Glossary of terms in the Environmental Registry

Learn about the terms we use on the registry.

On this page:

  1. Environmental Registry
  2. Environmental Bill of Rights
  3. Consultation
  4. Notice (general)
  5. Act
  6. Regulation
  7. Policy
  8. Instrument
  9. Exception notice
  10. Information notice
  11. Proposal
  12. Decision
  13. Comment status
  14. ERO number
  15. Prescribed ministries
  16. Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
  17. Statement of Environmental Values
  18. Environmental Bill of Rights Office
  19. Beta

Environmental Registry

The Environmental Registry of Ontario is the place where you can take part in government decision-making that might affect the environment.

You’re on the registry right now!

On the registry, we:

  • post notices on what we’re doing that may affect the environment
  • let you comment on the notices
  • inform you of any decisions we make

The registry exists because of the Environmental Bill of Rights.

Note: this site is currently a beta version of the site. This means you can test out and use key features while we make tweaks, additions and improvements using your feedback.

For now, only notices for policies, acts and regulations will be on this site. Instrument, exception and information notices will still be posted on the old registry.

Environmental Bill of Rights

This is the piece of legislation that requires us to consult with you on environmental issues.

It says that you have a right to take part in government decisions about the environment and hold us accountable.

The registry exists because of the Environmental Bill of Rights.

It came into effect in February 1994.

Consultation

This is the process of asking for your feedback on what we’re doing that might affect the environment.

We first post a notice on the registry that explains what we’re proposing to do. You usually have a minimum of 30 days to comment.

We then make a decision and let you know how we took your feedback into consideration.

Read more about the consultation process.

Notice (general)

A notice is what we post on the registry. It’s how we let you know about what we’re doing or thinking of doing that might affect the environment.

We give notice on the registry for changes to or new:

  • acts
  • regulations
  • policies
  • instruments (e.g. permits and approvals)

Act

An act is a law. Laws are also known as legislation or statutes.

An act is made by the government to let people know the rules and regulations about specific situations.

It only becomes official after it goes through a number of stages. It’s first introduced as a draft version that MPPs in the Legislative Assembly debate at Queen’s Park. The draft version is called a bill.

If a bill passes, it then gets royal assent by the Lieutenant Governor and becomes law.

Regulation

A regulation falls under an act. It defines how to use and enforce certain parts of that act.

Like acts, regulations are legally binding. They may state rules that apply generally or to specific people or situations.

Unlike acts, a regulation is not made in the Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park. The assembly gives authority to certain people or organizations to make them (like a minister or the Lieutenant Governor).

Policy

A policy is a rule or principle that helps to interpret and follow legislation and regulations and guide decisions.

Action plans, protocols and program plans are all examples of policies.

Policies aren’t legally binding (while acts and regulations are).

Instrument

An instrument is a catch-all term for things that you or organizations ask the government for, like:

  • permits
  • approvals
  • licences

The most popular types of instruments include:

  • permits to take water
  • environmental compliance approvals (for air, noise, waste and sewage)
  • renewable energy approvals
  • classifications of pesticides

You may be able to appeal our decision on certain instruments. We’ll let you know how when we post our decision.

Note: for now, only notices for policies, acts and regulations will be on this site. Instrument, exception and information notices will still be posted on the old registry.

Exception notice

This is a notice we post that doesn’t have a proposal. It skips the consultation and commenting stage and goes right to our decision.

This only happens in two situations.

The first is when there’s an emergency. If we wait for public consultation, there could be the risk of:

  • danger to public health or safety
  • harm or serious risk to the environment
  • injury or damage to property

The second is when the proposal has already been consulted on in another way.

We will explain in our decision why we didn’t consult on the proposal.

Note: for now, only notices for policies, acts and regulations will be on this site. Instrument, exception and information notices will still be posted on the old registry.

Information notice

This is a notice that is for your information only. There isn’t a consultation or proposal stage.

We aren't required to post it on the registry because its content isn't covered under the Environmental Bill of Rights.

We post information notices because we want to let you know about environmental issues in the province.

Note: for now, only notices for policies, acts and regulations will be on this site. Instrument, exception and information notices will still be posted on the old registry.

Proposal

This is what we first post on the registry to let you know what we’re proposing to do.

It’s called a proposal because we’re proposing to change or make a new act, regulation, policy or instrument that could affect the environment.

Most of our proposals:

  • say what we’re planning to do
  • give the details
  • link to supporting material
  • provide the option to comment

You can comment on our proposals for a minimum of 30 days. We call this the comment period.

You can submit your comment within the comment period online through the registry.

Decision

This is what we post on the registry after you’ve read our proposal and left your comment.

In our decision, we let you know:

  • how your comments were taken into consideration
  • the number of comments we received
  • our decision on what we’re doing

You may be able to appeal our decision on certain instruments. We’ll let you know how when we post our decision.

Comment status

We review all the comments we receive and decide whether they can be posted for others to see.

When you submit your comment, it will be ready for review until someone has decided if it can be posted.

A comment is approved if it can be posted online.

We will not publish your comment for others to see if it:

  • contains inappropriate or offensive content (language or links)
  • is off topic
  • contains personal information

This will be noted in the comment status.

Please review our comment and privacy policies and Terms of Use for more detailed information on using the Environmental Registry of Ontario.

There is no time limit for the review stage.

ERO number

This is the unique, seven-number reference every notice gets in the registry (e.g. 123-4567).

You can use it to:

  • search for a notice
  • reference a notice when you submit a comment or call us

Prescribed ministries

These are the Ontario government ministries that need to consult using the registry.

They have to under the Environmental Bill of Rights.

The 17 ministries are:

  • Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
  • Economic Development and Growth (MEDG)
  • Education (EDU)
  • Energy (ENG)
  • Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)
  • Government and Consumer Services (MGCS)
  • Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC)
  • Housing (MHO)
  • Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR)
  • Infrastructure (MOI)
  • Labour (MOL)
  • Municipal Affairs (MMA)
  • Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)
  • Northern Development and Mines (MNDM)
  • Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS)
  • Transportation (MTO)
  • Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS)

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

The commissioner is an independent environmental watchdog. They review and report on how we’re complying with the Environmental Bill of Rights.

The commissioner is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Statement of Environmental Values

This is a policy that guides us when we make decisions that might affect the environment. Every ministry that needs to consult on the registry has one.

It describes how we will integrate environmental values with social, economic and scientific considerations when making a decision. It reveals how we view our environmental responsibilities.

We let you know how we consider our Statement of Environmental Values when we post a decision.

Environmental Bill of Rights Office

The office is responsible for operating the registry. They also provide support to other Ontario ministries to implement and comply with the Environmental Bill of Rights.

The Environmental Bill of Rights Office is part of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Beta

Beta is a stage in the agile method to developing digital products and services. It’s the stage where we use prototypes to build a minimum viable product in a live, user-facing environment. The goal of beta phase is to build a real service that works well for a larger group of people.

Beta is an iterative, flexible process. This means you can test out and use key features of the site while we make tweaks and improvements using your feedback.

For now, only notices for policies, acts and regulations will be on the beta version of this site. Instrument, exception and information notices will still be posted on the old registry. We will remove the beta label once all the registry's functionality is in place.

Learn more about our process to develop the new registry and what beta means.