don't know what I'm going to be doing two days from now. I will try to meet with every group that has a --
Ms Churley: Well, I can't get a commitment for you today.
Hon Mr Sterling: CELA is a significant player in this business. I will be meeting with them some time in the future.
Mr Carroll: Thank you, Mr Lindgren. Good to see you again. You also presented to us on Bill 52, and you were opposed to that one too.
The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association presented to us just before you, and basically they're in favour of the thrust of this. They've got some problems with some of the semantics, but they're in favour of the thrust. Could you tell me, would you classify them as bad corporate citizens from an environmental standpoint?
Mr Lindgren: I can't say that I'm familiar enough with their operations to take a position one way or the other. I've never had occasion to sue any of their members, if that's what you're getting at.
Mr Hoy: I thank you very much for your presentation. There isn't really very much time to get into this. I had looked previously at your other document, and this is maybe condensed here in this book. I'd just simply say that your name is well known in the hamlet of Fletcher.
Ms Churley: His name is well known everywhere.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Lindgren, for appearing before us here today.
ONTARIO WASTE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION
The Chair: That takes us now to the Ontario Waste Management Association. Good afternoon. Welcome to the committee. Again, a reminder that we have 20 minutes for you to divide as you see fit.
Mr Terry Taylor: My name is Terry Taylor. I'm the executive director of the Ontario Waste Management Association. Our association is privileged to have this opportunity to address the committee today.
The association wants to compliment the government for recognizing that there is simply too much process involved in providing approvals to business operations that pose no significant threat to the environment. If this proposed system of standardized approvals is developed properly, the government's objective of reducing red tape, reducing costs and encouraging entrepreneurial investment activity will be readily accomplished.
We are here today to discuss just one aspect of this bill. As you know, there are many regulatory reform initiatives under way today at the Ministry of Environment and Energy. Parts of this bill are linked to those other initiatives. It is imperative, therefore, that these amendments be viewed in the larger context of the overall reform package and that care be given to think through the various possible ramifications of implementing all of these reforms together.
In its regulatory reform document Responsive Environmental Protection, the ministry proposes to pass along to the province's municipalities the responsibility to approve, issue and otherwise manage those types of simple and benign standardized environmental approvals contemplated in this bill. This bill is the legislation that provides the authority to the municipalities to charge fees in connection with these administrative activities.
It's no secret that all municipalities today face the constant challenge of funding their operations and programs with resources that are becoming increasingly scarce. We are concerned that unless they are otherwise discouraged or prohibited from doing so, some municipalities may look upon this as an opportunity to levy fees and charges for permits and licences in amounts that greatly exceed their actual administrative costs.
In reading the explanatory notes and the other documents that accompanied the introduction of this bill, the government repeatedly states that these fees, while as yet to be determined, will recover administrative costs only. I also heard the minister today in his remarks to you make the comment that these fees will recover administrative costs, will permit the ministry and also, by virtue of the bill, the municipalities to recover administrative costs.
If municipalities sought to collect more money from the administration of standardized approvals than what can be attributable only to administration activity, then some applicants will be discouraged from complying with the law. That would mean that unlicensed and unpermitted operations would proliferate. This would result in increased enforcement and prosecution expenses for the ministry. Surely the provincial government does not want its attempts to streamline the approvals process to result in the exploitation of the regulated community by municipalities. Unfortunately, this bill will be passed into law before the regulations are written. By then, it will be just an academic discussion as to what was the government's intent when it wrote this legislation.
We are here today asking that you note our concern. May we suggest the following remedy, one which will clarify the government's intent: We ask that "fees," as they are referred to in section 2 of the bill, clause 175.1(c) of the act, be defined as being specifically limited to fees charged to recoup administrative costs incurred in connection with the administration of standardized approvals referred to in other parts of the bill.
Ministry staff may counsel you that such an explicit definition is unnecessary. My question to you then is this: If the government agrees that the sole purpose of these fees is to allow regulators to recover only their administrative costs, then what possible harm can it do to explicitly state the government's intent in the bill? On the other hand, if you choose not to specifically define what is envisaged by these fees, should one conclude that the government would not be opposed to the possibility of the exploitation of licensees by municipalities? I certainly hope not. That is why it is crucial that you give specific direction to those who will be drafting the regulations that are authorized by this bill.
Thank you very much. That's my presentation. I'll be happy to answer whatever questions you might have.
The Chair: That gives us just over three minutes per caucus for questioning. The questioning will start this time with the government.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you, Mr Taylor, for the interesting presentation. You do make reference to regulations, and it's always a struggle in any bill how much should be regulation and how much should be part of the bill, and when do they come in. This is an ongoing struggle and certainly not unique to this particular one, as I'm sure you're aware.
I'd be interested in your comments as it relates to fees and some of the things that have been said earlier in this room while you were here as it relates to putting fees into a special package to be used for environmental purposes. Is that something you would support or do you see problems with doing that kind of thing with fees?
Mr Taylor: I guess I could probably be a little bit more supportive of it if we weren't $100 billion in debt, Mr Parliamentary Assistant. If we had more money to worry about, as to what to do with it, I guess that argument could be made, but until such time as this province is on the way back to fiscal responsibility, even more so than it is now, I think we need every dollar we can get to be used in the most prudential way possible.
Mr Galt: We're looking at developing these standardized approvals, and that seems to describe it for me better than permit by rule. We're looking at various activities that are predictable and controllable. Do you see where there may be a problem down the road environmentally, establishing the regulation in advance, setting it up, and then it's up to the particular proponent or participant to ensure that they do follow those regulations? Do you see how that's weaker than going the old, complicated route of certificates of approval?
