Ross Howard, David Israelson, Michael Keating

Environmental Journalists

By Ross Howard, David Israelson, Michael Keating
As designated environmental reporters in the 1970s and 80s, Howard, Israelson and Keating played a critical role in conveying information gathered from academics, scientists, governments and non-governmental organizations to the public.

The Journalists

Of all information sources, newspapers have traditionally been the most influential. Their high profile stories coming out early in the day are picked up by radio, television and now Internet news sites.   Because of this, they often set the agenda for public and political debates.  In the 1970s, rising public interest in environmental issues prompted editors at Canada’s major newspapers and later at some broadcast outlets to create an environmental “beat” on a par with health or education, and reporters were directed to track down and report on the most exciting and often alarming developments in this field. At the Toronto Star where he worked from 1975 to 1984, Ross Howard became one of Canada’s first environment reporters..  For Howard, it was an “amazing time” of transition when pollution was becoming a serious subject of scientific study and public concern rather than simply a series of unconnected stories about irritants like litter and trash, and he specialized in writing about environmental issues for eight years of his journalistic career.  When Howard gave up his post in 1984, David Israelson, who worked at the Star from 1983 to 1998, succeeded him, beginning in 1985.  Similarly, the Globe and Mail, in response to the high level of public interest, had its own dedicated environmental reporter, Michael Keating, an experienced journalist who covered these issues for the Globe from 1979 to 1988. The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail were then, and still are, among the most widely read newspapers in Canada.  While the Globe sees itself as the authoritative voice of Canadian journalism with a national reach and a political-economic focus, the Star with the highest circulation of any paper in Canada, has long pursued a populist middle-class stance and more aggressive reporting towards selected issues.

Breaking Environmental News

As designated environmental reporters in the 1970s and 80s, Howard, Israelson and Keating played a critical role in conveying information gathered from academics, scientists, governments and non-governmental organizations to the public.   Reports, lawsuits, lobbying campaigns, commissions, government announcements, the results of scientific studies and leaked documents all provided breaking news, and the level of public interest was high. In following professional standards of accuracy, fairness and balance, these reporters had to weigh claims and counter-claims made by emerging groups and individuals who wanted their environmental issues covered by the press.  The journalists also had to try to assess the risks of pollution problems to public health and the environment, recognizing that in a time of heightened public interest and concern their reporting could influence significantly how issues were perceived and managed. Although none of the three reporters in this session were trained as scientists, their on-the-job education gave them a rich understanding of the science behind environmental issues – the consequences of air and water pollution, the risks of chemicals to human health, or the effects of long-range transportation of acid-rain causing emissions on prized areas such as Muskoka Lakes.  During the period when they were writing, many “brave” scientists, as Howard calls them, both inside and outside federal and provincial governments, took the time to explain the complex science behind these issues both on and off the record.   This investment in educating reporters was reflected in the high level of sophistication found in news stories about acid rain, dioxin contamination of the Great Lakes and other headline environmental issues of the day.

The Political Hot Seat

Environmental news began to regularly command front page headlines and extensive explanatory stories.  With the support of their editors, the three journalists kept environmental issues at the forefront of public awareness, which considerably influenced a sea change in public attitudes:  where pollution had once been regarded as the cost of doing business and considered a fair trade-off for economic benefits, a better-informed public became attentive to exposures and risks and losses and consequences and began to demand greater corporate responsibility and government action. The environment became a political hot potato.  Almost daily the Ontario Minister of Environment had to be prepared to answer to the press, the public and the provincial Legislature every time a story broke, and the heat proved too warm for many of them. As Keating pointed out in one of his many front page stories, there was a turnover of five Environment Ministers in seven years in Ontario during the years of Progressive Conservative governments.  The heat was almost unrelenting but its sources were as diverse as the global environment itself -- an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine, the chemical leak at Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, a radioactive spill from the Pickering nuclear plant, the discovery of dioxin in herring gull eggs taken from the Great Lakes or maple trees believed to be dying from acidified rain. As the media continued to highlight these stories, the public mood gradually changed from concern to alarm.  The Ontario government realized that the environment was more than an engineering problem and began to assert higher protective and preventative standards.  Tougher legislation that required greater corporate accountability and costs was directed at specific environmental problems such as acid rain. Enforcement was strengthened to ensure that companies controlled their spills and emissions more effectively. By putting environmental issues on the front page and making them a frequent subject for editorial comment, water-cooler conversation and protest, environmental journalists were instrumental in changing public perceptions of pollution by the early 1980s.  These journalists kept the issues high in opinion polls, instigated wide-ranging policy debates and ensured a new degree of political accountability for the state of the environment.  
Robert Paehlke, Doug Macdonald and Mark Winfield

Environmental Historians Talk About Ontario’s Environmental History

By Robert Paehlke, Doug Macdonald and Mark Winfield
In this session, Bob, Doug and Mark discuss the political upheavals in Ontario and the influence of environmental activism on governments of different political stripes.

Robert Paehlke, Doug Macdonald and Mark Winfield have all been well-placed observers of, and sometime participants in, Ontario’s environmental history.  As educators, they have taught and written about the events and the policies that have shaped Ontario’s environmental path.  As well, working for or in association with non-governmental organizations, they have themselves influenced the province’s decision-making process. Robert (Bob) Paehlke is a professor emeritus of Trent University, where in the 1960s as one of a newly-minted group of environmental professors, he taught environment and politics and continued to do so for more than 35 years.  In 1971, he founded Canada’s premier environmental magazine, Alternatives, which has been an invaluable source of scientific information and policy discussion ever since.   He is also the author of numerous publications on environmental issues including his most recent book, Some Like It Cold: The Politics of Climate Change in Canada.  Doug Macdonald has taught environmental policy at the University of Toronto (U of T) for several years as a Senior Lecturer in the School of the Environment.  Before coming to U of T, he was the Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Research Foundation from 1982 to 1988, which was renamed the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP) but is now defunct.  He has also written extensively on the need for a strong environmental assessment process in Ontario. Mark Winfield is an associate Professor at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, the first environmental program in Canada.  He specializes in environmental policy, sustainable energy and urban sustainability.  Before coming to York, he was Program Director at The Pembina Institute from 2001 to 2007, and before that Director of Research for CIELAP.  In 2012, his book, Blue-Green Province: The Environment and the Political Economy of Ontario, examining the relationship between environmental policy and the politics and economy of the province, was released. In this session, Bob, Doug and Mark discuss the political upheavals in Ontario and the influence of environmental activism on governments of different political stripes.  

