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The Government of Ontario announced plans on November 15, 2018 to eliminate the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) and transfer much of its responsibility to the jurisdiction of the Auditor General. This misguided decision effectively undercuts the power and independence of Ontario’s environmental watchdog.
The ECO provides independent, non-partisan oversight of government policies. Simply put, the ECO holds the government accountable when it makes decisions that impact the air we breathe, the water we drink and the natural environment of the people of Ontario. Transferring applications for review of existing or new environmental policy, law or regulation to the relevant government minister instead of an independent Environmental Commissioner is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house. All independence is lost.
The decision to drastically cut back the office’s independent oversight comes just two days after the ECO released a critical report about sensible solutions the government should take to protect our water, wetlands and wildlife that would yield big rewards. Absorbing the Environmental Commission of Ontario into the office of the Auditor General seems like an attempt to silence the voices that urge Ontario to better protect our lands, air and waters. Dressed as an act of fiscal discipline, it is in fact an unabashed attack against the environment and its defenders.
We urgently need you to let the government know that the ECO’s vital and independent role enables public participation and government accountability for decisions that significantly impact the environment. These rights are enshrined in our Environmental Bill of Rights. We will not stand by as our remaining natural environment is made vulnerable to be squandered for the short-term benefit of the few.
Please add your voice to tell Premier Ford and Finance Minister Fedeli that Ontarians need the office of the ECO and reject the slashing of this essential oversight and accountability role.