Ontario’s Liberal government is planning to vote this week on an environmental protection bill that would give its provincial governments the power to sue the province’s environmental regulators over pollution.
The bill, dubbed the “Environment Justice Act,” has drawn fierce opposition from environmental activists and has stalled in the legislature.
“There’s a lot of fear of the future because of what’s happening to this bill,” said Chris Sgro, the Liberal environment critic who introduced the bill last year.
Sgro said he’s been pushing the government to make the legislation more robust, including requiring the province to give environmental regulators at least one year to respond to the bill.
“We’ve been trying to get the government more aggressive on protecting the environment,” he said.
The government says it will vote on the legislation this week.
The opposition says the bill would give Ontario’s environmental regulator too much power and would give Ontarians too little.
“The bill gives the provincial government the power not only to make decisions on whether a project goes ahead, but also to take action when it does,” said Michael Sona, the NDP leader in the Assembly.
“What we’ve seen from other provinces is that environmental justice is being neglected, and this bill is being ignored.”
Sona said the government should not be rushing to pass the legislation, especially when it could potentially have implications for future pipelines.
“This bill is not about protecting the people of Ontario, it’s about protecting oil and gas companies,” he added.
“It’s about giving the government too much control over what happens to the environment.”
The environmental justice legislation is set to come up for a second reading in the Senate on Monday.