Environmental oversight officers lose much of the clout they once had.

News 100 greenBy Gord Miller,

November 26th, 2018



There is only one thing that matters and that is the environment.

The closing of a 100 year old auto manufacturing plant pales in comparison to the environment.

glaciers melting

Glaciers melting

Climate warming is real – it is part of why the General Motors plant in Oshawa is being shut down. General Motors has come to the conclusion that the internal combustion engine has a very limited life span.

Electric cars are going to be the direction for the automotive industry.

When will the change in cars flip to all electric – no one really knows exactly when the tipping point will be reached but everyone knows that there will be a tipping point.

Ensuring that our governments understand this and react to the reality of climate change is easier said than done.

Gord Miller served as Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner of Ontario for three terms under four different Premiers. He currently resides in North Bay, Ontario. Here is his take and explanation of want is now happening with how we are protecting our environment.

“Like many jurisdictions with parliamentary traditions, the Legislature of Ontario appoints Legislative Officers (sometimes called Parliamentary officers) to oversee and review activities of government that warrant special concern. Their duties include regularly issuing public reports that critically evaluate government performance in specific areas.

“The Officers are chosen by an all-party Committee and report directly to the Legislature through the Speaker, not to the Premier and his/her government.

Queen's Park

Legislative Officers oversee and review activities of government that warrant special concern. They used to be safe from government influence – that feature of the job was dropped.

“Tradition and current legislation says they are appointed for specific terms and cannot be removed during that time (unless they can no longer do their job or have committed a wrong-doing serious enough to give the Legislature “cause.”) This inherent security of their positions is necessary to protect the Officers from undue influence by the government they review, or from reprisal for revealing embarrassing information in their reports.

“Ontario has nine Legislative Officers and is intent on cutting that to six, by elimination of the Child Advocate, the French Language Services Commissioner and the Environmental Commissioner, through recently introduced Bill 57.

“But Bill 57 goes much further. Bill 57 fundamentally undermines the independence of Legislative Officers by allowing a party with a majority to suspend any Legislative Officer based merely on “the opinion the suspension is warranted.” Of course, there is no precedent, no test or limitation to guide that opinion.

Open for business sign at border

Premier Ford celebrating the erection of one of the several signs he had set up at Canadian – American border points.

“This power to arbitrarily suspend Officers means the end of the era of independent Officers of the Legislature. Officers will now be “sitting ducks” to threats of retaliation by the governing party demanding a say in what the Officers reveal in their public reports to the Legislature.

“By failing to bend to the governing party’s wishes, Officers will risk their jobs, even though their jobs are explicitly to shine light on things gone wrong. And just to make sure the threat is clear, Bill 57 also removes the ability of eliminated Officers to seek compensation for their loss of income in the courts.

“Should you be so naive as to believe that such interference or retribution would be neither allowed or tolerated in Ontario, look no further than the current ECO Commissioner’s September 25, 2018 Greenhouse Gas Progress report (where she defended the merits of cap-and- trade). Then I invite you to read the response letter sent by the Minister of Environment Conservation and Parks.

Rod Phillips - Minister of the Environment

Rod Phillips – Minister of the Environment being sworn in.

“The Minister responded, in part, “I want to respectfully advise that any suggestion we should pursue policies that betray commitments we made to the people is not well taken.” The veiled threat made two months ago, was cloaked in the language of respect because of the protection of the independence that the Commissioner enjoyed at the time.

“Move ahead in time and read the sentence again, through the eyes of a Legislative Officer who can be summarily suspended because of the opinion of the governing party, and the threat emerges with great clarity.

“Bill 57 masquerades as an economic efficiency initiative, while it is a vehicle to dismantle an important parliamentary mechanism of government accountability. It is a shiny new tool for the governing party to stifle the criticism of parliamentary watchdogs using intimidation and threats. Is the Ontario public well-served by this development – I think not.”

Gordon MillerGord Miller, former Ontario Environmental Commissioner met with Mayor Goldring on the Meridian Brick plant in Tayandaga.  Not much came of the conversation.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.