The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks in Ontario (the Ministry) is proposing changes that will expand the use of administrative penalties such as tickets, sanctions, and fines, against a broader range of environmental violations in the province. This proposal aims to strengthen the actions available to the Ministry against illegal environmental activity and to create a more effective enforcement system to protect Ontario’s natural resources.
Parties operating in Ontario should be aware of the new, wider net intended to be cast by the Ministry for environmental violations under the affected acts, the stronger enforcement mechanisms in place for applying these administrative penalties, and ultimately, the effect this will have on the operation of business in the province.
In 2019, legislative amendments made it possible for administrative penalties to be issued for contraventions for the following acts:
- Environmental Protection Act;
- Nutrient Management Act, 2002;
- Ontario Water Resources Act;
- Pesticides Act; and
- Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002.
In January 2022, the Ministry proposed that a regulation be made under each of the above-listed acts that would set out the contraventions for which an administrative penalty order may be issued, and detail the rules regarding how penalties will be determined for the contraventions. These proposed regulations would expand the ability of the Ministry to issue administrative penalties for a broader range of environmental violations than are currently available. The regulations would include information including the following:
- When an administrative penalty could be issued;
- The process and rules for determining a penalty, including how the gravity component of a penalty (to reflect the seriousness of the contravention) and the economic benefit component (to remove any economic gain from non-compliance) would be determined; and
- Circumstances when an employee, director, officer or agent of a corporation may be issued a penalty where the contravention is committed by the corporation.
The Ministry aims to deter illegal behaviour, improve environmental outcomes, and hold polluters – especially repeat offenders – accountable in a cost-effective manner that removes the burden on courts and taxpayers. The range of monetary penalties set out in the Classification of Contraventions for Administrative Penalties published by the Ministry varies anywhere from CA$500 to a maximum of CA$200,000 for corporations depending on the applicable act and contravention. Money collected from administrative penalties will go toward supporting the Ontario Community Environment Fund, redirecting penalties paid by polluters to community-based activities such as environmental restoration and remediation projects.
Further details about the contents of the proposed regulations, including details about the calculation of administrative penalties, can be found in the Ministry’s Consultation Guide on Proposed Regulations for the Expansion of Administrative Penalties.
The proposal notice for these regulations has been open for comments since January 27, 2022, and the Ministry has recently extended the comment period until March 28, 2022 to incorporate feedback and requests received by the Ministry from stakeholders. Any interested party must submit comments to the Ministry before this date in order to be considered by the Ministry in the final development of the proposed regulations.