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  • 22 Aug 2012 4:08 PM | Anonymous

    National Post weighs in on pesticide debate

    One of Canada's major daily newspapers called for a new look at the costs and benefits of the wide-scale application of pesticides in an August 20 editorial.  Asking "(d)oes a chemical’s potential for saving and bettering humans outweigh its potential for harming them and their environment?", the paper's editorial board took a strong position that the responsible use of pesticides can save far more many lives than their environmental critics would have us believe. Read more...

    Do you agree?  Share your thoughts on ONEIA's discussion board by clicking Add comment.
  • 09 Jul 2012 3:21 PM | Anonymous

    Great Lakes Protection Act introduced by Province

    New “family friendly” legislation shows how perceptions of the environment have changed

    By Alex Gill, Executive Director, ONEIA

    At his annual speech to ONEIA companies on March 22nd, Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley noted that one of his main priorities in the coming year would be the passage of a “Great Lakes Protection Act.”  As this would be the first piece of significant legislation introduced by the new Minister, observers anxiously waited to see what it would indicate about his approach to the environment.

    The Ontario government has now introduced Bill 100 (“An Act to protect and restore the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin”) on June 6th.   The Bill – and the broader “Great Lakes Strategy” in which it is imbedded – tell us a great deal about recent changes in the politics of the environment.

    Minister Bradley’s two predecessors introduced a huge volume of new environmental policy, regulations and legislation in just a few years.  Underlying these efforts was an urgency driven by legislation such as the Toxics Reduction Act, Green Energy Act and Water Opportunities Act, commitments to concepts such as the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) and other initiatives that positioned the Ontario as an environmental policy leader.  In the last two years, however, we have seen a marked change in how environmental measures are perceived by the public – and government has reacted accordingly.  Criticisms of the Green Energy Act (particularly around Feed-In Tariff rates and local siting issues for wind turbines) and the fall of the environment as a top social issue in the opinion polls have all preceded the approach that is exemplified in the new Great Lakes Protection Act.

    Bill 100 presents a vision of the environment that, in many ways, harkens back to the 1970s and 80s.  It’s a “family friendly” vision of the environment, talking about a place where Ontarians can fish, boat and swim to enjoy nature.  Even the section of the accompanying strategy that deals with economic opportunities mentions the economic value of tourism and fishing.  The communication messages that the government has been using to talk about the strategy reinforce this focus on the “natural environment”, discussing habitat and species protection, improving wetlands and encouraging awareness and community participation. 

    Of interest to environment and cleantech companies, is that one of the stated goals of the strategy is to “…ensur(e) environmentally sustainable economic opportunities and innovation.”   This reflects, in part, the dialogue that ONEIA and our member companies have been holding with MOE about the economic value of smart environmental policy and the need to encourage innovation.  This goal should also allow MOE to fold in worthy initiatives, such as the Showcasing Water Innovation (SWI) Program, into this new vision of the environment.  SWI is expected to announce cost-shared funding of approximately 30 new projects that exemplify the next generation of water technology, conservation and design.  By announcing some of these projects in the context of the Great Lakes Strategy and linking them to a healthier natural environment, the Province may be able to deflect any criticism that it is spending on the environment in tough economic times.

    ONEIA’s Water Subcommittee, under the leadership of Alex Keen (CEO of Altech) will be evaluating the proposed Bill and offering input on behalf of our members.  If you have any thoughts you would like to share with Alex and the Committee, please e-mail info@oneia.ca or respond to our blog. 

    Alex Gill is the Executive Director of ONEIA.  Connect with Alex and the ONEIA environmental network through LinkedIn at http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/alex-gill/4/4a1/950.

  • 30 Dec 2011 9:01 AM | Anonymous

    2011: The start of a shift in how Ontario views the environment and cleantech sector?

    An analysis by ONEIA Executive Director Alex Gill

    To say that 2011 was an interesting year for Ontario’s environment and cleantech sector was an understatement.  Policy and regulatory initiatives continued to break new ground for the first part of the year, as the Province passed the Water Opportunities Act (establishing, among other things, a stand-alone corporation called Water TAP) and continued its Modernization of Approvals process to improve MOE’s processes in this area. 

    It was the provincial election and its results, however, that had the most visible impact on our sector and could lead to profound changes in the coming years.  In October, after two terms of a majority government, we elected its first minority government in a generation.  During the election campaign, the government’s “green agenda” came under fire from both opposition parties, who used it to characterize the Liberals as out of touch with “average families” and specifically blamed the Green Energy Act for driving up individual hydro rates (for an explanation of why this is not the case, check out the Ontario Environment Commissioner’s posting on this question at http://www.eco.on.ca/blog/2011/03/22/the-true-cost-of-renewable-energy-and-conservation/).

    The election established a dynamic, unfortunately, that could threaten the gains that the environment and cleantech sector has made among all parties in the past several years.  While any government policies in this area can of course be reconsidered and improved, serious doubts are being raised about the value of this sector – and by extension its companies – to Ontario’s economy and society.  Some companies across the sector have been characterized as undeserving beneficiaries of a provincial “gravy train” rather than a world-class asset for this province that can create employment and help modernize our aging industrial and physical infrastructure.  If this dynamic takes hold, it may cause governments and opposition parties to turn a deaf ear to the very legitimate issues that affect our sector.

    As 2011 draws to a close, the challenge facing Ontario’s environment and cleantech companies is becoming clear.  It is up to our sector to communicate its value, free from partisanship, in a way that highlights why our companies matter and their concerns should be taken seriously.  We need all sides of this political equation to understand what is at stake here.  Our companies employ more than 65,000 people across Ontario.  Our companies create new jobs while more traditional parts of the economy are losing jobs or treading water.  Our companies export to markets across Canada and around the world.  And our companies can teach other parts of our economy about how to be innovative, productive and responsive to market demand.

    At ONEIA, we will continue to talk with political parties, policymakers and others about the concerns of our industry and the value it brings to our province.  Planning is already well underway for our 12th annual Environment Industry Day 2012 at Queen’s Park.  We expect to announce a date soon – so stay tuned!

    In the interim, feel free to have your say.  You can post your comments on the ONEIA website (go to the tab BLOG) or send us an e-mail at info@oneia.ca.

    Thanks and we look forward to continuing the conversation in the New Year.

    Alex Gill is the Executive Director of ONEIA and can be reached at agill@oneia.ca or through LinkedIn.

     

Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA)
215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 410, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2C7
Tel: 416-531-7884  Fax: 416-644-0116  Email: info[at]oneia.ca

 

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