The Conservative Years and the Response to Environmental Concerns

In the late 1960s when environmental activism began, Bob Paehlke recalls small groups popping up in every city and town in Canada, and even a minor protest could attract publicity.   Then, during the 1970s and early 80s at the same time the environmental movement was gaining strength, the Conservative Party was enjoying a long uninterrupted run of governing the province.  The government under Premier Bill Davis responded to growing environmental concerns by establishing the Ministry of Environment in 1971.  This was accomplished by piecing together institutions such as the Ontario Water Resources Commission and departments from other Ministries that had responsibility for air, water or land.  Also in 1971, Davis broke with the institutional model and, in an act of goodwill towards the nascent environmental momentum and the Stop Spadina Save Our City campaign, cancelled plans for the Spadina Expressway.  Spadina was one of six expressways intended to bring suburban commuters to their jobs in downtown Toronto that would have meant the destruction of thousands of homes in the heart of the City. One of the boldest initiatives, though, of the Davis government was the introduction and passage of the Environmental Assessment (EA) Act, which established an innovative planning process for public projects.  It was intended to provide for “an integrated consideration at an early stage of the entire complex of environmental effects which might be generated.” It was passed by the Ontario Legislature in 1975 and proclaimed in force in 1976.  According to Mark Winfield, the EA Act transformed the Ministry of Environment from a Ministry concerned about pollution and garbage to a Ministry that could pass judgment on the desirability of projects proposed by other Ministries and government agencies such as Ontario Hydro.  From an institutional perspective, it was a huge shift that saw the Ministry of Environment’s stature rise within government, from “a patched together Ministry to a Ministry with power.”  

The Liberals’ Countdown Acid Rain Program:  The Zenith of Activism

In 1985 after Davis’ retirement, although the Conservatives won more seats in the Ontario Parliament by a slim margin, they did not have a majority.  Shortly after the election, the New Democratic Party agreed to support the Liberals for two years in return for the implementation of a mutually approved Accord.  At this point, the momentum for controlling acid rain had been growing and in 1986 Environment Minister, Jim Bradley, introduced Countdown Acid Rain, an ambitious program that would limit the emissions of Inco and other major sources of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the province.  Environmental groups, particularly the Coalition on Acid Rain, had been instrumental in galvanizing public support for controls, and the introduction of this program reflected their considerable influence on the political agenda of the day. During the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, with public support still strong and effective groups actively promoting an environmental agenda, the Ministry of Environment led by keen Ministers of Environment enjoyed a period of successful initiatives and policy measures.  Many projects were reviewed under the Environmental Assessment Act with the public actively engaged in the planning process.  The Ministry of Natural Resources, for example, under the Environmental Assessment for Timber Management was required to submit its plans for forest management to an extensive public review which started in 1985, and a decision to accept the EA with conditions was made by the Environmental Assessment Board in 1994.  The Ministry’s enforcement activities were having a systemic impact on the way in which industry managed their environmental impacts.  The Investigations and Enforcement Branch was actively bringing polluters to justice, and its successful prosecution of Bata Industries showed that officers and directors could be liable if they did not follow through on their environmental responsibilities.  

The Legacy of the NDP

Another election in 1990 brought in the New Democratic Party.  Continuing a proactive approach to environmental concerns, Ruth Grier, the Environment Minister, banned incineration and took on the ill-fated task, which the former Liberal government had begun, of finding a site for Toronto’s garbage.  The NDP also introduced and passed the Environmental Bill of Rights, which Mark Winfield describes as a part of the NDP legacy that has survived.  However, the NDP were presented with tough economic times in the province and the Ministry of Environment, which had seen its funding go steadily up during the Bradley years, was caught in the financial restraints being imposed by the government.  This was the beginning of the Ministry’s funding and influence being eroded as successive governments continued to reduce the Ministry’s funding and weaken programs and legislation such as the EA Act that had been put in place by their predecessors. The story of the environment in Ontario is not one of uninterrupted progress, say the historians.  There were policy failures such as the Ontario Waste Management Corporation’s unsuccessful search for a hazardous waste site.  And, after many of the gains realized in the decades of the 70s, 80s and into the early 90s -- the creation of the Ministry of Environment itself, the passage of strong environmental legislation and the aggressive work of the Investigations and Enforcement Branch -- the province’s once strong environmental performance has been diminished not only by the withdrawal of funding for the Ministry but by policy reversals and deregulation.
Ken Armson, Michael Innes, Rob Burgar

Chief Foresters of Ontario

By Ken Armson, Michael Innes, Rob Burgar
When visitors fly over Ontario, they are often surprised and delighted by how much of the province is covered by trees. Ontarians are justly proud of the province’s forests as a source of jobs and wealth. With the growth of environmentalism, Ontario’s forests are also a natural resource treasure that needs to be well managed.

Ken Armson was Ontario’s Provincial Forester and is now Chair of the Forest History Society of Ontario. Robert J. Burgar was Assistant Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Natural Resources. Michael Innes was a forester for the Ministry in both northern and southern Ontario before joining the Abitibi-Price paper company and then serving as Vice President, Environment for Abitibi-Bowater in Montreal before his retirement. Together these three foresters have amassed a huge base of knowledge and detailed stories about what they first encountered as young foresters and what they learned, which benefits everyone today. In 1994 the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) was passed, reflecting newer thinking about forests, putting overall environmental considerations into forest management. However, foresters like Armson, Burgar and Innes were thinking about these issues long before the Act was passed. The same year, Minister of Natural Resources appointed a Council on Forest Sector Competitiveness made up of representatives from industry, municipalities, First Nations, environmental groups and independent advisors. The Council recommended establishing the position of Chief Forester to oversee the research and knowledge about our forests and how they are being managed (though no action was taken).