Mr Taylor: I think some people fail to make the distinction between the stuff that can hurt you and the stuff that can't. Putting in a bathroom exhaust fan or putting in an exhaust fan in a restaurant isn't going to result in people being born with three heads or whatever. That's a pretty simple and benign operation. I suppose you go right back to the earliest days and say, "Why do you have to bother worrying about it anyway?" But be that as it may, the simple and benign, as I think somebody said earlier, that pose no threat to the environment, those are the types of things -- like falling off logs. That doesn't need to be caught up in a whole bunch of process. Siting a toxic waste dump, transporting hazardous waste, those are the things where regulation should be present and it should be enforceable and it should be enforced. I don't think you want to waste your time worrying about producing a blizzard of paper because some restaurant wants to put an exhaust fan in its bathroom.
Mr Hoy: Thank you very much for your presentation. Your concern with fees is one that I can say I share as well, particularly with the downloading to municipalities that is currently taking place. They're taking highways back from the province and all kinds of things -- they're not taking them back, they're being given highways. But I can tell you that unless we have a more understanding minister here, and I hope that we do -- there was a bill that dealt with agriculture. I tried to put parameters on what fees could be put in place, and the government rather liked the word "fees" without any parameters.
I think you have a valid argument here. I do recall -- and probably didn't understand it at the time; I was very young -- that an older uncle of mine told me that money does strange things to people. I can see where municipalities that are feeling a crunch could maybe do exactly what you're saying here. So we appreciate your comments.
Mr Taylor: Thank you, Mr Hoy. If I could just make a comment, the problem is, getting back to Dr Galt's comment about what should be regulation and what should be in the bill, that's the age-old problem of having to impute what the intent was long after the legislation has been passed. That's all we're asking. Everybody is on side saying, "Well, that's all these fees are for." If everybody agrees with that, then stick it in the bill and give it some definition. Then you're not going to have that problem later on.
Ms Churley: Would you also agree then, given that you'd like to see the definition of "fees" be more concrete in the bill, that should also be up front around the permit-by-rule section? I know you haven't made a lot of comments on that, but that's also a problem with this bill: the regulations to follow. You may be right, in fact you are right, there are some sectors that are environmentally at least fairly benign, but where do you draw the line? We don't know what the list is at this point. Would you agree it would be better to have up front in this bill, as with the fees, the same thing for what industries are going to be affected by, the permit by rule?
Mr Taylor: My only problem with that, Ms Churley, is that as technology proceeds, as our engineers get smarter and as new processes are developed, what might be construed today as being a semihazardous activity, if I could use that term, could be rendered a benign activity in the future. You could well make the argument, five or 10 years down the road, that this particular activity which in the old days required a lot of regulation, because of science and technology, today no longer poses the same threat. If you lock in the types of activities that you're going to exempt in the bill as opposed to doing it by regulation, you're making it difficult to keep the spirit of this bill current with the processes as technology proceeds and as there's a legitimate cause to be made for reducing the regulatory environment on what used to be hazardous activities which are now benign activities.
I would counsel you that you're giving future governments and future regulators more flexibility if you don't lock in the activities in the bill but you let it be determined by regulation.
The Chair: Thank you very much for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today, Mr Taylor.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): Mr Chair, on a point of privilege: I believe Mr Hoy had mentioned that the transfer of roads to municipalities didn't have any money connected to it. I just want to correct the record that indeed a great deal of money was connected with that transfer. In fact, many of the municipalities were supportive of that.
The Chair: That's not a point of privilege, but thank you for correcting the order paper.
GREAT LAKES UNITED
The Chair: Next up is Great Lakes United. Good afternoon and welcome to the committee. Again, just a reminder we have 20 minutes for you to divide between either presentation time or question and answer.
Mr John Jackson: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here today. I'm John Jackson, president of Great Lakes United, which is a coalition of citizens, environmental groups, labour groups and conservation groups from throughout Canada and the United States, as well as the first nations. I'm also here today as coordinator of the Citizens Network on Waste Management, which is a coalition of grass-roots, local citizens' groups all across the province who have been working on waste issues in their communities.
On the bill today, I just want to address three aspects of it, because of the limited time we have to speak: The first is on the increased discretion given to the ministry and to the director to give exemptions, the second is on opening up the possibility of enshrining industrial codes into regulations, and the third is the Ontario Waste Management Corp provisions.
The first, in terms of increased discretion to exempt from requirements under the Environmental Protection Act and also under the Ontario Water Resources Act, is something that for the local community groups is very frightening, quite frankly. We've worked and fought and struggled over 20, 25 years to develop a system of approvals for waste management facilities in particular, but a wide range of facilities that can have an impact on the environment; to get a system that now the public has developed a basic trust in and has said: "We have certain assurances that if a particular type of facility comes up that could come into our community, we know we'll have the opportunity for a hearing. We know we'll have the opportunity to seriously come forward and present our concerns and be heard on the matter."
Unfortunately, this provision that allows regulations to be passed, that gives sweeping powers in terms of the ability to give exemptions, takes away this trust that we as citizens' groups have developed in the process. That is a major setback in terms of the local community groups having confidence that the Environmental Protection Act will indeed protect them.
As we already know -- we've heard references today -- the regulatory review already has started to come forward with proposals for exemptions which would come out under these changes in the Environmental Protection Act. It includes things such as, if you wanted to take hazardous waste from another company and burn it in your facility, for example, a cement kiln on your property, there would be no need to go through any sort of public hearing to give the public who live around that cement kiln the opportunity to make input in terms of whether they were willing to have hazardous waste burned in their community. That's in the regulatory provisions that are already being brought forward for public consultation.
There's also a fear on the part of local communities that the exemption clause says it can exempt specific persons, specific projects. So it isn't even simply wide categories where we have the opportunity to go in and discuss those, but a specific project that comes forward -- and I have no reasons for pulling out these examples; they're just examples that could arise -- such as Metro Toronto shipping garbage up to Kirkland Lake or some other community in the far north.
