Today’s the day.
Ten months ago, Doug Ford’s government passed the “COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act” – Bill 197, a huge omnibus bill that covered almost everything but Covid. The law made major changes to Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act, the Planning Act, and other laws essential for maintaining a clean and healthy environment. Ford did not consult the public on any of these changes prior to passing Bill 197 into law – even though his government is legally required to.
So, we launched a lawsuit against the Ford government together with Wilderness Committee and Ecojustice, and we’ve been waiting for our day in court ever since.
Meanwhile, the consequences of Bill 197 have been playing out in frontline battles in communities across the province. The legal changes in Bill 197 restricted which types of projects require a comprehensive environmental assessment. Major highways of less than 75 km are now excluded, like the controversial Highway 413 proposal.
Bill 197 also enhanced the government’s power to unilaterally issue Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) to approve controversial development projects without consultation. The government has since issued dozens of MZOs and many of these carry serious environmental concerns – like the push to pave over the provincially significant Duffins Creek wetland in Pickering for a warehouse.
Now, finally, we’re facing the Ford government in court. Today Ecojustice will argue Greenpeace Canada and Wilderness Committee’s case against the Ford government before the Ontario Divisional Court. Our lawsuit says that the Ontario government intentionally broke the law by failing to consult the public on the sweeping environmental changes in Bill 197. Furthermore, since Ford has already done this in the past when cancelling carbon cap-and-trade, we’re arguing that his government’s behaviour forms a “pattern of illegal conduct.”
And we’re not the only ones suing the Ford government on Bill 197. It’s a full week as two other separate lawsuits will be argued in the court following ours – one by a coalition of First Nations and another by a second environmental coalition. The government will then present its response.
Bill 197 is a major milestone in Doug Ford’s continuing, ongoing attempts to limit public participation and environmental due process. But all along the way, Ford has met with stiff resistance. We are honoured to be fighting for the health of Ontarians, our rights and the environment alongside so many amazing others.