History of Forestry in Ontario

Forestry thinking had been evolving since European settlers began to flock to what was known as Upper Canada (now Ontario) beginning in the late 19th century and into the 20th. Before Canada became a nation on July 1, 1867, the forests were thought to be inexhaustible. In southern Ontario, settlers cleared land for farming and building towns and cities. Forests in northern Ontario seemed to be a vast and endless supply of timber that would always be there for the taking. Trees from Crown land (publicly-owned forests) could be harvested by any person or company licensed by the Crown. Ontario has more than 71 million hectares of forest, and 90 per cent of this is Crown forest. In the 19th century and most of the 20th century, the rights of Ontario’s First Nations as far as ownership and use of these forests was concerned was often neglected or ignored, a situation that is beginning to be addressed only now. In the late 1800s, the British Royal Navy reserved the right to take oak and timber for shipbuilding. By 1826 Ontario’s colonial rulers imposed a law: all species of trees could be cut, but anyone who harvested Crown forests had to pay a stumpage, or licence fee, to the government. A version of the stumpage system remains in effect to this day: Ontario’s forestry industry pays the province an average of $240 million a year for the use of Crown timber. By the end of the 19th century, as Ontario grew and the railroads were built, the public, governments and those involved in harvesting forests began to be concerned about new issues. Would there always be access to top-quality wood in Ontario? How do we protect forests from wildfires? What tree species are in Ontario’s different forests, and what’s the best way to replenish our forests? By 1900, many areas in southern Ontario had been cleared and improperly farmed on lands susceptible to erosion. Hard as it may be to imagine, parts of the province were being turned into desert — wildlife disappeared, rivers and wetlands dried up and the topsoil blew away. Other areas, denuded of trees, became susceptible to floods. In 1904, Edmund Zavitz, a lecturer in Forestry at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, surveyed these so-called “wastelands” and as a result of this a provincial nursery was opened at St. Williams in 1908 to provide trees for replanting such areas. This was the beginning of a major program of reforestation in southern Ontario. Many farmers listened and began planting trees, and the provincial government named Zavitz as one of Ontario’s first Provincial Foresters. (Zavitz succeeded Dr. Judson Clark as Provincial Forester, who served from 1905 to 1906.) In 1926, Zavitz became Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Forestry. By the mid-1940s, under Zavitz’s guidance, reforestation was an established practice. By the time of his death in 1968, one billion trees had been planted in Ontario — an additional two billion have been planted since then. One of Zavitz’s big acheivements was also to secure legislation preventing clear cutting on private land — a law that has done a lot to protect the province’s forest cover. Technology has been a part of forestry in Ontario since the days of Zavitz’s photographs. Until the airplane was perfected, the only way to survey Ontario’s forests was on the ground. As technology advanced through the 20th and into the 21st century, forestry, surveying and inventory taking of Ontario’s trees grew into a highly skilled, technical profession. Foresters used aerial surveillance, specialized film and digital photography. By the 1990s, mapping and detailed information gathering by remote sensing of forests and soil composition was completed using satellite data. Ontario’s foresters were at the vanguard of all these advances, and Armson (who served as Provincial Forester from 1986-89), Innes and Burgar are among those who have carried on Zavitz’s legacy. Though there is no formal position of Chief Forester in Ontario, experts like these continue to work hard to protect Ontario’s trees. They’ve looked at every aspect of forestry, travelling to other provinces and other timber-rich regions such as Scandinavia to compare practices, studying soils, tree species, harvesting and replenishing methods.

Educating the public

Perhaps most importantly, the foresters learned that dialogue was important. Most people in Ontario live far away from the province’s large Crown forests, and have little idea of what goes into forest management. The foresters understood that people had strong views about forestry values — regeneration, protecting wildlife, making sure areas are attractive for tourists and so on. Their task was to address the difficult questions, based on sound science and policy. What kind of regeneration is best? Who should pay for it? Who will do the work? Over time, they went from confrontations with environmentalists to a pattern of sitting down and seeing how they could reach consensus and agreement. In places like Simcoe County we can see the legacy of Ontario’s foresters; by championing the planting of trees they were successful in protecting the area from becoming windblown and lifeless. These important forestry experts laid the groundwork for the Forest Management Agreements under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act.  These agreements establish how Ontario’s timber is managed. They came about under an amended Crown Timber Act (CTA) of 1980, which established how Crown forests would be managed by the major licensees of Crown timber. The Crown Forest Sustainability Act in 1994 superseded the CTA. As Ken Armson says:
Only by being knowledgeable of the history of the use and development of our forests and the landscape and soils on which they occur can we make intelligent decisions about their current and future development and uses.

Bud Wildman, David Balsillie, Marty Donkevoort

Crown Forest Sustainability Act

By Bud Wildman, David Balsillie, Marty Donkevoort
The first line of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act sets the direction: “…to manage Crown forests to meet social, economic and environmental needs of present and future generations.” Listen to the story learn about how the act got put into place.

The Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA), passed in 1994, brought new thinking to the way Ontario’s forests are managed. Up to the 1990s, Ontario’s Crown forests (forests on publicly owned land) were thought of mostly as a commodity. Protecting the forests’ waters, air quality, wildlife, recreation and tourism use and aboriginal rights, while considered, took a back seat. It’s an important point, because Ontario has more than 71 million hectares of forest, and 90 per cent of this is Crown forest. The CSFA put environmental considerations into forest management. It came into being after years of hard work. Much of it was done by C. J. (Bud) Wildman, the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for Native Affairs from October 1990 to February 1993. He worked closely with Assistant Deputy Minister David Balsillie and Policy Advisor Marty Donkevoort. Background Between 1965 and 1994, the average yearly area logged in Ontario had gone up more than 50 per cent, to nearly 210,000 hectares. During that time period, the actual timber harvested on Crown land more than doubled from 10 million cubic metres of wood cut from an area of 1,000 hectares of forest, to nearly 21 million cubic metres from 2,100 hectares. Worse, the use of clearcutting kept growing. In the 1970s, about 70 per cent of Ontario’s forest harvests were clearcut. By the 1990s this jumped to 91 per cent. Clearly, this wasn’t sustainable. As unthinkable as it may seem, if soxmething didn't change, Ontario could eventually run out of harvestable, renewable forests. Previous ministers and governments had considered this problem with varying interest and attention, but the mind-set was to put the short term needs of forest companies for product — trees to be cut — before protection or renewal and long term interests. Bud Wildman and the MNR reform When Wildman took office as minister, Ontario’s forests were regulated by 28 forest management agreements, covering 70 per cent of Crown forests. He represented the Northern Ontario riding of Algoma for the New Democratic Party (NDP), knew the forests and the forestry industry well. He was determined from the day of his appointment to bring change to the Natural Resources ministry and the way it managed forests, to make sustainability a priority that would have to be considered in every decision. The concept of ‘sustainable development’ was recent; the phrase had been coined only in 1987, in a United Nations report called Our Common Future or the Brundtland Report, which firmly placed environmental issues on the world’s political agenda. It was important that everyone understood where Ontario was going, and that the industry understood that sustainability was ultimately better for its bottom line. The MNR staff was highly professional and had some of the most experienced forestry experts in the world, but under the rules at the time, the forest industry (not the ministry) was responsible for making sure that forests were being regenerated. Since the Crown, not the industry, actually owned the forests, the industry’s priority was to get permission to harvest as many trees as possible. The mindset of the ministry staff, and virtually all ministers up to this time, was to follow the rules and make tree-cutting, not sustainability, the priority. Wildman wanted to change this. There weren’t enough trees being regenerated. In many of the unregenerated forests, ‘weeds’ like birch and poplar trees were growing. Altering the tree species affects the type of insects and plant life in the forests, as well as the soil, the water, and ultimately the fish and all other wildlife. This not only affects the forests, but also the biodiversity, fish and wildlife habitats, recreation, tourism, spiritual and heritage values of our forests. Wildman felt that Ontario had to move to a holistic approach to forest management, taking all of these values and interests into account. He knew there were a lot of mid-level staff and field workers in his ministry who shared his concerns. They would support figuring out better ways to protect Ontario’s Crown forests. He also knew he needed to act fast, because changing the MNR and its forestry practices would take a long time (it did take nearly the whole term of the NDP government) and there would likely be unforeseen obstacles. The unforeseen obstacle came quickly when the NDP government, elected in September 1990, soon discovered it was broke. Wildman was told he wouldn’t have enough money for a major forestry audit— Ontario’s first. This was important because the Ministry assessments of the state of our forests were out-of-date. So despite the lack of cash, Wildman and his team found a way to do the audit anyway, through a comprehensive program, known as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The Crown Forest Sustainability Act - Now The Act was finally passed in 1994 (last updated in 2003). It sets detailed rules for how Crown forests are to be managed, in terms of access, maintenance, renewal and planning — rules that are binding on the MNR and everyone else. It incorporated the majority of the recommendations of the Class Environmental Assessment on Forest Management and covers the entire province but primarily affects the North, where most of Ontario’s Crown forest is located. The result is a system that has everyone thinking more holistically about forests. The CFSA and the talks that preceded it also involved more detailed discussions with Ontario’s First Nations than had taken place in the past — a dialogue that is still evolving. Today, thanks to the CFSA, there is a more clear, explicit idea of what is expected — the limits to harvesting Crown forests, when it’s appropriate to allow development and roads and when it’s not, and most importantly, the need to make sure that forests that are harvested are properly regenerated. Although disagreements still come up over issues (such as road building and development), the Act allows them to be considered during the planning stage, so they can be considered with sustainability in mind. Thinking has changed across Canada about forestry. In 2010, nine environmental groups signed the historic Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, aimed at working together. There are still ups and downs — environmentalists and loggers hit an impasse over this agreement in 2013. But Ontario’s Crown Forest Sustainability Act set the trend for the new way of looking at forests as a legacy worth sustaining. Wildman and his colleagues worried that the Crown Forest Sustainability Act would not survive after the government changed hands. But it has changed hands several times and the law is still there. Ontario’s thinking about sustainability has changed too.
David Peterson, Mark Rudolph, Jan Whitelaw

The Peterson Years

By David Peterson, Mark Rudolph, Jan Whitelaw
The 1980s was a decade of great change for environmentalism — around the world and very much so in Ontario. This became particularly evident after June 26, 1985, the day David Peterson was sworn in as Ontario’s 20th premier, leading the first Ontario Liberal government in 42 years.

