OPINION, Monday, December 15, 2003, p. A27
launch green week
economic statement from Finance Minister Greg Sorbara will be
the highlight this week at Queen's Park.
a diversion from Sorbara's bad news, however, the Liberal government
also plans to unveil a series of environmental announcements and
bills this week.
the Liberals are calling it their "green week."
to various informed sources, the measures to be announced (by
Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky and Municipal Affairs Minister
John Gerretsen) include:
of a 600,000-acre "greenbelt" from Niagara Falls to
Lake Scugog. The Liberals are expected to start slowly here by
setting up an advisory body to make recommendations on how to
proceed. It will be interesting to see whether they slap a freeze
on development in the greenbelt area while the study is underway.
to tighten up the Planning Act. At the behest of developers, the
previous Conservative government loosened the act. As the Liberals
see it, that move encouraged sprawl, especially in the Greater
of the Ontario Municipal Board. The OMB is a court of appeal on
planning decisions, and under the Tories it usually sided with
the developers against municipalities and ratepayers. The Liberals
say they will restore some balance to the process.
more environmental inspectors to monitor water systems. This is
a follow-up to the Walkerton water disaster.
measures were in the Liberals' election platform and, aside from
the water inspectors, they won't cost the government anything.
will enable the Liberals to say they are keeping their promises
without compounding Sorbara's fiscal problems.
will also be welcomed by environmentalists, although the developers
will be mightily annoyed.
are clearly trying to court the environmental movement. Various
environmental groups, ranging from Earthroots to the Federation
of Ontario Naturalists, have been involved in consultations with
the government in the run-up to this week.
the environmentalists will be looking for this week include: "Source
protection" for our drinking water (including stricter limits
on farm waste and fertilizers); curbs on the taking of water for
bottling or export; a categorical rejection of the proposal to
ship Toronto's garbage to an abandoned mine in Kirkland Lake;
and a pledge not to reinstate the spring bear hunt.
And the municipalities
are hoping for financial assistance on the blue box recycling
Tories, a law was passed that would require businesses to pay
for municipal recycling programs in proportion to the amount of
their products that ends up in blue boxes. But the law was never
implemented as some major retailers and fast-food chains mounted
a spirited lobby against it.
the agricultural lobby pressured the Tories to move slowly on
restrictions on farm waste and fertilizer; some northerners pushed
to keep open the Kirkland Lake option for Toronto's garbage; and
hunters lobbied for the reinstatement of the spring bear hunt.
of these measures were contained in the Liberal platform and none
would cost the government much, if anything.
the strength of the lobbies, the Liberals may be reluctant to
move on any of them.
environmental pledge in the Liberal platform would be very expensive
to implement: the phasing-out of the government-owned coal-fired
power plants by 2007.
With the current
turmoil in the electricity market, it is unlikely the Liberals
will do any more this week than simply restate their commitment
on the coal-fired plants without saying how they will accomplish
is, however, expected to announce the creation of a blue-ribbon
panel to study the future of the ailing Pickering nuclear reactors
and related issues.
all these moves would put a green stamp on the Liberals- one they
have long sought, not just to differentiate themselves from the
Conservatives but also to lure votes away from the New Democrats.
are hard to please. (Ask Bob Rae or David Peterson, both of whom
ran afoul of them during their terms as premier.) The green week
may buy the Liberals no more than a temporary respite from criticism,
not to mention a lot of grief from developers, farmers, retailers,
hunters, northerners and others.
has been advised to bring environmentalists into his tent in the
form of an advisory group.
might think twice about bashing the government lest they lose
their seats at the table.
It is a move
that could be good for the environment; it would definitely be
writes on provincial affairs. His column appears Monday, Wednesday
and Saturday. iurquha @ thestar.ca.