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After years of complaints about the economic drag created by Ontario’s sclerotic environmental approval process, something may finally be about to change. Environment Minister Gerretsen has announced the formal beginning of consultations on the long-overdue transformation agenda for Approvals Reform, to be phased in over three years.

A key feature of the new system will be a “permit by rule” process, which will replace most approval applications for routine, low risk activities. A similar process is reportedly already in place in California and Oklahoma. Higher risk activities will be governed by “comprehensive, more flexible approvals”.

The entire system will change from paper-based to electronic records, much as has already occurred with waste manifests.  This will require major changes to MOE business processes and IT systems, and will also require statutory and regulatory changes. But after the initial upheaval, it should be cheaper and easier to navigate for both businesses and other citizens.

MOE has made promises before about transforming and improving the approval process, but has not actually delivered them. This time, we hope, will be different. Gerretson Letter re Approvals reform, January 2010

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