For the next two years, Peterson led a minority government at Queen’s Park, under an unprecedented Accord reached with the opposition New Democratic Party. The Liberals actually had fewer seats (48 Liberal to 52 Conservative) than the Progressive Conservatives who had held power, but they managed to form a government with support from the NDP (who had 25 seats) under the accord, and took office with an ambitious program for environmental change. By mid-1985 the environment had already become a top-of-mind issue for Ontarians. In the spring election campaign that led to his premiership, a spill of toxic PCBs from a truck on a northern Ontario road had become a major talking point. It escalated when a pregnant woman in a car behind the truck expressed concern; the Progressive Conservative environment minister quipped that she should not worry unless she was “a rat” licking the highway. The public was not amused and it became a significant election issue. Ontario’s Environment — Under New Management Peterson appointed Jim Bradley (MPP for St. Catharines, a seat he still holds), as Minister of the Environment. He also hired staff members who were committed to moving fast on the environmental issues of the day, including Mark Rudolph, David Oved and Gary Gallon. In his own office, Peterson hired Jan Whitelaw as a senior policy advisor. Mark Rudolph had worked with the Liberals in opposition at Queen’s Park and as Chief of Staff to the federal environment minister (Charles Caccia) in Ottawa. Shortly after Rudolph joined Peterson’s government, he became Bradley’s chief of staff at the Ministry of the Environment. He worked closely with Gallon (who passed away in 2003), Bradley’s Senior Policy Advisor, also a Liberal staff member and a founder of Greenpeace. The office team was rounded out by David Oved, a former journalist who became Bradley’s press secretary, and Julia Langer who was the Junior Policy Advisor. To say that there was good chemistry among the staff is perhaps an understatement — Rudolph and Whitelaw later married, had three boys and they still work together in the private sector on environmental issues. Changes in the Environment When Peterson came to power, some Ontarians were surprised at the speed of change in the environment file. As Peterson notes, for decades the Ontario Liberals were a small-c conservative party. He credits his predecessor, Stuart Smith (Liberal Party leader from 1976 to 1982), with moving the party forward, in part by hiring people like Rudolph and Gallon to work in the opposition. To deliver their election promise of change, Peterson and Bradley moved fast. The budget for Ministry of the Environment more than doubled, from $300 million per year under the previous Progressive Conservative government to more than $700 million (by comparison, Ontario’s 2013-14 budget estimate for the Ministry of the Environment is $495 million). Their staffers found that in addition to dealing with toxic spills, they had a ready-made list of big environmental issues to contend with right away. At the top of the list was acid rain (rain that turned acidic when combined with sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides). These two chemicals spewed from Ontario Hydro coal-burning power plants, Inco’s Sudbury nickel smelter and the tailpipes of cars and trucks across Ontario. Acid rain was killing lakes and trees ,threatened human health and had become a continent-sized pollution problem. Determined to solve the issue, Peterson gave Bradley the okay to act quickly and bring in Countdown Acid Rain, an aggressive pollution reduction program. (The acid rain story is told in more detail elsewhere in this Beginnings series.) Vale Corp. (Inco’s successor in Sudbury), credits acid rain controls for giving the company the conditions to cut pollution by more than 90 per cent and make a profit by doing so. Taking on the tough environmental issues In the 1980s, Rudolph, Whitelaw, Gallon and others had to work tirelessly and seamlessly to negotiate with the polluters as their mandate from Peterson and Bradley was to hold firm to protect the environment Within six months of holding office, Peterson, Bradley and their team proclaimed a Spills Bill that could deal with incidents like the PCB spill (it had been passed by the previous government but never proclaimed as law) and took the steps that led to the world’s first Blue Box recycling program across Ontario. The Peterson government also dealt with contentious issues that concerned people across Ontario, including a noxious pollution flowing into Lake Superior from a pulp and paper plant (then owned by Kimberly-Clark) at Terrace Bay, and pressure to log the old growth forests in Temagami, right next to a provincial park. They also implemented MISA (the Municipal/Industrial Strategy for Abatement – an industrial waterways clean-up program, Lifelines (a municipal water and sewage infrastructure enhancement program), an improved Parks Policy Book, and the start of the creation of the Rouge Park. Nevertheless, the environmental philosophy of Rudolph, Whitelaw, Gallon and others — with backing by Peterson and Bradley — was to look at the bigger picture. It’s a philosophy that’s second nature to anyone who thinks seriously about the environment today, but it represented new thinking in the 80s. They didn’t get everything done — for example, in opposition the Liberals had pushed for an environmental bill of rights (under which the Environmental Commissioner’s office was eventually established), but they never moved forward with the legislation during their time in office from 1985 to 1990. This was part of the “tradeoff” they undertook as they looked at the “bigger picture”. Today, Peterson calls what his government achieved on the environment simply “doing a good job.” And Bradley, the longest serving MPP now at Queen’s Park (as of 2013), is still on the job, serving as environment minister again since 2011.
Jim Robb, Cathy Gregorio and Lois James

Protecting the Rouge River: A Priceless Watershed

By Jim Robb, Cathy Gregorio and Lois James
Are you a friend of the Rouge? These days it’s hard not to be, if you know about this amazing ecosystem teeming with rare and endangered wildlife, right in the Greater Toronto Area. Our guests talk about the road blocks they faced in saving the Rouge Valley system.

Rouge Park (The Rouge) is a magnificent semi-wilderness area nestled within Canada’s most populous region. It covers more than 45 square kilometres and has two National Historic Sites, including a significant First Nation village site and an old portage route. The Rouge is so ecologically important that it’s on the way to becoming Canada’s first Urban National Park — a national park that will be accessible by public transit. Saving the Rouge ecosystem has been a long journey, driven by the hard work of many environmental and community groups such as Save the Rouge Valley System (SRVS), which mobilized people to support the creation of Rouge Park; and Friends of the Rouge Watershed, which developed programs and activities so people can enjoy, learn about, and help restore the ecological health of the Park and watershed. Today, Friends of the Rouge Watershed still works to protect and restore the beautiful Rouge Park. Each year, more than 10,000 school children visit the Rouge, studying its ecosystems, and perhaps most importantly, enjoying nature just minutes away from downtown and suburban neighbourhoods. Early Days The struggle to save the Rouge began in the 1970s, when Toronto was expanding with never-ending development. During that time, Torontonians noticed that there was still beautiful wilderness tucked into the city’s northeast corner. In 1975, local citizens formed SRVS to advocate for better planning and protection for the Rouge River and the valley system. In 1967, a rich wetland northeast of Meadowvale Road and Hwy 401 was set aside for Canada’s Centennial. Even with this commemorative event, developers came and simply drained the wetland. To make matters worse, between 1965 and 1983, there was an active landfill near the Rouge Valley, east of the Toronto Zoo site. Anyone who lived there at that time will remember lots of garbage trucks, seagulls, dust, odours and rats. The growing threats of urban sprawl spurred the SRVS. Developer after developer seemed to come and gobble up wetlands and forests. More needed to be done. Building Local Political Support   In 1987, Joyce Trimmer, a Scarborough city councillor (later mayor of that city before it was amalgamated with Toronto), attended a SRVS meeting. Trimmer gave tough but crucial feedback helping focus the group and its goals. The group’s first political experience was not encouraging. In the mid-1980s, they built public awareness of plans to develop 5,000 acres of land around the Rouge River Valley. But when Scarborough City Council voted, only Trimmer and one other councillor, Edith Montgomery, supported protecting Scarborough Rouge lands. SRVS didn’t give up. Instead, they doubled their efforts to build a broad coalition of community, environmental and political groups, with public support. More than 1,000 people turned up for two Scarborough Council meetings. In 1988, Council voted to protect the 5,000 acres surrounding the Rouge Valley in northeast Toronto. SRVS volunteers knew that the river, which supports the health of the valley and watershed, was still imperiled. There were plans for an adjacent highway and a bigger landfill and developments. SRVS had an idea, an alternative to endless development — the creation of a protected Rouge Park. Another successful fight was the People or Planes campaign. In the 1970s, the provincial and federal governments purchased more than 30,000 acres by the Rouge River. The plan was to create a greenbelt surrounding a proposed international airport in North Pickering. In the end, the airport was not built, leaving most of these lands in public hands and potentially available for a Rouge Park. Meanwhile on the Federal and Provincial scene The Progressive Conservative (PC) government under then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, green for its time, was open to dialogue with activists. SRVS met with Pauline Browes, a PC Member of Parliament from Scarborough Centre, and the Waterfront Commissioner, David Crombie. Together, they gained support for the Rouge Valley from the federal government and then-Environment Minister Tom McMillan. The Save the Rouge campaign was political but non-partisan. In addition to Browes and the PCs, the Ontario Liberal government, under then-Premier David Peterson and Environment Minister Jim Bradley, also supported protecting the Rouge. Bradley’s key aides Gary Gallon, Mark Rudolph, Sarah Rang and David Oved made sure the issue had the government’s attention. In March 1990, Premier Peterson announced the province's plans to create a 10,500-acre (4,250-hectare) Rouge Park, from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine — almost exactly what SRVS asked for. PC Premier Mike Harris’ government added land to the park in 2001, and in 2005 Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government created the Greenbelt, which placed Rouge Park as "main ecological link" between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine. Bob Hunter, the crusading environment reporter and a founder of Greenpeace, had encouraged SRVS volunteers to never give up, but he also told them to have a healthy dose of cynicism about government announcements. “If you’re not cynical, you’re not paying attention,” he said. His point: the battle for environmental protection does not end, it requires eternal activism. In memory of Bob Hunter, Premier McGuinty created Bob Hunter Memorial Park in 2006.
Dennis Caplice, Victor Rudik, Wayne Scott

