The 2007 Ontario budget contained no grand environmental measures, such as BC’s shift from income taxes to carbon taxes. Nor does it tackle any of the large, strategic questions raised by the Environmental Commissioner about how to reconcile population and econimic growth with environmental limits. In fact, “Environment” was only the last subheading of the seventh section of the budget website, and all that was under that heading was:
- $10 million over four years to ban cosmetic pesticides;
- extending the Retail Sales Tax exemption on bicycles (<$1,000) and safety equipment until December 31, 2010; and
- extending the Retail Sales Tax exemption for ENERGY STAR® appliances and light bulbs to August 31 2009.
However, the picture was not quite that bleak. Including many previously announced measures, the Budget promises:
- significant funds for infrastructure;
- better environmental education;and
- more resources for the Ministry of the Environment.
The Budget promises $1 billion for municipal infrastructure. Of this, $497 million will be spent on public transit in the Greater Toronto / Hamilton Area for Metrolinx “Quick Win” projects; more than half of it on capacity improvements to the Yonge Subway line. Other Toronto projects include:
- Transit City Light Rail Transit (LRT) Head Start 7.1
- Yonge Finch-Steeles Bus Rapid Transit 5.7
The government also reiterated its promise to make transit planning more efficient by slashing the provincial environmental assessment process for transit projects to six months. This will be hard to do well; further details are expected soon.
$100 million was promised to rehabilitate existing social housing units, including energy-efficiency. Other funds will be available to upgrade water and sewage treatment, and to prepare source water protection plans under the Clean Water Act.
Last year, the government announced that it was putting environment back into the public school curriculum. The budget includes money to do so.
The MOE will get additional funds for inspectors and to update its lab. According to the Environmental Commissioner, MOE staff have been so overburdened and under resourced that they have no chance to do their job properly. This hasn’t stopped the government from continuously expanding their workload, which will soon include a new toxics reduction law. Some funds are also earmarked to dispose of PCB wastes that have been in storage for decades.
In all, the budget contains a number of small, useful steps, but nothing transformational. Other details include:
Providing $41 million over four years to support the development of toxics legislation and a toxics
reduction strategy that will require companies that emit toxic substances to reduce their emissions over
time; the government will work with Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Medical Association to
identify, target and reduce the number of cancer-causing agents released in the environment.
The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) will also work with the Ministry of Economic Development
and Trade (MEDT) and the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) on initiatives and strategies to
support the development and installation of new technologies to reduce industry reliance on toxic
Allocating over $10 million over four years in support of the Province’s plan to ban the use of non-
essential pesticides, which will foster the development and sale of green alternatives that are better for
the environment and the health of Ontario families; funding would also be used for education, outreach
Working with Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) to enhance household waste diversion by introducing a
new Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW) program. This program is expected to double the
amount of MHSW diverted from landfill or the environment over the next five years, providing nearly
$5 million over four years for additional waste inspectors to increase recycling compliance at industrial,
commercial and institutional facilities; and almost $2 million over two years to remove 300,000 tires
illegally stored in Middlesex County and review the inventory of scrap tires in the province.
Providing $56 million over two years to eliminate polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated soil
stored in London. An additional $7 million will be invested in 2008–09 to clean up other sites.
This Budget includes a series of initiatives to improve the government’s ability to protect Ontario’s
environment and promote environmental education:
Allocating nearly $31 million over the next four years for new inspection resources and staff. These new
resources will be mainly allocated to increase capacity for inspection and enforcement, including the
government’s lead action plan.
A 14 per cent increase in spending for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) in 2008–09.
Providing more than $12 million over four years for additional staff at the MOE, and over $23 million in
2007–08 in capital to 19 Conservation Authorities for technical studies to support the development
of source protection plans required under the Clean Water Act, 2006.
Investing over $10 million in 2008–09 to modernize the MOE’s lab and monitoring equipment, which is
critical for water, air and soil sampling. In addition, $7.3 million will be invested over two years to
upgrade the Ministry’s lab and monitoring facility in Toronto.
Providing the Ministry of Natural Resources with funding totalling $27 million over four years
to acquire ecologically sensitive lands for conservation purposes.
Providing $20 million over four years for an environmental public education and outreach strategy that
will coordinate all environmental public education efforts under one roof. The strategy aims to increase
participation in new and existing environmental initiatives and encourage Ontarians to adopt greener
Allocating $6.5 million over four years for new resources to prepare teachers to teach the new
Investing $3 million in the 2008–09 school year in a range of coordinated initiatives to ensure that
environmental education is part of every child’s learning and that schools incorporate environmental
awareness in planning their resource needs, operations and facilities.