An exemption could be passed under this provision in the Environmental Protection Act which would say that didn't have to go through a hearing process and change the process dramatically. For the grass-roots groups, this really takes away our assurance that the Environmental Protection Act has brought us that we will have the opportunity to really make a difference in protecting our communities.
The second concern I want to bring forward is the provision in the act that says industrial codes could be enshrined in regulations. This is subsection 177(4), the adoption of orders. The concern with this is what this becomes is industry developing the regulations instead of the Parliament developing the regulations, instead of the ministry developing the regulations, instead of all of us in the communities developing the regulations that we consider acceptable. I'll give you a prime example of what's being developed at the moment.
We all see, as we go around in our communities, the buildings that have ISO 9000 signs. Now the International Standards Organization is developing what they call their environmental standards, ISO 14000, and we'll soon start seeing these signs on buildings. The ISO 14000 standards being developed by industry are standards that say you have to have a certain type of planning for the environment and these are the components of that plan. It doesn't actually say what standard you have to meet, as long as you have some controls. It doesn't say to what degree the control has to be. But these are the kinds of performance standards that are coming forward out of industry.
An ISO 14000, when it comes out, is going to be an instrument that's very powerful in terms of industry's promotion of it, and we have a real fear that it's these kinds of industry standards that will come in under this section of the Environmental Protection Act. What it really means is the taking away from us, the public, and from all sectors of the community the opportunity to develop our own regulations and standards. It's the ministry stepping back from its responsibility to develop the standards that protect the community and devolving that to industry.
The third topic I want to discuss under this is the Ontario Waste Management Corporation Act. As someone who has worked with that community in west Lincoln that for over 10 years fought to stop this 300,000-tonne hazardous waste incinerator and landfill going in, we're delighted to see this provision, obviously. It's the final assurance to that community that we don't have to worry about this coming back to us again.
The Liberal government put it under the Environmental Assessment Act, which meant that it had a more serious assessment, which I think led to its demise. The NDP government finally said: "This proposal is nuts. We're not going to proceed with it." We're pleased to see that this government is finally saying: "Forget it, we don't need this hazardous waste corporation. Let's step back from it."
But the people in that community who fought so hard all those years to say, "No, this is not a facility that's appropriate for our community or any other community in this province," are also dedicated, and throughout their struggle were dedicated, to making sure that we did do something appropriate with hazardous waste. So we ask you to put into these provisions of the Environmental Protection Act the power for the ministry, for the cabinet, to make regulations that require hazardous waste reduction and recycling, because that is the critical next step. Putting such a provision in the Environmental Protection Act then becomes a commitment from the government to proceed and do something about hazardous waste. Thank you for your time.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That leaves us just over three minutes per caucus for questioning, this time commencing with the official opposition.
Mr Hoy: This ISO 9000 came up in another committee for a different reason, but do you understand ISO 9000 to be a situation where companies get involved in this process so that their product is the same in Nebraska as it is in Mexico as it is here in Toronto? Is that your understanding of the basis of ISO 9000?
You're nodding yes. Therefore, it's in their very best interests that their product have a high quality, no matter where it's bought in the world, and that's why they go into this. However, if they are to self-regulate under ISO 14000, it may have no relationship at all to their product. The fact that you won this particular sign at the front of your place of business, would you agree, does not necessarily mean that you're adhering to the guidelines, we'll say, for ISO 14000?
Mr Jackson: Definitely not. In fact I remember someone who's one of the consultants working in developing the ISO 14000 explaining to me because you have to realize that getting the standard, the ISO 14000 qualification on the sign on your building, is simply like getting a driver's licence. It doesn't mean you're driving safely; it simply means you've developed a plan by which you could drive safely. It's no guarantee you are.
In terms of ISO 9000 and those things, we have no problem. We think standards in terms of what a product should be like make a lot of sense. But ISO 14000 is moving us into the public environmental field where industry is setting the standards that we in the community have to put up with in terms of our environmental protection. It's a very different creature from the signs that we currently see in the facilities, and that's why we have this real concern.
Mr Hoy: Therefore, there's a role for government to play in these regulations to take away the fear you say your community has of a loss of protection and, you said, a fear of other projects. So the government has, in your view, a strong role to play in formulating regulations as it pertains to the discussion today, and industry may not be well equipped to self-regulate.
Mr Jackson: Definitely not. I totally agree with that statement.
The other problem in terms of the process for developing standards like ISO 14000 is that it's developed in a form which is industry-driven. Occasionally they will include some people from other sectors on the committees that are developing the standards, but that's a very minimal involvement and it certainly is an industry-developed standard. The ministry should be developing the standards and regulations.
Ms Churley: Thank you for coming to present to us today. As a long-time community environmental activist, particularly around hazardous waste, I was glad to see that you made a recommendation that the 3Rs, reduction, reuse etc, be included in the bill. I did ask the minister earlier in my brief few minutes about the government's overall plan for not only the reduction but the elimination of hazardous wastes, and also trying to prevent it from being produced in the first place. There's a whole series of issues that need to be dealt with there, so I'm glad. I realize the minister said he wants some time to figure out what he is going to do and come up with some programs. In the meantime, I think it would be quite useful and I hope there will be an amendment accepted on that.
Mr Jackson: We would be glad to work with him in helping him develop those.
Ms Churley: Great. I may add that to my knowledge, all of the hazardous waste plans that were in place have been cancelled. We're looking at practically nothing within the Ministry of the Environment now to deal with hazardous waste, which is a very big problem. Thank you for your offer to help with that.
I want to ask you briefly, just what do you think about voluntary measures in general which this government and indeed the federal government, although they're backing off a bit, has been moving to more and more in terms of environmental protection?