Ministry of the Environment: Part One

By Dennis Caplice, Victor Rudik, Wayne Scott
It wasn’t that long ago in Ontario when there was no Ministry of the Environment. But it seems like we’ve moved ahead by light years.

Before the Ministry was created in 1972, pollution control was left to a hodgepodge of municipal and provincial regulations and agencies. Industries’ answer to pollution was to build higher smokestacks and longer outflow pipes to spread their emissions and discharges farther away — out of sight and out of mind, but unfortunately, not out of the environment. Farmers could go into the waste disposal business by renting out land, allowing in dumpsters and covering the garbage with dirt. Sewage treatment plants needed to be upgraded, flood plains needed to be controlled, air quality needed attention. It all needed to be coordinated. There weren’t consistent patterns as to how decisions were made about the environment. For example, it was a major event when then-Premier William Davis stopped construction on Toronto’s Spadina Expressway in 1971, but it was done by Cabinet order (really his own order) — none of the legal challenges brought by neighbourhood groups had worked. It’s not that people were unaware. The idea that something different had to be done in Ontario to deal with the environment began to percolate years before the Ministry came into being and started to do its work. In 1970, George Kerr, who would later become Ontario’s first Environment Minister, referred to polluters as “thieves”. This was strong language at the time. There was still reluctance even consider to tough environmental controls. People in those days spoke about raising their “consciousness”, and this actually started to happen. On April 22, 1970, the world’s first Earth Day, MPPs handed out phosphate-free detergent to people in the street, explaining how it was better for the water. That same day, then-Premier John Robarts (Davis’ predecessor) told Ontarians that the time would come when governments may need to forbid certain types of development if it meant protecting the environment — even if that meant giving up tax revenues. It was controversial. “While I do not relish the idea, I am convinced that we, the province and municipalities, must institute very firm controls in some areas of Ontario,” he warned. This was a bold enough warning to merit front-page coverage in the Toronto Star, which noted that the Premier’s words meant something almost shocking: “Industries might not always be able to establish where they want to.” Yet while demonstrators in Washington, Toronto and around the world marched that day to draw attention to the environment, the legal and governmental mechanisms to act on Robarts’ ideas were still a good two years away. And the tools that we now use — the regulatory and review system, was even farther off. The Ministry of the Environment came to life in 1972, with Kerr as Minister. But it wasn’t until two years later, in the 1974 Throne Speech, that the government announced it was bringing in a new Environmental Assessment Act. This meant that for the first time, there would be a formal way to review the impact of new proposals on our land and water. It fell to senior government officials — the bureaucrats — to make sense of what was then a new, but important way of looking at our surroundings in Ontario. There was resistance — not everyone in government or in industry wanted an Environment Ministry, and even today, some people don’t like environmental assessments — and there was a lot to learn. Officials would visit industries to inspect them and be asked: “Why are you here?” And from the other side, members of the public would ask: “Why aren’t you doing more?” The new Environmental Assessment Act, which became law in 1975, provided the framework for, as it says, “the betterment of the people of the whole or any part of Ontario by providing for the protection, conservation and wise management in Ontario of the environment.” As with many effective laws, it draws criticism from both sides — opponents say it slows development and industry and proponents say it could offer more protection. What the Act, and the Ministry, do seek to achieve is to provide the method and the process to act on changing thinking about our environment. There have been significant achievements. For example, in 1994 a Class (comprehensive, across-the-board) Environmental Assessment of timber management led to considerable rethinking about how we manage our Crown forests, putting more focus than before on sustainability. This has led to a wider consensus — and some formal accords — to make our forests more sustainable. Other environmental assessments under the act have tackled waste management, transmission lines and electricity supply. The Ministry, meanwhile also led the way in many areas, with a comprehensive program to combat acid rain, a watershed-wide management plan for Lake Simcoe and its wide-ranging sewage abatement program for municipalities and industries across the province. Is it perfect? Perfection may always be elusive, and there’s still a lot to learn. But it is progress — measurable pollution prevention, real enforcement and a framework for assessing environmental impact. Listen to the stories of the Ministry’s pioneers and how they worked to make Ontario’s Environment Ministry come to life.
Hap Wilson, Brian Back, Amber Ellis

Temagami, Old Growth and Canoeing

By Hap Wilson, Brian Back, Amber Ellis
During the Red Squirrel Road blockade, Brian Back was buried in the ground up to the neck. Bob Rae, stunned as he walked by, whispered to him, "are you alright?" Listen to the story to hear about how old-growth forests and some of Ontario's wilderness canoeing areas were protected.

