Ontario’s environmental stewardship community and the provincial government must “address the chasm of mistrust that exists between them” says a new report from the Ontario Headwaters Institute (OHI).
The report titled “High consensus: Deep concerns” draws on survey results conducted by the OHI’s Waterscape project. Results from the survey show that Ontario’s environmental stewardship community has high consensus on a range of complex environmental issues such as agriculture, aggregates, biodiversity, land use planning, climate change and watershed management.
It also found that survey respondents were widely concerned about actions and rhetoric from the provincial government such as: cutbacks to environmental programs, a “business-as-usual” economic approach, and a “lack of meaningful engagement with civil society”.
For example, nearly 98% of survey respondents said they disagree with changes to the direction of the Endangered Species Act; 97% don’t think the province does enough to protect its natural heritage, inland waters and prime agricultural land; and 97% disagree with recent amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act.
Also of interest, 99% of survey respondents support requiring the public to be notified of sewage spills and combined sewer overflows, and 95% support expanding drinking water source protection areas.
The report offers the following recommendations to “bridge the gap” between the environmental community and the province:
- The environmental stewardship community should continue to champion the adoption of policies, at all levels of government and across all sectors, to help protect the planet’s climate, hydraulic cycles, and its bio-diversity, and to promote sustainable planning and practices.
- The OHI and its partners should seek the resources necessary to make the WaterScape project an on-going collaborative on sustainable planning, with efforts to attract broader participation from all sectors of society.
- The Ontario government should commit to the Trust and Transparency principle in its draft environmental plan by conducting meaningful consultations and providing more information on many of its initiatives.
- The Ontario government’s draft environmental plan needs to be amended to address sustainable planning and practices, across all ministries, and not just cite the need to improve the capacity of the sustainable finance sector to become a global leader.