Mr Jackson: What's really interesting is that I think voluntary measures on their own cannot do the job. They have to be backed up by regulations. What I find very interesting is if you sit on multistakeholder committees, and I've sat on quite a few, and things like, for example, the national packaging protocol, where we have the various industry sectors as well as government and the environmental groups sitting at the table, what happens is before we end the process, the industries always end up saying, "We want backdrop legislation to be sure that everyone in our sector, all of our competitors, are doing as good a job as we're happy to do." What's interesting is it ends up being industry that is also saying, "We don't want this program to just be voluntary, or we're going to step away from it."
Ms Churley: So it's not a level playing field, in other words.
Mr Jackson: That's right.
The Chair: That takes us now to the government benches.
Mr Galt: Mr Jackson, thanks very much for coming out and for your presentation. Just a couple of things I'd like to bring to your attention: first, to make it clear that the minister does have the right to exempt. That's already in the legislation. Just to clarify on that particular one, and also just in the process of developing regulations, that isn't something that the minister can up and trot off and say, "Here's a new regulation." In connection with the Ministry of Environment, it will go out in the Environmental Bill of Rights. People like yourself will certainly be very aware that it's being looked and then of course it has to be approved by cabinet later, so they just don't come in willy-nilly, as might have come across from your presentation. You may not have said that exactly, but it's kind of the feeling.
This process, permit by rule, call it what you may, standardized approval, we already have two of those in place from the previous government, one for composting purposes and one for collection of used oil. If it's not convenient for that used oil, I think you know where it goes. You could talk the same about batteries, you could talk about antifreeze, you could talk about paint. Those are some of the things we have in mind. Do you have a problem with doing those kinds of things, collecting those kinds of materials?
Mr Jackson: There are three questions. Let me just address them. The first one in terms of the minister's discretion, there are certain discretionary powers there, but this definitely broadens it. Otherwise, why put the section in? The section wouldn't be necessary in terms of the discretionary powers if this wasn't in some way broadening the powers.
In terms of the regulatory process, yes, under the Environmental Bill of Rights it has to go out for public consultation, but a 30-day period is required. Thirty days for community groups to seriously respond to a regulation and try to organize around that and make a difference is not enough time to seriously deal with regulatory proposals.
One of the problems in terms of regulatory proposals is that the people who may end up being most affected in the long run, because it's their community that a proposal for a facility comes to, don't even realize when the regulation is out there that it could affect them, and therefore, they don't come forward to speak, which is understandable.
In terms of easier permitting processes for things like composting facilities and some of those facilities, we certainly have flexibility in terms of some types of facilities receiving easier approvals. We definitely are quite willing to agree with that type of thing. Our problem is, we need some assurances in terms of how far this will go. To us, this is opening the door wide open, that we don't know how far it might go. That's what really worries us.
The Chair: We have time for a brief question, Mr Carroll.
Mr Carroll: Mine wasn't going to be that brief and actually Mr Jackson just kind of touched on it a little bit there. You are saying that you do agree with simplifying the system to allow somebody who wants to make a change that in no way will provide a negative impact on the environment to be allowed to go ahead and make that change, provided they fall within the guidelines.
Mr Jackson: It depends what the kind of facility is and also we would have to clearly define the types of changes.
Mr Carroll: So you're not interested in the results as much as you're interested --
Mr Jackson: But the problem is that in terms of defining the type of facility, I would do that on the basis of the result, about what difference it would make.
Mr Carroll: So as long as the result is as good or better, then you favour us being able to say to the manufacturer or whatever, "If you make that change, as long as you fit within these parameters, that's okay"?
Mr Jackson: As long as it is a minor change on a facility that is not going to create a problem for the community. That's why we need a clear definition of the type of facility that we're talking about, and the type of change.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Jackson, for taking the time to appear before us here today.
ALLIANCE OF MANUFACTURERS AND EXPORTERS CANADA, ONTARIO DIVISION
The Chair: That takes us to our next group, the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada. I invite them to come forward, introduce themselves for Hansard and again just remind you we have 20 minutes for you to divide. Welcome to the committee. Please proceed as soon as you're ready.
Mr Brian Collinson: Thank you, Mr Chairman and honourable members of the committee. My name is Brian Collinson. I'm the director of commercial policy of the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada. With me today is the chairman of our committee, Mr Blake Smith, of Ford Canada. Although the two of us appear today, the submission represents broadly the views of our membership and of the environmental professionals from many of our member companies.
The Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada thanks you for the opportunity to present the views of our association with respect to Bill 57. The alliance is the voice of the Canadian manufacturing and exporting sectors on policy issues. Created by the amalgamation of the former Canadian Manufacturers' Association and the former Canadian Exporters' Association, we have nearly 2,000 member companies in Ontario and 3,500 across Canada, representing all sizes and types of manufacturing and exporting businesses. Our members produce well over 80% of the manufactured output of Canada.
About 1.8 million people are employed directly in manufacturing and processing in Canada, and three million more have jobs directly or indirectly dependent upon these sectors. Most of these people are Ontarians. Manufacturing accounts for 8.5% of GDP, making it the largest single sector, while exporting accounts for over 37% of Canada's economic activity. The truth is unavoidable: If Canada cannot manufacture and export in an economic and competitive manner, the Ontario and Canadian economies will wither and die.
Many believe that higher taxes or tighter regulation should be imposed on businesses to compensate for the benefits which business is receiving at the expense of Canadian society. We believe that this conception is fundamentally incorrect. Canadian business paid $115 billion, we estimate, in government-mandated expenditures in 1992. Regulatory compliance costs alone ran to an estimated $48 billion. Moreover, manufacturers have faced a severe cost squeeze with selling prices increasing by only 19% from 1989 through 1995. Hourly wages, payroll taxes and other expenses have increased by much more.
Hence, in 1995, it took the average firm approximately seven hours and 37 minutes out of every eight-hour production shift to cover operating expenses, and another 7.5 minutes to pay taxes. Consequently, the cost of regulatory burden in Ontario will mean the difference between creation or destruction of investment and jobs. Regulatory compliance costs must be reduced from their extraordinarily high levels if the Ontario economy is to provide the people of Ontario with jobs and growth.
