Discussion paper: modernizing Ontario’s environmental assessment program

ERO number
Notice type
Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal Updated
Proposal posted
Comment period
April 25, 2019 - May 25, 2019 (30 days) Closed
Last updated

Update Announcement

This proposal notice has been updated to provide the status of the ministry’s efforts to modernize Ontario’s Environmental Assessment (EA) Program. The content of the original posting has not changed and there are two new links (EA program webpage and the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020) in the “related links” section of this proposal.

March 31, 2021

This consultation was open from:

April 25, 2019
to May 25, 2019

Proposal summary

We are releasing a discussion paper to consult Ontarians on a modern vision for the environmental assessment program. The discussion paper explains key features of the environmental assessment process, communicates some immediate actions we are proposing, and sets out a vision to modernize the almost 50-year old environmental assessment program.

Proposal details


Following the close of consultation on this discussion paper on May 25, 2019, the ministry continues to make progress on a number of initiatives in support of its ongoing work to build a more modern and efficient environmental assessment program.

1. Ongoing activities

Class environmental assessments (EA) amendments

In July 2020, the ministry posted amendments proposed by proponents of Class EAs to better align study requirements with the potential for environmental impacts, increase efficiency in Class EA processes and reduce duplication with other legislation, planning or approvals processes.

The proposed amendments to Class EAs were informed by the work of Class EA proponents such as municipalities, ministries and associations and were posted on Ontario.ca for a 45-day comment period (July 8, 2020 to August 22, 2020).

The following amendment proposals to Class EAs may be reviewed at:

The ministry is considering comments received and continues to consult with Indigenous communities as it works to finalize the proposed amendments to the Class EAs.

Exemption regulations

The ministry has also proposed exemption regulations that would, if made, eliminate duplication and reduce delay for projects that have been part of other planning and consultation processes, or for which the EA process can be further streamlined.

The proposed exemption regulations were posted on the environmental registry of Ontario for a 45-day comment period (July 8, 2020 to August 22, 2020). The postings may be found at:

The ministry is considering comments received and continues to consult with Indigenous communities as it works to finalize the proposed amendments to the exemption regulations.

2. Completed activity

Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020

On July 21, 2020, the Ontario legislature passed the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 which included a number of amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) that will help us build a modern environmental assessment program that supports strong environmental oversight and a strong economy.

More information on this posting may be found at https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-2051.

3. Future consultations

As a result of the enabling amendments to the EAA, the ministry is developing a number of regulatory proposals that allow it to make important progress in its work to further modernize the environmental assessment program.

The Comprehensive Environmental Assessment Project List regulation

This regulation will, if made, set out the types of projects that will be subject to the new Part II.3 (Comprehensive Environmental Assessment) of the EAA (to be proclaimed). A project list would bring much needed clarity to Ontarians about what projects require a comprehensive environmental assessment and put more focus on projects that have the highest impact on the environment rather than requiring an environmental assessment based on who is doing the work.

In Fall 2020, the ministry posted a proposal posting to consult on the projects that would require a comprehensive environmental assessment for a 60-day consultation (September 11, 2020 to November 10, 2020). The comments received through this posting will inform the development of the Comprehensive Environmental Assessment Project List regulation.

The policy proposal may be found at: www.ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-2377.

There will be a subsequent consultation on the draft Comprehensive Environmental Assessment Project List regulation once it is drafted.

Expiry date exemption regulation

This regulation, if made, will exempt specific projects from the expiry date provision in the amended EAA. The provision setting out the expiry is intended to be proclaimed if and when this regulation is made.

Streamlined EA regulations

The streamlined regulations, if made, would set out consistent process requirements (consultation, documentation, scope of assessment, etc.) across project types and will replace the differing and inconsistent Class EA system. The new streamlined EA provisions of the amended EAA (Part II.4) will be proclaimed if and when the regulation(s) is made.

The current processes set out in the designating and exempting regulations for waste management, electricity and transit and Class EAs will continue to apply until the streamlined regulations are developed in phases.

Sectoral Terms of Reference (ToR) regulations

For certain project types, the ministry will be developing standardized terms of reference regulations that will contain the content and process that can be followed by proponents developing terms of reference under the new Part II.3 (once proclaimed) of the EAA. This will save time and ensure consistency among workplans for proponents in a sector.

Deadlines regulation (O. Reg. 616/98)

This regulation will be amended to update certain EA timelines for proponents and the ministry. Improving timelines will ensure projects are completed in a reasonable timeframe.

Proposal details

Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act was enacted in 1975 and sets out the framework for the environmental assessment program. Environmental assessments are a critical feature of environmental planning decision-making in Ontario, requiring the study and documentation of potential effects of a project, and allowing interested persons to comment on projects that may affect them.

The Environmental Assessment Act was the first of its kind in Canada, but after almost 50 years it largely remains the same. Over time, the process has become more complex, requiring analysis of social, economic, cultural, health and environmental factors. Efforts to update the environmental assessment program have been sporadic and the program has become overly complex and burdensome, discouraging job-creators from coming to Ontario to do business.

In the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, the government committed to modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment program to ensure strong environmental protections, while eliminating duplication, streamlining processes, providing clarity to applicants, improving service standards to reduce delays, and better recognize other planning processes that have evolved over the past four decades.

Purpose of policy

This discussion paper is a first step to modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment program. The discussion paper identifies some immediate actions that will reduce regulatory burden and improve the efficiency of Class environmental assessments in Ontario. The paper also outlines a vision to bring Ontario’s environmental assessment program into the 21st century. Through the discussion paper, we ask Ontarians to consider and provide input on questions that will help to inform a modern framework for environmental assessment that:

  • ensures better alignment between the level of assessment and level of environmental risk associated with a project;
  • eliminates duplication between environmental assessment and other planning and approvals processes;
  • finds efficiencies in the environmental assessment process and related planning and approvals processes to shorten the timelines from start to finish: and
  • goes digital by permitting online submissions

Other information

For more information on the environmental assessment program please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/environmental-assessments

Other public consultation opportunities

There will be opportunities to consult on prescribed regulations at a later date.

The ministry is planning to host webinars for Indigenous communities and organizations, as well as stakeholder groups.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Client Services and Permissions Branch

135 St Clair Ave West
1st Floor
Toronto, ON
M4V 1P5

Office phone number


Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from April 25, 2019
to May 25, 2019

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