Back to Basics with the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

It’s probably safe to say that most all people recognize the value of Canada’s natural environment. Most people probably agree that nature deserves our protection, conservation and restoration for the benefit of present and future generations. According to a new report released by Ontario’s Environment Commissioner, these goals are not being addressed in an effective, timely, open and fair manner by the Ontario Government.

(Transcript of Lawrence Gunther’s bi-weekly 12-minute segment on Live from Studio 5 broadcast over AMI TV and Audio across Canada)

Q. Lawrence, what does this new report on the environment cover?

A. Four broad topics: respecting the publics voice on the environment, clean water, wildlife and wilderness, and southern Ontario’s wetlands and forests.
A. The report says the government of Ontario’s efforts have been falling far short on basic protections for water, wildlife, woodlands and wetlands.
A. More specifically, we are still experiencing pollution of the lakes and rivers where we swim and fish, wetlands and woodlands continue to be lost, and wildlife is at risk.

Q. What can we do to make sure government works harder at conserving nature?

A. Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights gives Ontarians the right to participate in decision making that affects the environment.
A. Ontarians take their role seriously.
A. Everyone benefits when stewardship is shared and properly supported.

Q. What does the report say about protecting Ontario’s drinking water from Pollution?

A. 82% of Ontarians drink water that is supposed to be protected by the Clean Water Act. However, hundreds of significant pollution threats to municipal drinking water sources still exist.
A. These pollutants come from sources like above-ground outdoor fuel tanks, manure spreading and contaminated sites.
A. Unfortunately, for the remaining 18% of Ontarians, the Act does not protect lakes, rivers and groundwater, including the drinking water sources of Ontarians with private wells, and water sources serving northern communities and Indigenous reserves.

Q. What does the report say about Ontario’s rivers and lakes?

A. According to the ECO, pollution still threatens many aquatic ecosystems, impairs Ontarians’ ability to swim and fish, and harms economic activities that rely on clean water.
A. Phosphorus pollution is contributing to the growth of toxic algal blooms across Ontario – most notably Lake Erie.
A. Raw municipal sewage, agricultural runoff, toxic industrial wastewater and road salt are four significant sources of pollutants that threaten Ontario waters, compounded by population growth and climate change
A. In heavy rains, 44 Ontario municipalities still overflow their combined storm drains and sewers spilling filthy, bacteria-laden sewage into lakes and rivers — 766 overflows in the last year.
A. The Ontario government still allows industries to dump 58 toxic wastes directly into lakes and rivers.

Q. Wow, not so great on the water front, how is Ontario doing with respect to wildlife and wilderness?

A. Ontario’s wildlife and wilderness are still experiencing pressure from habitat destruction, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution, disease and parasites, and climate change.
A. The government needs to effectively collect, analyze and share data to identify problems and trends, and to use science to know which actions will most effectively conserve wildlife and wilderness.

Q. Lawrence, I’m afraid to ask, what does the report say about Ontario’s wetlands and forests?

A. As you may know, wetlands provide vital wildlife habitat and flood control. Unfortunately, Southern Ontario has lost nearly three-quarters of its wetlands in the last two centuries.
A. In 2017 the Government announced a Wetland Conservation Strategy intended to halt wetland loss by 2025.
A. However, wetland destruction continues and will for another seven years until the strategy come into force.