Environmental groups have launched a lawsuit against the Ford government for denying the rights of Ontarians to be consulted on its wholesale revision of Ontario’s laws for combatting climate change.
Ecojustice lawyers, in partnership with the Ottawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, have filed the case on behalf of Greenpeace Canada. The case alleges that the Ford government unlawfully failed to provide for public consultation on a regulation that ended Ontario’s cap and trade program and on Bill 4, the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018, currently before the legislature. The case also asks the Court to quash the regulation.
Every Ontarian has the right to be consulted on environmentally significant regulations and legislation under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). The EBR is signature environmental legislation unique to the province of Ontario.
“The Ford government’s first action when it stepped into office was to gut a program designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, without offering any immediate alternative,” said Charles Hatt, Ecojustice lawyer.
“We’re suing to remind the Premier that winning an election does not give his government carte blanche to ignore the statutory rights of Ontarians to be consulted on major changes to the laws and regulations that protect them from climate change.”
During the 2018 provincial election Premier Ford campaigned on ending Ontario’s “cap and trade carbon tax” as part of his plan to reduce gas prices by 10 cents per litre. Ford’s cabinet filed Ontario Regulation 386/18 (Regulation) at their very first meeting on July 3, essentially gutting the operational elements of Ontario’s cap and trade program in one fell swoop.
The Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks chose not to consult the public as required under the EBR, claiming instead that the 2018 Ontario election was a process that was “substantially equivalent” to the 30-day consultation process required by law.
On July 25, 2018, the Minister introduced Bill 4 in the legislature, again without having first consulted Ontarians as required by law. Bill 4 would repeal the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, 2016, including Ontario’s legislated targets for reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
“The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario was higher in the polls in January when their platform included a revenue-neutral carbon tax than they were on election day, so there are no grounds for their claim that the election campaign was a substitute for the legally-required public consultation,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada. “The Ford government’s shock-and-awe approach to governing is not only an affront to democratic process, it is unlawful. That is why we are asking the court to require the Ford government to listen to the very public it claims to represent, as well as scientists and groups like ours, before gutting the province’s legislative regime for combatting climate change.”
The case is tentatively set for expedited hearing on September 21.