Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner in Queen’s Park, Ontario on Dec. 6, 2018. Photo by Cole Burston
The Ontario government is increasing energy bills, air pollution, health impacts and greenhouse gas emissions through policies that promote the use of fossil fuels, says the province’s environmental commissioner, Dianne Saxe, in her final report released on March 27, 2019.
Her report notes that the economy in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, relies on fossil fuels for 75 per cent of its energy, which results in a “hefty” health, economic and environmental pricetag.
Under the previous Liberal government, she said this pricetag added up to $24 billion each year to import fossil fuels such as oil, petroleum products and natural gas, between 2010 to 2015.
“If we were even 10 per cent more efficient, Ontarians could save from $1.6 billion to $2 billion every year,” Saxe said in a statement.
But she also noted that Ontario had been making progress in measures to encourage the conservation of energy since 2007. At least until last week, when she said that the Ford government cancelled and reduced funding for “proven, effective conservation programs.”
The report is likely the last one to be published by Saxe in her current role. She is expected to leave on April 1 as the Ford government proceeds with plans to reduce powers of her position and merge it into the office of the auditor general. MORE
Some provincial employees at Ontario’s environmental watchdog were informed Thursday they will be laid off, despite Premier Doug Ford’s election promise that no workers would lose their jobs in his push to trim the province’s budget.
The Ontario PC government announced in November, as part of its fall economic statement, that it planned to merge the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario into the auditor general’s office in an effort to cut costs.
Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, has seen her department folded into the Office of the Auditor General by the Ford government. Six people, including Saxe, have lost their jobs. (FRANK GUNN / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
In an email Thursday, Christine Pedias, a spokesperson for the auditor general, confirmed that five full-time, non-management employees were not offered positions as part of the transition, which is scheduled to take place by May 1. The commissioner’s office has a full-time staff of about 25. “As of today, the Office of the Auditor General has offered positions to most of the technical, specialized staff of the Environmental Commissioner’s Office, including its management team,” Pedias said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to offer positions to the remaining staff because they duplicate our existing in-house resources, or their specific roles are not required under our expanded mandate.” SOURCE
Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner in Queen’s Park, Ontario on Dec. 6, 2018. Photo by Cole Burston for National Observer
I’ve got the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), Dianne Saxe on the phone. It’s late afternoon, in the dead of winter, and she’s on backcountry roads, heading north for a rare weekend off. “I might cut out,” she warns me.
Dianne’s office reports on compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights, as well as Ontario’s progress on climate change, energy conservation, and other environmental issues. As a staffer at Faith & the Common Good, a national, interfaith charity with the goal of championing environmental and creation care throughout our network of diverse faith & spiritual communities, I am eager to hear directly from the mouth of the commissioner herself how faith groups measure up on the climate action front. And I’m not talking only about energy efficient light bulbs and recycling — I mean broad, transformative change. Critical action is needed immediately because climate change is happening now and, as Dianne warns in her climate report, much worse is ahead.
So, what, according to Dianne, are religious leaders contributing to the public discourse on climate?
“Not much,” is the disappointing response.
For instance, as part of the ECO’s mandate to support the public use of the Environmental Bill of Rights, Dianne’s office has carefully reviewed the thousands of comments that were submitted on the proposed Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018.
“I had my staff review most of the 11,000 comments and saw no evidence of leadership from the faith communities,” she reports. “What are the Ontario bishops and faith leaders doing?” MORE