Man­date probe can be painful

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

There are some tell­tale un­mis­tak­able signs that you are about to have a bad day. For ex­am­ple, if you are pulled over by a po­lice of­fi­cer on your way to work, you know you are not off to a good start. And, the blood pres­sure will rise if, when you do ar­rive an hour late for a meet­ing with the boss, be­fore you get the pink slip, you are ad­vised to call your doc­tor, im­me­di­ately, about your blood test.

Trep­i­da­tion can also en­sue these days if you work for a provin­cially funded or­ga­ni­za­tion in On­tario and you learn that the gov­ern­ment is striv­ing to mark that or­ga­ni­za­tion more ef­fi­cient and “im­prov­ing de­liv­ery of a core man­date.”

Thus, con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties had rea­son to be wor­ried when the gov­ern­ment an­nounced it “is work­ing for the peo­ple to en­sure con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties fo­cus and de­liver on their core man­date of pro­tect­ing peo­ple, prop­erty and nat­u­ral re­sources from the threats and im­pacts of ex­treme weather and flood­ing.”

That seems like a rea­son­able and in­nocu­ous goal, how­ever, in re­cent months, the on­go­ing quest for ef­fi­cien­cies has usu­ally meant down-siz­ing. Cut­backs in ed­u­ca­tion and French-lan­guage ser­vices, a slash in the po­lice watch­dog’s bud­get, a shake-up of health care agen­cies and the elim­i­na­tion of the en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mis­sioner’s of­fice are just some of the aus­ter­ity mea­sures Premier Doug Ford has made or has pledged to make.

The man­date ex­am­i­na­tion an­nounce­ment was fol­lowed by a ma­jor cut in con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties’ bud­gets.

We all know that all On­tar­i­ans must tighten belts and make sac­ri­fices if the prov­ince is ever to pull it­self out of the fi­nan­cial morass cre­ated by the Lib­er­als. But a new low was reached a few weeks ago when the Premier mused about re­view­ing the ef­fi­cacy of us­ing se­da­tion dur­ing colono­scopies.

Of course, much hi­lar­ity and toi­let hu­mour were un­leashed on so­cial me­dia, where a pe­ti­tion was launched to urge the Premier to lead the way, take the plunge and un­dergo the pro­ce­dure with­out the ben­e­fit of numb­ing med­i­ca­tion.

Few un­trained pro­fes­sion­als are ea­ger to probe the is­sue of colono­scopies, yet, many are au­to­mat­i­cally as­sum­ing that the Premier would in­deed stoop to the point of mak­ing an al­ready un­pleas­ant exam even more stress­ful. Strangely enough, although On­tario is broke, the gov­ern­ment does have money, time and en­ergy to spend on re­design­ing li­cence plates. But, since the Tories were elected with a huge ma­jor­ity and will be in power for at least an­other three years, all we can hope that there is method to the gov­ern­ment’s ap­par­ent mad­ness.

No bod­ies are im­mune to the gov­ern­ment’s cost-con­scious scru­tiny. Thus it is un­der­stand­able that the pow­ers that be want to an­a­lyze con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties which help or­ga­nize ca­noe races, and plant trees when they are not pro­tect­ing drink­ing water and con­serv­ing, restor­ing, and manag­ing On­tario’s nat­u­ral re­sources.

The laws that gov­ern the 36 con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties in On­tario could use a refresh -- the Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­i­ties Act was en­acted in 1946.

“Losses as­so­ci­ated with flood­ing and other nat­u­ral haz­ards in On­tario are lower than those ex­pe­ri­enced in other ju­ris­dic­tions due to On­tario’s preven­tion-first ap­proach, achieved in part through the plan­ning and reg­u­la­tory ap­proaches de­liv­ered by con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties,” the gov

ern­ment ac­knowl­edges.

The gov­ern­ment is con­sult­ing stake­hold­ers and the pub­lic to en­sure tax­payer dol­lars are be­ing used ef­fec­tively, and as ex­treme weather, par­tic­u­larly flood­ing, be­comes more fre­quent due to cli­mate change, that con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties re­main fo­cused on their core man­date.

“Our gov­ern­ment is putting peo­ple first to help com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies pre­pare and re­spond to cli­mate change,” says John Yak­abuski, Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry.

The prov­ince wants to up­date how con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties use mu­nic­i­pal levies to pay for pro­grams and ser­vices, while it also stream­lines and stan­dard­izes the role con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties play in per­mit­ting and mu­nic­i­pal plan­ning, re­duc­ing over­lap and mak­ing ap­provals faster and less costly. Plus, the gov­ern­ment will im­prove con­ser­va­tion au­thor­i­ties' gov­er­nance and ac­count­abil­ity.

Ob­vi­ously, the gov­ern­ment, which is “open for busi­ness,” wants to fast-track de­vel­op­ment, hence the ref­er­ence to stream­lin­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing ap­provals. But the other ob­jec­tives are as neb­u­lous as the logic be­hind new li­cence plates and drug-free colon checks.

An­i­mal wel­fare over­haul

Last year, the On­tario So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals served no­tice that it was with­draw­ing from the law en­force­ment the char­ity has been car­ry­ing out since 1919. Court chal­lenges, fi­nan­cial prob­lems and of­fi­cers’ burn-out have all con­trib­uted to the OSPCA’s internal re-or­ga­ni­za­tion that will rad­i­cally change how an­i­mal wel­fare is pro­tected in this prov­ince. An agree­ment has been reached be­tween the On­tario gov­ern­ment and the Hu­mane So­ci­ety to ex­tend its en­force­ment ser­vices un­til June 28. But as of April 1, the OSPCA has been no longer in­ves­ti­gat­ing and en­forc­ing an­i­mal cru­elty laws for live­stock. Any­one with con­cerns about a farm an­i­mal is asked to call po­lice.

The un­cer­tain sit­u­a­tion arises af­ter a Su­pe­rior Court judge agreed with the On­tario Landown­ers As­so­ci­a­tion that the gov­ern­ment erred in grant­ing po­lice pow­ers to the OSPCA with­out im­pos­ing ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency stan­dards on the agency. The OLA has cheered the court de­ci­sion which it says proves many irate an­i­mal own­ers had le­git­i­mate com­plaints about SPCA of­fi­cers. The five-year legal fight was ini­ti­ated be­cause the OLA felt the SPCA was overzeal­ous in in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­plaints of an­i­mal abuse. Since there was is no def­i­ni­tion of abuse in the law, it was up to the SPCA agent to de­ter­mine if the griev­ance was le­git­i­mate. The gov­ern­ment is not sure what to do now. Thus, it will con­sult stake­hold­ers. “The prov­ince has com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing a more ro­bust an­i­mal pro­tec­tion regime that pro­vides greater trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity. The regime will be in­formed by thought­ful en­gage­ment with a di­verse range of in­ter­ested in­di­vid­u­als and groups,” the gov­ern­ment says. “The gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing no an­i­mals fall through the cracks dur­ing this tran­si­tion. Co­op­er­a­tion be­tween gov­ern­ment, an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions, agri­cul­ture groups, and other stake­hold­ers will be es­sen­tial for the pro­tec­tion of an­i­mals and live­stock in the in­terim. This gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing en­force­ment con­tin­ues dur­ing this tran­si­tion.” As June rapidly ap­proaches, ev­ery­one who loves an­i­mals is hop­ing that the prov­ince will back up those en­cour­ag­ing words with con­crete ac­tions.

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