How can Ontario get the maximum bang per buck in the sense of maintaining high standards of environmental quality while keeping compliance costs as low as possible?
The alliance supports the overall concept and direction of the government's regulatory reform package, particularly with regard to approvals reform and Bill 57. Amendments are essential to keep pace with the rapid rate of economic and technological change, which has rendered the present body of legislation, regulation and policy obsolete.
The alliance is broadly supportive of Bill 57 and the government's obvious commitment to the regulatory reform of the approvals process. This is a matter of the highest priority to our membership. None the less, there are some technical issues of major importance with respect to the language used in several sections of Bill 57 which give us serious concern, due to what the alliance believes to be the extraordinarily broad regulation-making power given to the ministry.
We believe that it is essential that the legislative purpose of Bill 57 be kept firmly in mind in assessing the breadth of the regulation-making powers given in that bill and, in particular, in clauses 175.1(b), 176(1)(h) and (h.1), 176(1)(h.2) and 176(6)(l.1). Fundamentally, the purpose of Bill 57, as the title indicates, is to improve the efficiency of the environmental approvals process.
Such broad powers might expedite the removal of many of the regulatory obstacles found in the approvals process, but they could also be used to introduce highly prescriptive and interventionist measures of the sort which the government is seeking to remove. Undoubtedly, the ministry could achieve the desired regulatory results through a much simpler and less far-reaching set of legislative measures.
The specific sections are considered in detail below.
Clause 175.1(b) consolidates a range of powers found in various sections of the EPA, but in so doing, it expands them. The section gives the power to make regulations "prohibiting, regulating or controlling" a very large range of activities, including sale, display, advertising, transfer, transportation, operation, maintenance, storage, recycling, disposal or discharge of a wide range of items, including any activity, area, location, matter, substance, product, material, beverage, packaging, container or thing. This is unnecessarily broad for the purpose at hand. It should at least be clearly stated that such a broad range of regulatory powers is only in furtherance of the powers given by the EPA.
The language of clause 176(1)(h) bears strong resemblance to the language in the section mentioned above. It gives extraordinarily broad powers to prescribe requirements governing the discharge of any contaminant for any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing with respect to planning, design, siting, public notification and consultation, establishment, insurance, facilities, staffing, operation, maintenance, monitoring, record-keeping, submission of reports to the director and improvement.
Clause 176(h.1) gives similar regulation-making power in respect to the discontinuance of any facility.
The alliance strongly believes that prescriptive regulation of this type and this breadth could be a major impediment to the development of new industrial projects, because of the uncertainty created by how such broad powers will be used. In addition, performance-based regulation would be a much more efficient means of protecting the environment.
With regard to clauses 176(1)(h.1) and 176(6)(l.1), these sections create the regulatory power to deem the existence of certificates of approval in circumstances where an exemption from a requirement to obtain a certificate of approval has been granted. The concept of a deemed C of A for facilities that have complied with prescribed standards is unnecessarily cumbersome. We believe that it would be more effective to have a system of deemed exemptions per se rather than deemed approvals, allowing firms to completely avoid the approvals process wherever it is safe and practical to do so.
The alliance strongly recommends that the language of Bill 57 be amended to reduce the broad regulation-making powers granted so that industry may give its whole-hearted endorsement to the legislation reforming the approvals process.
The alliance thanks the committee for the opportunity to present our views with respect to Bill 57 and the approvals process.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That affords us about three minutes per caucus. This time we'll commence with the NDP.
Ms Churley: Thank you for your presentation. I just wonder -- I don't think you've touched on it -- what you think of the section on fees.
Mr Collinson: I think that Mr Smith would like to comment on that particularly, but in general, certainly our membership feels that the fee-making power is also very broad and unnecessarily broad.
Mr Blake Smith: I think from an overall policy point of view, it's the alliance's position that anything that represents an additional tax is not going to be favoured. To the extent that fees are cost recovery of legitimate services, particularly if there is competitive access or at least there's a competitive situation in those services, they don't have much objection.
Ms Churley: Do you feel from what you know about what's being prescribed here that these fees will honestly just cover costs, ministry costs, or do you think it's going to partly go towards paying down the debt?
Mr Smith: I wouldn't want to speculate.
Ms Churley: I'll speculate. It's very broadly defined and yes, we believe it will go to paying down the debt or helping to fund the tax cut or whatever.
I'm just wondering, if we are not able to convince the government to do it differently, if they keep the fee prescription the way it is, would you think it would be a good idea at least for that money to be reserved, if there's extra funding, so if you have to pay it on top of what you owe to recover costs, it would at least go into a fund which will help further environmental protection instead of just into general revenue?
Mr Collinson: I think in general, as Mr Smith has indicated, we're opposed to additional tax burden on the industries of the province of Ontario.
The reservation or the creation of some sort of trust fund to maintain these fees for environmental purposes we believe would be fundamentally beside the point, because we believe that there are many more effective means to preserve and to maintain environmental quality.
Ms Churley: But if I may, the government is taking billions of dollars out to pay down the deficit and to reduce taxes. It is also coming out of the ministries of Environment and Natural Resources. Nobody disputes that. It's coming out. All ministries have to do their bit. So in fact the protection of the environment fundamentally has to be impacted on this, as does every program. Given that, this would be a way, no matter where you stand politically, at least to recover some money to help in areas where people have been laid off, technical staff, enforcers, monitoring people, so it would just help, in my view, deal with those mass cuts that are happening.
Mr Collinson: The position of the alliance would be that the cuts which have occurred in the context of environmental funding, and more generally in the context of many other departments, do not impact environmental quality and environmental care. In fact, the measures that the government is introducing stand to maintain or enhance environmental quality or care.
