October 24, 2005
By Bruce Rhodes
On September 21  PC Party Leader John Tory spoke at the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA) monthly luncheon, held in Mississauga. Mr. Tory's topic was the PC Party's position on Ontario's environment. The 80-person audience, which included business executives, consultants, lawyers and environmental engineers, listened as Mr. Tory outlined the four principles by which he believes environmental policy in Ontario ought to be developed.
First, environmental policy should follow a "firm but balanced" approach. Fines for violations of environmental regulations should be stiff, but organizations alleged to have committed such offences need access to due process, i.e. they ought to be entitled to their day in court. Mr. Tory expressed concern that recent legislation enacted by the Liberal government was not affording such due process.
Second, environmental policy initiatives need to be part of a comprehensive plan, in which all the consequences of proposed legislation are taken into account. Mr. Tory wants to avoid ad hoc, one-off decisions that are unduly short-term in their time horizon.
Third, do not rule out policy options without first conducting a thorough assessment of those options. Mr. Tory wants to avoid situations in which options are summarily dismissed for ideological reasons.
Finally, whenever possible, try to create jobs when establishing environmental policies.
In his presentation, Mr. Tory made several references to the desirability of relying on science for direction to determine appropriate environmental policy: "we need to consider the science"; "there is much hard work to do, on the science [of environmental policy]"; "we need scientific analysis". To get clarification, this writer asked Mr. Tory about the extent to which, if at all, he felt it was appropriate to apply the "precautionary principle" when formulating environmental policy, i.e. would it be a good idea to act against behaviours for which there is directional evidence of undesirable environmental consequences, without there necessarily being scientific proof? Mr. Tory responded by saying that a government should take action if there is evidence of a problem or of wrongdoing, but should also continue to do research, devise options to address the matter, and then assess the merits of those options.
The apparent mantra of ONEIA (www.oneia.ca) is "Sound policy, sound science, sound economics."