Doug Ford may have broken the law with Bill 197
Though much attention has been given to Premier Doug Ford's controversial Bill 184, which residents worry will lead to mass evictions, a second bill that passed on Wednesday is also getting its fair share of backlash .
Bill 197, an omnibus piece of legislation called the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, may be best known for its amendments to the Education Act, but it also includes some changes to Ontario's Environmental Assessment Act — in an effort to speed up projects after the devastation of COVID-19 — that could have severe consequences.
Bill 197 will negatively impact the environment and our communities. This is incredibly regressive, and the opposite of what we are pushing for in a green and just recovery. We need to #killbill197 @fordnation @SteveClarkPC @JeffYurekMPP— kendra (@kendra_m71) July 22, 2020
Under the new version of the act, both public and private sector projects will be able to move forward quicker and more easily without due assessment of potential environmental impacts of developments before they are approved.
Many won't need to have any assessment at all depending on the discretion of the Cabinet, while public participation in decision-making for these types of projects (often things like highways, transit lines and hazardous waste disposal facilities) will be further limited.
Also, those that are deemed to undergo assessment won't face as rigorous protocols as before.
Doug Ford's "COVID-19 Economic Recovery" Bill 197 passed today. Directors of Edu no longer have to be educators, Environmental Assessments are no longer mandatory. Collective Agreements can be overridden. The 2022 election is critical. We can't let this happen again. #OnPoli— Vickita (@vickitabhatt) July 22, 2020
Aside from the technicalities of the bill itself, there is also another huge issue — Ford may have broken the law to expedite its passing.
According to provincial Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, any amendments to legislation concerning the environment need to be made available for the public on the Environmental Registry to consult on for 30 days, as per the Environmental Bill of Rights.
There had been no such consultations for Bill 197, which was introduced just 14 days before it became law.
Ford had introduced the bill as a "quicker and smarter" way for environmental assessments in the province to be completed, insisting in a media briefing earlier this month that his government was definitely "not going to dodge them or anything."
#Bill197 Doug Ford skirting around the law, once again. Forget the fact that this bill is a dumpster fire and contrary to it's "stimulus" claim. How much will this cost Ontarians? #onpoli https://t.co/coyeD1VJ0x— nAvee🇨🇦 (@d1s4b1l1ty) July 23, 2020
Ford has since said he "respectfully disagrees" that he did anything wrong by rushing the bill through with the power of his majority government.
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