The Temagami area in northern Ontario holds one of the largest old growth red and white pine forests in the world. Old growth forests are rare in Ontario due to past extensive logging, but Temagami is   still standing, thanks to Hap Wilson, Brian Back, Amber Ellis and many others who fought hard to preserve the ancient ecosystem.
I remember fights in [the district manager]'s office ... The door was closed and you'd hear screaming, then you'd hear things hit the wall. This was what it was like there. It was a circus.
The Temagami story begins with Hap Wilson: canoeist, outfitter, artist, environment enthusiast, and author of many wilderness guidebooks. As a park ranger from 1976 to 1984, Wilson surveyed and published Temagami’s first, and very popular, Canoe Routes guidebook. This helped lead to a greater awareness of the need for wilderness protection, and opened up the area to outsiders who became advocates through discovery. However, logging and road building were still allowed. Things heated up when a district manager from MNR started illegally clearing land for the Red Squirrel Road in the fall of 1984. Hap was the first to learn about the road clearing, and quickly worked with his supervisor, Reg Sinclair from the Ministry of Natural Resources to "block" particular logging operations scheduled for critical areas by designing hiking trails or new canoe routespushing the development into the review process. In July of 1985, environmentalist Terry Grave and lawyer Owen Smith requested an Environmental Assessment (EA), and lobbied it hard through Queen’s Park for three months. In September 1985, the government finally agreed to conduct the EA. One year later, it was released, but the government had altered the document and removed the author’s name, making it unusable. Nevertheless, the EA was critical to delaying logging and building of the Red Squirrel Road, and gave time for Terry, Hap and activist Brian Back to get organized. In 1986, they formed the Temagami Wilderness Society, with the mission to keep Temagami wild. One of the first things the Society did was to identify a reason for preserving the wilderness in Temagami. In 1988, they commissioned Peter Quinby, a forest-ecology doctorate, to study the Temagami forest. Quinby confirmed the existence of old growth in Temagami – endangered from logging in Eastern Canada.  With their cause strengthened by this finding, the Temagami Wilderness Society distributed brochures featuring photos of Temagami, brought people to the area, and campaigned to stop the area from being developed. For several years, the Temagami Wilderness Society did their best to stop the logging of old growth,  working hard at public relations and fundraising. However, nothing seemed to stop those who were determined to build the road.  In 1989, the government resumed building the Red Squirrel Road through the newly developed Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park. Finally, the Society decided to set up a blockade at the Red Squirrel Road, the first of its kind in Eastern Canada. You can see the photos of the blockade in the photo section of this story. Today, Temagami is one of the remaining wilderness canoeing areas in the world, as logging and development continue to endanger these precious areas. In Ontario, we are lucky to have legislation and environmental groups to protect these precious landscapes and ecosystems. It is important for the next generation to keep it that way. Listen to the story to learn about the blockade, how Brian Back was buried in the ground, how former Ontario Premier Bob Rae (leader of the opposition at the time) was arrested, and learn what happened to Temagami and the Temagami Wilderness Society.
Anne Koven, John Cary, Don Huff

Timber Management Class EA

By Anne Koven, John Cary, Don Huff
It cost too much and took far too long, but the Class EA on Timber Management revolutionized the way the Ontario manages its forests. It also taught us important lessons about environmental assessments that changed the hearing process forever.

The three guests invited to tell the story were Anne Koven (who served on the Environmental Assessment Board during the hearing), John Cary (who helped prepare the Ministry of Natural Resources’s case and was a witness) and Don Huff (who represented Forests for Tomorrow).

The Evolution of Environmental Assessment in Ontario

In 1976, a new Ontario law created a process where the potential environmental impacts of a new project could be examined before the first shovel broke ground. The law that created this process is called the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). Under the process, called an environmental assessment (EA), the proponent of the project outlines potential environmental impacts and actions that would be taken to prevent, mitigate or remedy them; the Ministry provides a response; and Ontario residents can request a public hearing on either the adequacy of the document or whether the undertaking should be approved. In most cases, the Minister then orders the Environmental Assessment Board (the EA Board, which evolved into today's Environmental Review Tribunal), an independent and impartial group of environmental experts responsible for hearing these applications. Today, the Tribunal also hears applications, appeals and proceedings under other provincial environmental legislation. Based on the subsequent assessment and the ruling of the Board, the Minister of the Environment would either approve the proposal (with or without conditions) or refuse to approve it. Under what is known as a Class EA, the assessment process for groups of similar projects with predictable and manageable environmental impacts are streamlined. There are currently 11 Class EAs in effect in Ontario, covering undertakings such as municipal roads, sewage and infrastructure projects, rehabilitation activities at abandoned mine sites, flood and erosion control projects, and minor transmission facilities. The Ministry of Natural Resources' first Class EA was for timber management in Northern Ontario.

MNR’s first Class EA

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) had avoided public scrutiny of its timber management practices through a series of orders exempting them from formal assessment under the EAA. Finally, on December 23, 1985, MNR submitted its draft Class EA for Timber Management on Crown Lands to the MOE for review and approval. This set out the planning and approval process for building access roads, cutting timber and regenerating forests over 385,000 km2 of Crown Land, with the goal of providing “a continuous and predictable supply of wood for Ontario’s forest products industry.” Following MOE’s initial review, MNR revised the Class EA document and re-submitted it in June 1987.
The Class EA process made us examine what MNR had done and made us improve what we were doing, and do all sorts of new things. - John Cary
At the time, public opposition was building against many of MNR’s proposed planning and forestry practices. This came to a head with protests against the Temagami Lake clear cuts and the Red Squirrel logging road. At the same time, a number of interest groups and public agencies were voicing concerns over the spraying of forest pesticides, the extent of allowable clear cuts, and even whether or not the Class EA was the right process for assessing the impacts of the province’s timber management policies. In December 1987, the Minister of the Environment sent MNR’s revised Class EA to hearings before the EA Board in order to ensure “full public participation in the decision-making process.” The Board was tasked with determining, first, whether to accept the Class EA, and second, whether to approve the timber management planning undertaking and, if so, what terms and conditions (if any) should be imposed.

