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 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, which 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, mandate and business
The Ministry of Energy is guided by a vision to achieve a reliable, safe, cost-efficient, and clean energy system.
The Ministry of Energy provides advice and establishes policies concerning the operation, cost, reliability and sustainability of Ontario’s energy system.
More details on the Ministry of Energy can be found on the Ministry website.
3. Application of the SEV
The Ministry of Energy is committed to applying the purposes of the EBR when decisions that might significantly affect the environment are made in the Ministry. As it develops Acts, regulations and policies, the Ministry will apply the following principles:
- The Ministry will consider the effects of its decisions on current and future generations, consistent with sustainable development principles;
- The Ministry will consider and evaluate environmental benefits and risks when planning future initiatives. Where appropriate, this may include:
- Considering the differing environmental impacts of energy sources and technologies, including greenhouse gas emissions, and providing opportunities for increased use of cleaner sources of energy;
- Considering options to reduce energy consumption and promote energy conservation and efficiency;
- Supporting the development of a strong conservation culture and ensuring that consumers can make informed decisions about their energy use.
4. Integration with other considerations
The Ministry of Energy 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.
The Ministry of Energy will encourage energy conservation in those sectors where it provides policy direction or programs.
5. Monitoring use of the SEV
The Ministry of Energy will document how the SEV was considered each time a decision is posted on the Environmental Registry. The Ministry will ensure that staff involved in decisions that might significantly affect the environment is aware of the Ministry’s EBR obligations.
The Ministry of Energy 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 peoples
The Ministry of Energy recognizes the value that Aboriginal peoples place on the environment. When making decisions that might significantly affect the environment, the Ministry will provide opportunities for involvement of Aboriginal peoples 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 peoples.
The Ministry of Energy also recognizes the Crown’s duty to consult Aboriginal peoples where the Crown contemplates conduct that might adversely affect Aboriginal or treaty rights.
In addition to respecting the Crown’s duty to consult obligations, the Ministry of Energy values Aboriginal perspectives and the significant contributions that they add to the Ministry’s commitment to a healthy environment and meets with Aboriginal peoples to discuss initiatives on an ongoing basis.
8. Greening internal operations
The Ministry of Energy believes in the wise use and conservation of natural resources. The Ministry will support Government of Ontario initiatives to conserve energy and water, and to wisely use our air, water, and land resources in order to generate sustainable environmental, health and economic benefits for present and future generations.
The Ministry will encourage energy conservation and resource conservation in its own operations through employee behaviour, by, for example, directing 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 also educates and encourages staff on the 3Rs – reduction, reuse and recycling – to divert materials from disposal.