Kingston-area MPP, Ian Arthur, is sounding the alarm after the Ontario government passed an economic recovery bill on Tuesday without public consultation.
“What they’re doing is potentially illegal,” Arthur said during question period at Queens Park.
Arthur, who also serves as the environment critic for the opposition NDP, says Bill 197 will gut the Environmental Assessment Act as it will almost entirely be under the purview of the cabinet.
The Eastern Ontario politician has penned a letter to the provincial Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, asking that she investigate Bill 197 for violating the environmental bill of rights.
On Wednesday afternoon, Lysyk told Global News that her office notified the province a week before the legislation passed, telling them of potential violations.
“We thought we would give them a heads up to say, ‘you won’t be complying with that legislation if you don’t post it for 30 days prior to third reading,'” Lysyk said.
According to the Ontario environmental bill of rights, the government must consult the public for 30 days when considering all new laws, regulations or policies that impact land, air, water and wildlife in Ontario.
The new bill temporarily exempts the government from doing so.
“They put a clause in there that said they would be overriding the environmental bill of rights. and, you know, in our view, that’s not fair,” said Lysyk. “There is a requirement for consultation to sort of retroactively say that that act doesn’t apply.”
On Tuesday during question period at Queen’s Park, Arthur asked Premier Doug Ford to “admit that this legislation violates the law” and that he remove it from Bill 197. Nearly 24-hours later, the premier responded to the accusations saying bluntly, “I respectfully disagree.”
The Ford government says it will take the advice from the Auditor General but says this legislation allows for continued consultation and that they will make sure the legislation will keep the environment safe while it moves forward with economic activity.
The Auditor-General says she will be looking into the possible violations of the Environmental Bill of Rights Act and will table a report on the matter later this year.