Ms Churley: Why do you say that? What's your evidence?
The Chair: Thank you, Ms Churley. We've gone over our time there. Dr Galt and then Mr Tascona.
Ms Churley: Will you follow up on that for me, please?
Mr Galt: What I want to try and clarify -- I did with the last presenter and it's come up again here -- has to do with exemptions. As presently in the bill, an exemption is yes or no with no conditions; it's either in or out, and the minister is not at the time of exemption able to apply conditions.
If you look at 175(1)(a), at the very end of it, and the regulations and prescribing conditions for the exemption from this act and the regulations, it's the conditions the minister now needs the ability or the power to attach to these exemptions or to allow the standardized approvals, that conditions can be applied. That has not been possible in the past and that is the driving force behind this.
Mr Smith: I recognize that. I think personally I've been involved in discussions about the need for approvals reform for a long, long time, but there's more than one way to skin a cat from the wording point of view.
Mr Galt: Animal welfarers wouldn't appreciate that.
Mr Smith: I've never been politically correct. There are other ways in terms of language that that could be done. For example, air approvals are covered in section 9 of the act. You could simply take those provisions to that section. There are a series of other mechanisms. It appears in doing this that what's been done is they've all been pushed into a single clause.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): On page 3 of your presentation, under number 2, you state that performance based regulation would be a much more efficient means of protecting the environment. Why do you say that?
Mr Smith: Because what happens in a performance based scenario is that the objective is set, the performance criteria, and the proponent or whoever is asking for approval is allowed flexibility in how to achieve that objective. It just allows creativity, basically.
Mr Tascona: Why is it more efficient, though?
Mr Smith: That just allows business creativity to be executed without the approvals process dictating how something has to be done. In the past, the technology in certain cases has actually been dictated.
Mr Tascona: What type of activities do you think should be deemed exemptions, and why?
Mr Smith: I think the examples that were used earlier, like a hot dog vendor, restaurants -- one of my favourites is domestic washrooms -- recreation areas --
Mr Tascona: What about your industry?
Mr Smith: The other case is where someone does something proactive -- that is, they're trying to improve circumstances, voluntarily coming forward with projects that are going to reduce emissions either through improved control equipment, process changes, new plant and process. It's kind of difficult to understand why you're held back on that from a timing point of view. In this era, timing is almost everything.
Mr Hoy: I've been following the line of questioning along this afternoon as it pertains to your brief. I just want to say in my opening remarks we agree that this gives extraordinarily broad regulation-making powers to the minister and we have concerns with that.
The Ontario environmental committee -- I notice, Mr Smith, that you're with Ford Motor Co, and then in another presentation at 4 o'clock you were with environmental affairs and environmental quality. Your expertise in the environment, is it one of making sure that you comply with regulations or have you been involved in development thereof, and just what are the origins of the Ontario environmental committee?
Mr Smith: Of the alliance?
Mr Hoy: No, specifically the Ontario environmental committee.
Mr Collinson: The environmental committee is composed of individuals who are environmental professionals from a very broad range of our firms. There is a representation on that committee of all different sizes of manufacturers, from the largest down to the smallest. The committee is composed of people who are involved on a day-to-day basis with compliance with the existing regulatory regime. Because of their experience in compliance through the regulatory regime, we draw upon these people and their expertise for recommendations with respect to environmental policy and with the development of our environmental policy that hopefully will be effective in furthering both quality care of the environment and also the economic goals of the membership of the alliance.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing before us here today. We appreciate it.
LAMBTON INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY
The Chair: That takes us to our last presentation of the afternoon, the Lambton Industrial Society. Good afternoon and welcome to the committee.
Mr Walter Frais: Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Walter Frais and I'm representing the Lambton Industrial Society. We've handed out some brochures to give you an idea of what the association does, but very quickly, first of all, thank you for allowing me to come here to represent the society.
The LIS is a non-profit, industry-based environmental co-operative. Currently we have 15 companies operating in Lambton county who are members of the society. The site managers from each of the companies sit on the LIS board of directors, and just as an aside, we have an annual budget of $1 million a year to monitor the environmental effects on Lambton county. Our effort is to increase our understanding of the environment around us. The member companies are committed to managing their activities in a way that ensures a clean environment for this generation and those to follow.
Specifically, we would like to address this committee on the subject of approvals. The LIS strongly supports the MOEE's overall objective of streamlining and simplifying the approval process. The existing process provides no clear time lines or accountability, all factors that disrupt business planning. Business opportunities for Ontario companies can be and have been lost due to delays in obtaining approvals for minor changes required to produce small quantities of materials for specific customers. The process is also unpredictable in its outcome.
We believe substantial improvements can and should be made in these areas so that regulation is not considered as a barrier or impediment to industrial development in Ontario. At the same time, we fully support the MOEE's position that environmental standards not be lowered. We fully concur that human health and the environment must not be compromised in any way.
In his September 26, 1996, speech to the Legislature, Dr Doug Galt stated, and please correct me if I misquote you: "Currently under the Environmental Protection Act, any activity which could potentially result in emissions or discharge of any kind being released into the natural environment requires a certificate of approval. But the current legislation does not allow us to differentiate between the approvals required to operate a little restaurant exhaust fan and a giant smelter. This means that sometimes we need to go through costly and lengthy approvals processes for fairly common and mundane kinds of activities. It is the equivalent of trying to use a sledgehammer to kill a fly."
The LIS fully agrees with Dr Galt's statement and therefore proposes removal of the requirement of a certificate of approval for certain environmentally insignificant activities.
The LIS supports the MOEE on this activity; however, the current list of items being proposed is of little benefit to our industry. The inclusion of minor items in a C of A should not be in the C of A process in the first place. For example, the type of pump and size of line used to transfer water to a treatment plant are minor details best handled by the company design engineers. Currently, changes in these items require a modification of the C of A but may not have any impact on the performance of the treatment plant itself. Our proposal is that, in conjunction with industry, the MOEE develop boundaries and parameters for defining insignificance.
