Modernizing environmental compliance practices of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

ERO number
Notice type
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal Updated
Proposal posted
Comment period
May 4, 2021 - August 6, 2021 (94 days) Closed
Last updated

Update Announcement

This proposal notice has been updated on February 26, 2024 to advise the public that this file is still under active review. The ministry is reviewing the comments it has received to date. The original proposal date and comment period have not been altered. On July 2, 2021, we extended the comment period for this proposal notice for another 34 days (to August 6, 2021) based on feedback and requests received by the ministry.

This consultation was open from:

May 4, 2021
to August 6, 2021

Proposal summary

We are proposing to update our compliance policy to focus more resources on incidents and complaints from the public that pose a higher risk to the environment and/or human health and on holding polluters accountable.

Proposal details

Review of MECP’s compliance policy

We are updating the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) decade-old environmental compliance policy and modernizing compliance practices to focus more resources on high-risk incidents and better hold polluters accountable.

This work supports priorities set out in the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan and Ontario’s Open for Business Plan commitments made with the passing of Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020.

Our proposed changes include updated tools and resources for environmental officers to help determine the level of intervention needed, apply more stringent tools in cases where organizations and individuals have repeatedly broken environmental laws.

The proposed new compliance policy continues to support and build on the ministry’s strong approach in responding to:

  • high-risk human-health or environmental incidents
  • noise and odour incidents from facilities that require a ministry permission and have established requirements, including landfills, organic waste facilities, energy from waste facilities and steel manufacturing

The new compliance policy being proposed continues to direct use of an informed judgement matrix and a risk-based approach during case-by-case reviews of complaints and responses to incidents.

We are also proposing public service standards and a referral tool for:

  • responding to incidents
  • providing the public with information on the incident referral tool

Ministry staff will use this new, proposed tool when referring low-risk incidents to more appropriate agencies or levels of government. This will ensure transparency in the ministry’s decision-making processes.

How we currently respond to incidents

When an incident is reported to the ministry, we undertake an assessment to determine the level of risk associated with that incident. We assess whether there are actual or potential human health or environmental impacts, or whether impacts are limited to those of a low-risk (nuisance) type.

This assessment is informed by the compliance policy and supporting procedures. The ministry’s response to an incident is determined on a case-by-case basis and by considering the facility and the nature of the impacts being reported to the ministry. This may or may not involve a site visit by our staff.

If our compliance staff determine an incident is not related to a facility regulated by a ministry permission (e.g. an Environmental Compliance Approval) and is low risk, no further actions will be taken. We may refer the complaint to another responsible agency or the local municipality. All incidents reported to the ministry will be documented.

A wide variety of compliance and enforcement tools are used by ministry staff to:

  • address the breaking of environmental laws
  • bring businesses, facilities and individuals back into compliance

For minor types of violations, where the person or business has demonstrated a willingness to comply, the ministry recommends tools such as warnings, tickets, letters, notice of violation, inspection reports and compliance promotion.

For known and potential violations of a more serious nature and for repeat offenders, the ministry can take the steps of issuing an order, administrative monetary penalty, investigating the incident or suspending or revoking a permission. 

Proposed updates

We are proposing to update the following:

  1. Compliance policy (draft)
  2. Referral tool (draft)          
  3. Service standards (draft)

1. Compliance policy

Intended outcomes of proposed changes to the compliance policy

We are committed to addressing environmental challenges in a responsible, effective, and balanced way by ensuring polluters are held accountable, while reducing regulatory burden for responsible businesses.

By updating the compliance policy to better enforce regulatory rules associated with ministry permissions and requirements and referring low-risk incidents related to noise and odour outside of this scope to agencies and municipalities, we are focusing the province’s resources on addressing higher impact incidents more quickly and effectively.  

Updating our compliance policy will result in more consistent compliance and business operation practices for industry and businesses across Ontario.

At the same time, our case-by-case and risk-based approach for assessing and responding to incidents will continue to reflect our commitment to protecting and supporting the province’s air, water, and land.

Proposed changes to the compliance policy

Renaming title of policy

  • changing title from “Compliance Policy Applying Abatement and Enforcement Tools” to “Ontario’s Environmental Compliance Policy”
  • the change reflects the modernized approach to compliance and updated terminology  

Higher-risk focus/lower-risk (referral)​

  • we are focusing on responding to higher-risk incidents and to facilities that require a ministry permission and have established requirements
    (e.g. landfills, organic waste facilities, energy from waste facilities and steel manufacturing)
  • incidents that are determined to be lower-risk noise and odour incidents (those that cause nuisance types of impacts) or any incidents related to facilities not regulated by a permission will be referred to the appropriate level of government or agency, such as municipalities that have authority under the Municipal Act, 2001 to address these incidents through bylaws​

Updated informed judgement matrix​

  • update the “Compliance History” and “Environmental and Human Health” components of the informed judgement matrix to incorporate modern risk principles and case-specific considerations into the matrix to increase its effectiveness and applicability to more situations ​
  • revised compliance tools and increased number of compliance categories to provide better guidance for compliance tool use ​

Addressing lower-risk incidents

We know that low-risk noise and odour incidents can interfere with the day-to-day life of Ontario families and businesses. Although these interferences can be a nuisance, they do not impact human health or the environment.

 Examples of these types of incidents may include:

  • intermittent noise from small-scale industrial or commercial exhaust fans​
  • intermittent noise from commercial truck refrigeration units​
  • temporary and/or localized odour impacts from a retail bakery or a coffee roasting facility​

Please note, under the new Compliance Policy being proposed, we would not change how we regulate low-risk noise and odour incidents from facilities that require a permission from the ministry and have established requirements, including landfills, organic waste facilities, energy from waste facilities and steel manufacturing. 

2. Referral tool

Increasing transparency of incident assessment processes

We are proposing a referral tool for triaging reports or calls received from the public so that incidents can be efficiently referred to other agencies or levels of government, as applicable. For more detailed information on what types of incidents would be referred and other details, please refer to the referral tool in the supporting documents section.

3. Service standards

Proposed service standards

Along with our review of the compliance policy, we are creating service standards for providing responses to reports/calls from the public about incidents. These standards will ensure that public concerns are reviewed and responded to in a timely manner.

The government is committed to:

  • service excellence
  • accountability
  • transparency

Service standards support these core commitments, increasing the confidence of Ontarians, industry, and businesses in government.

Refer to the service standards in supporting documents section for full details.

Other Public Consultation Opportunities

In addition to updating our environmental compliance policy, we’re also improving tools and creating clear and consistent guidelines for municipalities to use during land-use planning decisions to reduce noise and odour impacts from existing industry.

Refer to the ‘Related links’ section in this notice for additional information on these postings.

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.


Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from May 4, 2021
to August 6, 2021

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