Holding polluters accountable by expanding the use of administrative monetary penalties for environmental contraventions

ERO number
019-0750
Notice type
Act
Act
Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal
Proposal posted
Comment period
October 28, 2019 - November 27, 2019 (30 days) Open
Last updated

This consultation closes at 11:59 p.m. on:
November 27, 2019

Proposal summary

We are proposing legislative amendments to expand the use of administrative monetary penalties for environmental contraventions to hold polluters accountable with real consequences and penalties, as per our commitment in the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. Funds collected would be used to support environmental activities.

Proposal details

This proposal notice is part of the proposal for the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act.

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks needs changes to its compliance and enforcement toolkit to strengthen enforcement and compliance with laws that protect our:

  • air
  • drinking water
  • water resources
  • land

The ministry is responsible for ensuring compliance with Ontario’s environmental laws and enforcing them when needed.

The Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan includes a commitment to holding polluters accountable with real consequences and penalties. This proposal aims to deliver on this commitment and allow us to take strong action against those who break environmental laws.

We are also working to remove regulatory overlap and develop regulations that are focused and streamlined – maintaining the high standards Ontario is known for.

We are about doing things better, safer and stronger.

Administrative monetary penalties in Ontario

An administrative monetary penalty is a financial penalty for non-compliance that provides an incentive to the violator to:

  • return to compliance
  • deter future non-compliance

Administrative penalties are used across the Government of Ontario in regulated program areas such as:

  • forestry
  • consumer protection
  • energy
  • private colleges
  • waste diversion
  • retirement homes

Administrative monetary penalties are regularly used in other jurisdictions, particularly Canada and the United States, to support the enforcement of environmental laws (e.g. British Columbia, Alberta, Canada, Quebec, Ohio, Vermont and Minnesota).

Administrative monetary penalties, as a compliance and enforcement tool (i.e. environmental penalties), are currently available to the ministry for some land, water and air violations, but are limited in scope. This gap leaves many program areas with limited enforcement tools and affects the ministry’s ability to effectively hold polluters accountable.

In addition, some of the acts proposed to be amended that are enforced by the ministry do not have the enabling authority to issue administrative monetary penalties (e.g. Safe Drinking Water Act, Pesticides Act), while others are out of step with best practice (e.g. Nutrient Management Act, 2002).

To address these issues, the proposal aims to:

  • address gaps in the ministry’s compliance and enforcement toolkit
  • create one consistent approach to administrative monetary penalties for environmental violations
  • better protect our communities
  • improve environmental conservation
  • keep our air, land and water clean and healthy

Proposed legislative amendments

We are proposing legislative amendments to introduce, expand and/or clarify enabling authority to issue administrative monetary penalties for environmental violations under key environmental statutes, including:

  • Nutrient Management Act, 2002
  • Ontario Water Resources Act
  • Pesticides Act
  • Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002

The enabling authority to issue administrative monetary penalties would be similar to that of the Environmental Protection Act as recently amended under Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choices Act, 2019).

The proposed amendments would enable administrative monetary penalties to be issued for a broad range of environmental violations under the acts mentioned above. To take effect, violations that may be subject to an administrative monetary penalty would be prescribed in regulation.

The proposal, along with recent amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, would replace existing monetary penalties (i.e. environmental penalties) under the Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Water Resources Act.

Key provisions under the proposed administrative monetary penalty approach are set out under each act and include:

  • set maximum penalty amounts or higher if the economic benefit achieved via the violation was higher (penalty amounts would be set by a regulation). The maximum penalty amounts set in the acts are as follows:
    1. Ontario Water Resources Act - $200,000 per contravention (same as the Environmental Protection Act)
    2. Pesticides Act - $100,000 per contravention
    3. Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 - $100,000 per contravention
    4. Nutrient Management Act, 2002 - $10,000 per contravention
  • ability to review and/or appeal the administrative penalty
  • an annual report listing the administrative penalties issued in the last calendar year
  • provisions to enable the implementation of administrative monetary penalties in regulation (e.g. how to set administrative monetary penalty amounts, who they can apply to, and how violators can seek reductions in penalty amounts for taking action to prevent or mitigate the contravention

The broader use of administrative monetary penalties would help us:

  • take strong action against illegal activity
  • ensure that polluters are accountable for their actions with a system that is tough but fair, cost-effective and flexible to the needs and circumstances of our province
  • deal with environmental violations that do occur, more efficiently and appropriately

Prosecution would continue to be used as an enforcement tool but may be limited to serious violations.

The proposed amendments, if enacted, would not impose any new regulatory burden or costs on Ontarians who follow the province’s environmental laws. If implemented, the proposal would provide:

  • increased efficiency of enforcement and compliance activities
  • improved ability to hold polluters responsible

The intended outcomes of the proposal include:

  • leveling the playing field between those acting responsibly and violators by removing potential economic benefits associated with breaking Ontario’s environmental laws
  • increasing overall compliance with Ontario’s environmental laws
  • reducing illegal activity that may pose environmental or health risks to Ontarians

If passed, these proposed legislative amendments would allow for future regulations to implement administrative monetary penalties to more violations, such as, but not limited to:

  • illegal sewage discharges into waterways
  • selling pesticides without a license
  • failing to have a certified drinking water operator
  • violating terms of a permit to take water

Funding program

As part of the proposal, funds collected from the payment of administrative monetary penalties under the Environmental Protection Act, the Nutrient Management Act, 2002, the Ontario Water Resources Act, the Pesticides Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 would be directed to an existing dedicated account under the Environmental Protection Act that currently collects funds from environmental penalty violations.

If implemented, the proposal would revise the account to allow the funds to be used for activities that implement the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan (e.g. clean up, tree planting, habitat restoration, and flood prevention).If the changes are enacted the funds would be made available to eligible organizations under a relaunched Ontario Community Environment Fund program, with a broader focus to support local communities in conducting environmental improvement activities.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Compliance, Planning and Spills Action Centre
Address

135 St. Clair Ave. West
8th Floor
Toronto , ON
M4V 1P5
Canada

Office phone number

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André Martin

Phone number
Email address
Office
Compliance, Planning and Spills Action Centre
Address

135 St. Clair Ave. West
8th Floor
Toronto , ON
M4V 1P5
Canada

Office phone number

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Contact

André Martin

Phone number
Email address
Office
Compliance, Planning and Spills Action Centre
Address

135 St. Clair Ave. West
8th Floor
Toronto , ON
M4V 1P5
Canada

Office phone number

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