While approvals are required for installation of any equipment or process which discharges anything into the natural environment, the current legislation actually goes further. With respect to the approvals, the Environmental Protection Act states, and I got this right out of the regulation:
"No person shall, except under and in accordance with a certificate of approval issued by the director,
"(a) construct, alter, extend or replace any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing that may discharge or from which may be discharged a contaminant into any part of the natural environment other than water; or
(b) alter a process or rate of production with the result that a contaminant may be discharged into any part of the natural environment other than water or the rate or manner of discharge of a contaminant into any part of the natural environment other than water may be altered."
This drives our process people completely bonkers trying to understand what this definition says.
The Ontario Water Resources Act goes further and says:
"No persons shall establish, alter, extend or replace new or existing sewage works except under and in accordance with an approval granted by a director."
Thus, certificates of approval are required for pollution prevention, pollution reduction, and all projects dealing with sewage systems, regardless of whether or not there's any environmental impact at all. Certificates of approval are also required for the substitution of a toxic chemical by a more environmentally friendly material.
The Lambton Industrial Society therefore proposes removal of requirements of approval for projects which reduce or do not change emissions. Specifically, this would include pollution prevention projects, pollution reduction projects, toxic chemical substitution and pilot studies associated with this change, and projects which do not increase environmental emissions.
Many of the members of the Lambton Industrial Society are also members of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association, and as such are committed to the principle of responsible care. In doing so, they are committed to voluntary pollution prevention/reduction activities. We do not believe that fees should be collected on such projects.
The LIS therefore proposes that fees should not be collected on projects not requiring a C of A. These would include pollution prevention projects which have no environmental effect. Since the objective of both industry and the ministry is to improve our environment, collection of fees when no service has been rendered is certainly a disincentive. As an example, we have in Ontario the adopt-a-highway program. How would the individuals and service groups involved in this program react if fees were now being imposed on their participation?
The process to obtain a C of A involves discussions with the local office of the Ministry of Environment and Energy. These are useful in that they provide alternatives not previously considered and input from the ministry's perspective. It has been our experience that the local officers are not only well versed in environmental legislation, but also in local requirements and sensitivities. Given this, they are potentially in a better position to issue permits for projects which do not require the detailed engineering done by the approvals branch in Toronto.
Therefore, the LIS proposes that approvals for minor projects which require an approval be handled exclusively by the local MOEE office. We believe this would have the benefit of reducing costs both for the ministry and industry and would greatly reduce the time needed for approval.
In conclusion, we are very supportive of the ministry's reform proposals. It is our opinion that removal of red tape will produce an environment in which all Ontarians will prosper. A healthy economy will ensure that capital is available to achieve a healthy environment.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation.
The Chair: Thank you very much. That affords us just over three minutes per caucus for questioning.
Mr Carroll: Thank you very much, sir. We appreciate your presentation this morning. It's nice to see somebody from southwestern Ontario coming up to Toronto to talk to us.
A couple of groups have come forward expressing concern about the regulations that might follow from this legislation being actually more prescriptive than what we have now, and I sense from their conversations with us a sense of real mistrust in what the ministry might come forward with. As I listened to what you've said here, I sense the same kind of concern from the group you represent, that maybe instead of improving things, the regulations may in fact make things worse. Am I reading something into what you said that's not there?
Mr Frais: I didn't mean to imply that. I've read what you're proposing to do, and you're right: You've got all the power in the world to do anything you want. At first it was a concern by our group. Maybe we're a trusting group, but we believe, based on what we've heard from the ministry so far, that we're going to be heading in a direction that will help our industry actually. You do have the power, yes, but we believe you won't abuse it.
Mr Carroll: So you don't have a problem with what the regulations might say? You feel pretty comfortable?
Mr Frais: We obviously will look at the regulations at that time and give our critique at that time. Theoretically, we will have to wait until the regulations come out.
Mr Carroll: You represent a group of people from Chemical Valley who are watched probably more than most industries as far as environmental areas are concerned. Obviously my guess is that despite the fact that there are some controversies once in a while, basically you're very good corporate citizens environmentally and you support the direction we are going in with this legislation. Is that correct?
Mr Frais: We do, because it gives you the power to do many of the things we think you need to do to clean up the approvals process. We have a real tough time complying with the existing one.
Mr Hoy: Thank you very much for your presentation. I see that your board of directors is made up of members from some of the larger corporations in Ontario and indeed Canada.
On page 2, you talk about the "removal of requirements of approvals for projects which reduce or do not change emissions." It's actually 2(c) that I'm not understanding. Can you enlighten me a little bit more about "toxic chemical substitution and pilot studies" and why you think the removal of requirements for approvals would apply there?
Mr Frais: There are some cases where we have a chemical, let's say benzene, which everybody knows is a carcinogen, and we are in the process of removing the benzene and substituting another material which does exactly the same thing but which will result in maybe the same amount of emissions but of a different chemical which is less hazardous. We see that as a great benefit to the environment. There's a lot of development work involved in doing that, and a lot of experimentation in doing it. It's very hard to define a certificate of approval that gives you the flexibility to do all the things you need to do to make that sort of a change. Again, depending on the chemical that you're substituting with, there may be a requirement for some review of some sort.
Mr Hoy: But if it's a pilot study, isn't there a danger there of an unknown, or am I misinterpreting what you mean by a pilot study?
Mr Frais: I guess "pilot study" means research in the lab and maybe in a pilot plant type of facility, on a small scale versus a large scale.
Mr Hoy: All right. You've helped me out there. Thank you very much.