The Hearing

Preliminary meetings were held in January and February 1988, before the main hearings began on May 10th in Thunder Bay. The Board also visited four logging sites to look at timber harvesting operations and reforestation efforts, and organized 15 town hall meetings for northern residents, local businesses and the forest industry to discuss the issues. While dozens of interested groups participated in at least some of the hearing – First Nations were particularly active – a handful were present throughout the entire proceedings: MNR, MOE, Forests for Tomorrow (FFT) (a coalition of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, the Sierra Club of Ontario, the Temiskaming Environmental Action Committee and the Wildlands League), the Ontario Forest Industry Association, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association. Forests for Tomorrow was concerned that the undertaking was not well suited to a Class EA approval, because the effects of timber management are not “small scale,” “predictable” or “minor.” FFT also argued that MNR could not undertake a full EA because it could not describe the forest environment in great enough detail to accurately assess the impacts, and that the basic issue should have been forest, not timber management. Several intervenors doubted that MNR could be trusted to implement the Class EA in a satisfactory way; they worried that approval of the plan would be equivalent to writing a “blank cheque” to MNR.
Two important issues were restrictions on clear cut size, and the definition of forest management to be a more encompassing, more organic concept. - Anne Koven
Over the 411 hearing days, the Board heard from more than 500 witnesses and amassed 70,000 pages of daily transcripts, more than 2,300 exhibits and tens of thousands of pages of supporting material. The final session concluded on November 12, 1992 in Sudbury, and the Board retired for more than 17 months to write its decision.

The Decision

On April 20, 1994, more than six years after the launch of the hearing process, the EA Board approved MNR’s plan for timber management. In a massive 560-page decision, which included some 115 detailed terms and conditions, the Board concluded that Ontario’s extensive forest resources were to be managed, under careful regulation, as a renewable resource. At the same time, it set conditions to protect certain old growth areas, as well as limits on the size of those areas that could be clearcut. The Board also required MNR to undertake extensive monitoring of industry compliance and report on impact assessment and silvicultural effectiveness. The Class EA for Timber Management on Crown Lands was approved for a nine-year period so that the successes and failures of the timber management planning process – and its evolution into an integrated forest management approach – could be “tested in the forest.” The approval outlined the four-stage process that must be followed in preparing forest management plans, including an assessment of the environmental effects of alternatives, and public and Aboriginal consultation requirements. It also required that MNR bring its revised Timber Management Planning Manual back to the Board for public review and approval.
The decision revolutionized the forest industry, and led almost immediately to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, which was a completely different philosophical approach to forest management. - Gord Miller
Unfortunately, the interminable timber management hearing left the EA process with a nasty black eye. In its written decision, the Board complained that the “hearing was far too long and far too expensive.” MNR had completed only a small portion of its case when the hearing started – just four of the 17 witness panels – and the whole affair took on an overly legalistic and antagonistic air. As a result, the hearing was delayed for months while MNR completed its witness statements, procedural matters remained unsettled and, when it resumed, the cross-examination seemed endless. Even if everyone had cooperated fully, the hearing would still have lasted at least two years, but the Board complained that “the lawyers seemed more interested in strategies and tactics to fight one another than in concentrating on the evidence.”
The hearing had a deleterious effect on the EA process because it dragged on and on and on and on ... Any politician or any minister of the environment is going ‘EA is radioactive.’ - Don Huff
The scope of the case also put a tremendous strain on the intervenors, several of whom threatened to pull out after the first year if the province didn’t make additional funding available. While the province did increase funding, the Board later concluded in its decision that a “proponent should not have a bottomless pit of money with which to present its case and drag the hearing out, leaving other parties to participate on a shoestring.”

The Future of Forest Management

Despite all the angst, tension and expense, there was finally a set of clear, publicly accessible rules in place to govern forest management in Ontario. In 2003, MOE extended the Class EA for Timber Management, issuing Declaration Order MNR-71, to replace the original 115 terms and conditions with 55 that cover access roads, harvesting, reforestation, pesticide use, forest maintenance and the preparation, and the review and approval of forest management plans. The Declaration Order removed much of the detail from the original Approval on the basis that the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, and its regulated manuals provide “a more rigorous regime” than legislation in place when the Approval was issued in 1994.
Certain public consultation mechanisms that the EA put in place ... are still extant and still working, that provide an opportunity to the local public, the regional public or anybody. - John Cary
Today, the Forest Management Class EA is an “evergreen” Approval: MNR does not have to seek its renewal, but amendments must be made to ensure the Approval remains current. Like many other Class EAs, amendments can be requested at any time by members of the public, the proponent or other parties, and must be approved by Cabinet. This most recent series of amendments to the Class EA were adopted in 2007. In addition, MNR must prepare and submit to MOE a review of the Class EA planning process and its implementation of the conditions in the Approval every five years. The first of these was submitted in June 2009 and the next is due in June 2014. MNR is also required to submit to the Legislature a five-year State of the Forest Report, which was done in 2006 and 2012. However, much of the impact of the Timber Management Class EA decision could ultimately be undone by administrative tinkering that has occurred over the last decade. As part of MNR’s 2012 budget to improve ministry services while cutting costs, the government is considering amendments to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994. Among these, it could eliminate the requirement for forest management plans, extend forest resource licences indefinitely, and allow unlimited exemptions of forest operations from certain requirements of the Act. Only time will tell what the lasting impact of the landmark Class EA decision released nearly 20 years ago will be.