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cherry girlSeveral readers have asked me to comment about environmental regulation during the garbage strikes that are dragging on in Toronto and Windsor.

The Ministry of the Environment has made itself deservedly unpopular by blocking communal self-help responses to the strikes, such as a community compost pit and the Granite Club’s drop-off service.

Does the MOE have to do this?

Strictly speaking, MOE staff are correct that such activities are forms of “waste management”, and legally require expensive certificates of approval under Part V of the Environmental Protection Act. However, the process of obtaining such approvals involves substantial application fees, expensive studies and, typically, long delays. Thus, it seems tailor-made to prevent precisely the sort of co-operative action that we need, right now,  to avoid being held hostage by the strikers, and ruining our brief and precious summer.

Nothing in the EPA provides for temporary exemptions or approvals during a short-term emergency, such as a garbage strike. This is an unfortunate omission, especially since we will likely see an increasing number of  garbage strikes as municipal finances stagger under the triple blows of downloading, today’s huge deficits, and tomorrow’s aging population. The Ministry should amend the EPA to allow quick and flexible responses to future garbage strikes. In the meantime,  they should waive the need for approvals until the end of the strike, providing that each facility complies with reasonable rules for protection of public health and odour control. At a minimum, they should waive application fees and issue permits within a week of application.

The Province helped to create this problem, by downloading welfare and other uncontrollable costs onto the municipalities. Now it ought to help solve it, instead of making things worse.

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