Ms Churley: Mr Frais, I'm sorry, I don't have any questions, but I thank you for your presentation. We have to go in for a vote soon and I want to use my time to raise an issue with the committee. I appreciate your coming to speak to us.
The Chair: If that means you want to do it in the absence of Mr Frais --
Ms Churley: I just want to make sure that I have time to raise an issue before the bells ring.
The Chair: We certainly do have three minutes. That clock is fast. We checked and the clock in the chamber right now is reading about 11 or 12 minutes to.
Ms Churley: I guess we're through with the deputation.
The Chair: In that case, thank you, Mr Frais, for coming in this afternoon and being our long-distance visitor for the day. I appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation.
Ms Churley: Mr Chair, it's actually related to this presentation. Certainly no offence to Mr Frais; we're quite glad he was able to come and speak to us. It's not personal. This is to do with an agreement that the subcommittee made on how we organize the presenters to us. We have four hours, and it's my contention that usually in these hearings, especially when it's a few hours, the two opposition parties and the government party should go in order and each be able to bring in people to speak. This committee determined that it would be pro-con, pro-con, pro-con; I lost out on that.
Four hours altogether isn't much, and I know that there have been some environmental people -- I can get that for the next meeting -- who have been turned down because there is no time. I'm sorry, but I see here today the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada and -- again, not dismissing your role to play in this; I'm talking about how the committee works -- people who are involved with the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association. Some of the groups that have come in to support the minister's bill have, quite frankly, not really commented on the entire bill but have just come in to mouth their position to support it, and very specific to their area, their industry. There are groups out there and people out there that want to speak to the whole bill. Having said that, I would like to know what happened so that today, with only a few hours left, we had these two very obvious groups at the end of the agenda that are supporting the government bill.
The Chair: Thank you for raising the issue. In fact, every group that indicated an interest in speaking to the bill has been accommodated, period. There is no one who met the deadline who -- all three parties were encouraged to go to the people they knew might have an interest and to solicit groups over and above the advertisement on the parliamentary channel, which has run continuously since the day of our subcommittee hearing.
In fairness, I have to answer this question because Todd has inherited the committee, as you are aware, just recently. The previous clerk gave me an absolute assurance that as of 5 o'clock on that day every one of the 19 groups that had expressed an interest had been scheduled. The only reason we have two -- in deference to Mr Frais's presentation, we didn't know what the Lambton Industrial Society was. The only reason there has been any deviation from pro-con -- as we look through it here today, it's totally consistent -- was that we did not know exactly who or what they spoke for.
Ms Churley: When you're setting an agenda, Mr Chair, that agrees that it be pro-con, pro-con, I think it's incumbent on us to find out, because therefore --
The Chair: With the greatest of respect, I don't think the groups that express an interest in coming to speak to this or any other committee have an obligation to divulge their membership. We've raised that issue before, and I don't think it's incumbent upon us, nor is it appropriate, to scrutinize their own background or their reason for coming forward. But the overlying principle is that every group that asked has been accommodated.
Ms Churley: I tend to agree with what you say, which is why I think in fairness, as this is a legislative committee, not a government committee, you don't try to work it the pro-con, pro-con way because of the difficulties you end up with, like you said today. You didn't know. It just seems therefore to be fair that you have each party be able to equally participate in who comes before us, because it is difficult, I agree.
The Chair: The issue you're raising as opposed to using pro-con -- and it is true that on one bill this committee allowed a rotation where all three parties submitted lists. No party submitted the list. The clerk and the Chair were given the authority to schedule, and I think that by providing the pro-con balance there's nothing more we could do. Neither I nor Doug Arnott had any idea whether any of the 19 groups had been approached by you.
Ms Churley: I'm saying there is a problem with the system, therefore, if this is the way, which I had argued in the subcommittee meeting.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'll keep it very brief. Two points I'd like to make on this: I don't think it's for us to determine what any presenter should present. I take offence at somebody else suggesting that because somebody chooses to sit here and use their time as an intervenor and express their opinions specific to an issue in the bill, not all of the bill -- it's up to the intervenor. This is a public --
Ms Churley: Absolutely. There's no argument --
Mrs Fisher: May I finish, Mr Chair?
The Chair: Yes. Mrs Fisher has the floor.
Mrs Fisher: The first point that was made was taking exception to what parts of bills -- I'm stating my position with regard to that.
The second part is the pros and cons. As a resources development committee that has sat through maybe three or four pieces of legislation to date in the year we've been here, I don't think we've paid much attention in a lot of cities that I travelled to, on the past bill especially, with regard to pro-con, pro-con. If we want to be technical about that, I might say 20 out of 32 one day were one way or another. We didn't take exception to that. I think the people who make application to be heard at the hearings, where we can, should be fully allowed to be here.
Ms Churley: That's not the way it works, my dear.
Mrs Fisher: I think you've expressed your opinion. In fact, they all have been accommodated. That is the way it works.
The Chair: If we can summarize this, every group that expressed an interest has been accommodated. We can't ask them to look at any more of the bill than they may interested in speaking to themselves. I can give you an absolute assurance that there was absolutely no malice and that the only reason that the pro-con was used was so that if, by any chance, there was media interest -- it has been the past submission by all three parties on the subcommittee that there was merit in allowing both sides of the argument to be exposed to that sort of scrutiny, particularly on the first day.
In looking at the list on our next meeting date, there is an individual by the name of Mary Field. I have no idea whether she is pro or con, or whether she will speak to the whole bill. I don't think it is incumbent upon the clerk or the Chair to ask that question. We have the Conservation Council coming forward --
Ms Churley: -- how we have representations then. That's my point. If we have four hours for committee to deliberate a government bill, you have to have a system so you make sure that those who have problems with the bill are well represented.
The Chair: Thank you for your submission, Ms Churley. We'll take it under advisement. This committee stands adjourned until 3:30 on Wednesday, October 23.
The committee adjourned at 1756.