Statement of Environmental Values: Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs

1. Introduction

The Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was proclaimed in February 1994. The founding principles of the EBR are stated in its preamble:

  • The people of Ontario recognize the inherent value of the natural environment.
  • The people of Ontario have a right to a healthful environment.
  • The people of Ontario have as a common goal the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

While the government has the primary responsibility for achieving this goal, Ontarians should have the means to ensure that it is achieved in an effective, timely, open and fair manner.

The purposes of the Environmental Protection Act are:

  • To protect, conserve and where reasonable, restore the integrity of the environment;
  • To provide sustainability of the environment by the means provided in the Act; and
  • To protect the right to a healthful environment by the means provided in the Act.

These purposes include the following:

  • The prevention, reduction and elimination of the use, generation and release of pollutants that are an unreasonable threat to the integrity of the environment.
  • The protection and conservation of biological, ecological and genetic diversity.
  • The protection and conservation of natural resources, including plant life, animal life and ecological systems.
  • The encouragement of the wise management of our natural resources, including plant life, animal life and ecological systems.
  • The identification, protection and conservation of ecologically sensitive areas or processes.

To assist in fulfilling these purposes, the Act provides:

  • the means by which Ontarians may participate in the making of environmentally significant decisions by the Government of Ontario;
  • increased accountability of the Government of Ontario for its environmental decision-making;
  • increased access to the courts by residents of Ontario for the protection of the environment; and
  • enhanced protection for employees who take action in respect of environmental harm.

The EBR requires a Statement of Environmental Values from all designated ministries. The designated ministries are listed here.

Statements of Environmental Values (SEV) are a means for designated government ministries to record their commitment to the environment and be accountable for ensuring consideration of the environment in their decisions. A SEV explains:

  • how the purposes of the EBR will be applied when decisions that might significantly affect the environment are made in the ministry; and
  • how consideration of the purposes of the EBR will be integrated with other considerations, including social, economic and scientific considerations, that are part of decision-making in the ministry.

It is each Minister's responsibility to take every reasonable step to ensure that the SEV is considered whenever decisions that might significantly affect the environment are made in the ministry.

The ministry will examine the SEV on a periodic basis to ensure the Statements are current.

2. Ministry vision, mission, mandate and business

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) vision: Thriving rural Ontario, agriculture, and food sectors.

OMAFRA’s mission: A catalyst for transforming our agriculture and food sectors and rural communities for a healthy Ontario.

As one amongst many designated ministries, OMAFRA is committed to the protection of the environment of Ontario. The Ministry recognizes that such a commitment will allow present and future generations to continue to benefit from our environment and our natural resources, including Ontario produced food. To this end, the Ministry will continue to support environmentally sustainable agricultural practices through a variety of initiatives and programs, including education, innovation and research. A healthy rural environment and economy supported by sustainable agricultural practices is essential to the well-being of all Ontarians.

The agriculture and food sector contributes over $30 billion annually to the economy and supports more than 700,000 jobs making it the second-largest contributor to Ontario’s economy. Safe and nutritious foods contribute to both the better health for all Ontarians as well as to creating an Ontario with strong people and a strong economy. The combination of successful rural communities and a strong agri-food sector serves both a vital public interest and contributes to the development of a strong provincial economy.

Specific details on the responsibilities of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs can be found on the Ministry’s website.

3. Application of the SEV

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs is committed to applying the purposes of the EBR when decisions that might significantly affect the environment need to be made in the Ministry, and as it develops Acts, regulations and policies.

The Ministry will apply the purposes of the EBR throughout its decision and policy development processes. From the earliest stages of development, all policies, regulations and legislation will be assessed against the founding principles of the EBR:

  • The people of Ontario recognize the inherent value of the natural environment.
  • The people of Ontario have a right to a healthful environment.
  • The people of Ontario have as a common goal the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

As part of the development process, each program area will, if necessary, prepare a review of any impacts the item may have on the Ministry’s SEV and how the SEV will be considered in its development. All proposals will take into consideration the impact of provincial, federal and international protocols and environmental objectives as they relate to the business of the ministry (e.g.: the 2007 Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA) and Nutrient Management Act, 2002).

When there is potential for significant impact to the Ministry’s SEV and/or EBR responsibilities as a result of new initiatives, the issue will be brought forward to the Ministry Policy Committee and Senior Management Committee. These internal executive committees which are chaired by OMAFRA's Deputy Minister, will seek additional information on potential impacts and provide guidance towards resolving the issue.

OMAFRA currently undertakes broad stakeholder and public consultation in the development of all new initiatives, programs and policy. The Ministry values public input and will seek to enhance methods for public input in the development and review of policy and programs that may have an impact on the environment. The Ministry recognizes the importance of collaborative efforts with other ministries and governments.

4. Integration with other considerations

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs will take into account social, economic and other considerations; these will be integrated with the purposes of the EBR when decisions that might significantly affect the environment need to be made. In making decisions, the Ministry will use the best science available. It will support scientific research, the development and application of technologies, processes and services, and the development of green industries in Ontario.

Through public consultation and its own internal review and assessment processes, OMAFRA will endeavour to document and positively address social, economic and scientific impacts of its work.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will encourage energy and resource conservation in those sectors where it provides policy direction or programs.

5. Monitoring use of the SEV

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs will ensure that all branches are aware of the Ministry’s SEV commitments and require that branches document how the SEV was considered during the policy development process. This information will be posted on the Environmental Registry when appropriate. The Ministry will ensure that staff involved in decisions that might significantly affect the environment are aware of the ministry’s Environmental Bill of Rights obligations.

6. Consultation

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs believes that public consultation is vital to sound environmental decision-making. The Ministry will provide opportunities for an open and consultative process when making decisions that might significantly affect the environment.

7. Consideration of Aboriginal people

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs recognizes the value that Aboriginal people place on the environment. When making decisions that might significantly affect the environment, the Ministry will provide opportunities for involvement of Aboriginal people whose interests may be affected by such decisions so that Aboriginal interests can be appropriately considered. This commitment is not intended to alter or detract from any constitutional obligation the province may have to consult with Aboriginal people.

8. Greening of internal operations

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs believes in the wise use and conservation of natural resources.

The Ministry will support Government of Ontario initiatives to conserve energy and water in its own operations, and to wisely use our air and land resources in order to generate environmental, health and economic benefits for present and future generations.

The Ministry will continue to encourage energy conservation and resource conservation in its own operations by, for example, ensuring that office lights are turned off when possible and office equipment is turned off when not in use and explicitly considering environmental performance of the various options when equipment leases or purchase decisions are made. The Ministry will also continue to educate and encourage staff on the 3Rs – reduction, reuse and recycling – to divert materials from disposal.