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Losing Touch – Ontario Environmental Commissioner’s Annual Report Part 2 – 2011/2012

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Losing Touch - Ontario Environmental Commissioner's Annual Report Part 2 - 2011/2012

There was a time when the world looked to Ontario for leadership and innovation on matters of environmental protection and resource management. We were not only a leading jurisdiction for the creation of new concepts of law, we also had a proficient public service that could create the organizational structures and policies that could implement the new ideas.
When Lake Erie turned to green soup in the 1960s, Ontario scientists discovered why it was happening and the Ontario government working with the federal government and the U.S.) put in place the laws and infrastructure funding to bring the lake back. In the 1970s, Ontario tackled the gross pollution of heavy industries like pulp and paper where, in some cases, the rivers receiving their effluents were devoid of life for 60 km downstream. Those waterways were brought back to life as well. In the 1980s, Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) scientists showed the world the magnitude and impact that acid rain was having on North American lakes. These findings led to international negotiations with the U.S., culminating in major pollution abatement programs on both sides of the border, which severely curtailed the sulphur dioxide emissions. In the 1990s, the management and harvest of timber was completely re-thought and the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994, became a world class model for sustainable forestry. In another bold move, 12 per cent of Ontario’s industrial forest was permanently set aside in parks and protected areas. And, of course, the 1990s produced the innovative and still internationally unique Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, to empower citizens to become involved in government decision making about the environment.
The new millennium saw new thinking and new developments as well. A new landscape-level planning approach was created for the Oak Ridges Moraine, which expanded to become the Greenbelt. We saw the introduction of the Climate Change Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with its star initiative being the closure of the coal plants. But recently, something has changed.

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