Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

RNAO’s submission on Bill 66: the Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, 2018

RNAO wishes to respond on two levels to Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, 2018.  First, we oppose the use of omnibus bills like Bill 66: they bundle together many unrelated legislative changes and that does not allow a reasonable discussion of the different issues that arise. There are 12 very different schedules in Bill 66, and we focus on just two of them in this submission: Schedules 5 and 10.  Both present significant threats to health and the environment. In fact, RNAO devoted many years to helping promote the very health and environmental protections which Bill 66 would weaken or eliminate, and we have a great deal invested in those protections. We urge the complete withdrawal of both Schedules 5 and 10.

Schedule 5

Schedule 5 proposes to repeal the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 (TRA) and to revoke the implementing regulations made under the Act, on December 31, 2021. The rationale for the proposal was that the TRA duplicates the federal Chemicals Management Program (CMP), but we know better because we actively worked on the TRA with the goal of succeeding where the federal program had failed. The TRA was modeled on the very successful Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction program. In its first decade (1990 to 2000), even though production rose 45 per cent, that program yielded a 40 per cent reduction in toxics use, a 58 per cent reduction in toxic byproducts, a 47 per cent reduction in toxics shipped in product, and a 90 per cent reduction in on-site releases to the environment. Progress in Massachusetts continues for firms subject to the Toxics Use Reduction Act. The Ontario TRA requires covered firms to develop toxics reduction plans, but their implementation is voluntary. The program works by reducing the creation and use of toxics, and by informing the public about those toxics. In contrast, the federal CMP merely focuses on reporting of industrial emissions.

As noted above, RNAO invested a great deal of time and effort to address toxics because they cause illness and death, and because Ontario has long been a major emitter of toxic substances. Prior to the implementation of the TRA, Ontario was the second largest emitter of toxics in North America, after Texas. As we show below, progress since that time has been disappointing at best, so there remains an urgency to act, and to strengthen existing tools to reduce toxic releases. Toxics are pervasive in the environment, and can get into the body through ingestion, absorption, and inhalation. Effects can be both acute and chronic, and the biologic action depends upon the type of toxic material, which could be asphyxiants (e.g., methane), narcotics (e.g., xylene), systemic poisons (e.g., carbon tetrachloride, heavy metals), carcinogens (e.g., benzene), mutagens (substances that change genetic material), and endocrine disruptors (e.g., Bisphenol A, PBDEs and PCBs).

There is evidence that the provisions of the TRA were starting to work: the amounts of toxics used, created and contained in product declined over the period 2012-2016, particularly with firms that intended to implement a toxics reduction plan. However, more must be done, as total emissions over the period rose somewhat. Again, facilities that intended to implement reduction plans showed steady drops in emissions over the same period.

There are a number of reasons for this problem, and they can be resolved.

First, important provisions of the TRA are not in force:

  • Section 11 (substance of concern report);
  • Section 15.1 (inspection of vehicles);
  • Section 20.1 (warrantless search);
  • Section 26.1 (order for use of tracking devices);
  • Section 30 (administrative penalties);
  • Section 38 (amount of administrative penalties);
  • Section 50(1)(o.1)(o.2) (regulations on toxic substances in products). O.1 allows the prohibition or regulation of the manufacture, sale and distribution of specified toxics or of products containing toxics. O.2 allows prescribing notification required to the public about toxics, including labeling.

Secondly, the cabinet has failed to set targets for toxics reduction, as it is authorized to do under section 50 (1) (d) of the TRA.

Third, the Ministry has failed to establish a list of substances of concern. It has a list from its 2008 toxics discussion paper of about 140 substances of concern that did not appear in the National Pollution Release Inventory.

Finally, the government failed to establish an independent toxics use reduction institute of the type that is so essential to the success of the Massachusetts program.

RNAO recommendations:

  1. Withdraw Schedule 5 from Bill 66.
  2. Do not repeal the Toxics Reduction Act.
  3. Do not revoke the TRA regulations or eliminate planning and reporting requirements of the TRA
  4. Proclaim into force sections of the TRA that are not currently in force.
  5. Set targets related to toxics under O. Reg. 455/09.
  6. Establish an independent academically-based institute to build capacity to meet the requirements of the toxics reduction, safe substitution and green chemistry. This would include support to businesses, employees and communities.
  7. Ensure public right to know about toxics in their environment, workplaces and products by:
    • collecting all necessary toxics data and making it available in a readily searchable format;
    • making available not only data collected under this Act, but also under all other environmental legislation; and
    • identifying toxic content in products through labeling or by other understandable means. 

Schedule 10

Schedule 10 would amend the Planning Act to enable municipalities to pass "open-for-business planning by-laws." It would allow municipalities to waive specified sections of the Planning Act requiring public notice, comment and appear. It would also exempt those by-laws from specified sections of the Clean Water Act, 2006, Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015, Greenbelt Act, 2005, Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008, Metrolinx Act, 2006, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001, Ontario Planning and Development Act, 1994, Places to Grow Act, 2005, Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, and any other prescribed provision. This would exempt the by-laws and related development from the effect of these pieces of legislation and would be a massive threat to health and the environment.

On January 23, 2019, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minster Clark announced that Schedule 10 would be removed from Bill 66, and that has been confirmed by other government representatives, including the Premier. We support that step.

RNAO Recommendation

Withdraw Schedule 10 from Bill 66.

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