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Listen to environment inspectors and withdraw Bill 132: OPSEU

Smokey at Women's Conference in 2019

TORONTO – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is urging the Ford government to heed concerns that front-line inspectors are raising around changes to the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) contained in the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019. 

Thomas says inspectors with the Ministry of the Environment are particularly concerned about changes to Section 14 of the EPA, which significantly reduce their oversight and enforcement powers, and pose a threat to the health of Ontarians and their environment. 

“More than unnecessary, Bill 132 is dangerous,” said Thomas.  “Front-line inspectors are worried about being handcuffed.  Things could end badly down the road if the government does not listen to our members.” 

The province has enacted measures that erode environmental protection, including cancelling renewable energy projects; weakening conservation programs; diluting endangered species protections; implementing changes to hazardous waste management; scaling back climate change commitments; introducing non-governmental, third-party inspectors; stripping powers from the Environmental Commissioner; removing stakeholder engagement in environmental assessments; and temporarily suspending public input through the Environmental Registry of Ontario. 

“As front-line workers, we’re proud of our role in protecting human health and the natural environment,” said Shawn Burr, co-chair of the environment ministry’s Employee Relations Committee. “We’ve taken note of all these program and regulatory changes – and we’re extremely worried. We’re going to have greater difficulty addressing complaints and issues related to pollution, putting Ontarians directly in harm’s way.

“With COVID-19, we’ve seen it’s vastly more effective to be proactive than reactive. The same goes for the environment. These anti-environment measures need to be rolled back.”

First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida agrees, urging the government to listen to the front line. 

“If inspectors are worried, then I’m worried, because they know best what threatens the environment. And when the environment suffers, people suffer,” he said. “It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we raise our kids in. Protecting the environment is not some fancy extra. It’s protecting life itself – it’s precious and, quite frankly, not something we can do without.” 

“Bill 132 puts citizens at serious risk,” Thomas added. “You can wave paper around and complain about red tape. But that so-called red tape is a vital protection that keeps Ontarians from getting sick and dying. And the last thing anyone wants is another Walkerton. 

“The government needs to listen to inspectors and kill this bill. Go back to stakeholders and return with something that makes Ontario a better, safer province.” 

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931