Ontario regions ‘avoiding public scrutiny’ on environmental issues

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A report by the auditor general found both governments had ignored opportunities to consult over policies The government of the Ontario region of the Canadian province of Ontario…

Ontario regions 'avoiding public scrutiny' on environmental issues

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A report by the auditor general found both governments had ignored opportunities to consult over policies

The government of the Ontario region of the Canadian province of Ontario is “deliberately” avoiding holding public consultations on environment issues, says the auditor general.

The report says the city of Toronto, where both governments are based, has also failed to consult with local stakeholders.

The government replied to the report saying it had accepted many of the recommendations, Reuters news agency reports.

Last month, the province’s environment minister quit over reports of widespread ethical breaches.

‘Code of conduct’

In a report published on Wednesday, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said both governments in the Toronto region had failed to hold public consultations on environmental policies and decisions made in local health districts.

These included decisions on expanding for-profit composting services and the move to extend airport hours for domestic flights.

In the letter responding to the report, the province’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Lisa MacLeod, said the government accepted many of the recommendations for public engagement on environment issues.

She also said the government would introduce new guidelines for public consultations on policy issues, and will complete a new code of conduct for politicians.

The main concern by Ms Lysyk was that the institutions responsible for public consultations on environmental matters – the local health unit and the city of Toronto – were not transparent about where decisions were made and the public was not made aware of information that could be used in a way beneficial to the public.

“We found that these decision-making bodies were not transparent about their decision-making process, the causes of those decisions, the outcomes, the process for those decisions and, more importantly, the data upon which those decisions were based,” the report states.

No consultation

Auditor general was also critical of the city of Toronto for its failure to hold public consultations over an environmental strategy.

“While you have acknowledged that the status quo is not appropriate or workable, we found that there was no consultation in this process even though these activities were pre-decisional in nature. This is in spite of the fact that there were changes and amendments to the policy that occurred in the five years prior to it being approved,” the report states.

“As such, we found that the policy did not have enough clarity on the factors that led to the policy making and did not provide sufficient information on the factors of concern.”

Both governments also faced criticisms of their decision to endorse a proposal by airline carriers to lengthen the hours of domestic flights within the Toronto area.

According to the auditor general, a local councillor, Adam Vaughan, was present at a meetings where a decision was made to accept the plan and the representatives of the federal, provincial and city governments also agreed to the deal.

The report highlighted the fact that many residents of the Toronto region had only heard of the deal after a newspaper story.

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