In August David McRobert and Paula Boutis asked if it was time for Ontario political parties to revisit the issue of intervenor funding and access to environmental justice. They have followed up and made an application under the Environmental Bill of Rights requesting a review of existing laws, regulations and policies related to public participation and hearings under the Environment Assessment Act and other environmental and planning laws.
In August they wrote:
About 15 years ago, the Mike Harris government at Queen’s Park allowed a key law, the Intervenor Funding Project Act (IFPA), to simply expire. Among many environmental lawyers there was dismay and concern. Some worried that public participation in hearings would be seriously undermined and others felt that environmental justice would be crippled.
Fifteen years later many of the fears have been borne out. The financial situation facing many non-profit and volunteer-based organizations arguably is very tough, and participation in lengthy tribunal hearings and some approval processes is often seen as a luxury. Legal and expert costs have continued to escalate.
They are proposing that a new law be created that could be called the “Ontario Participant and Intervenor Funding Act” in recognition of the fact that the law would be intended to promote early participation in decision-making as well as fund participation in approval processes and hearings before a wide range of tribunals.
David and Paula contend that provision of participant and intervenor funding for participation in approval, planning, consultation and decision-making processes such as those created by the Environmental Protection Act, Environmental Bill of Rights, the Planning Act, and the Endangered Species Act, 2007, would be beneficial and promote better decision making by government ministries and proponents. Approvals and policy and planning processes related to various other Ontario laws such as the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act, and the Aggregates Resources Act also should be captured under this review. Experience under the Environmental Bill of Rights for the past 17 years shows that early participation in planning can avoid surprises and controversies for decision-makers at later stages in the approval process.