The right to approve landfill sites
It’s now time for the Ford government to keep its promise to municipalities
After nearly five months in office, Ontarians are getting a good sense of whether Premier Doug Ford truly believes, as he said on the campaign trail, that he respects “the right for local municipalities to make the decisions best for their communities.”
It’s becoming increasingly clear this was no throwaway line. The premier said what he meant and meant what he said.
In just over 100 days, the premier has shown repeatedly he believes local governments are best equipped to decide what’s best for their residents.
Gutting the Wynne government’s nanny-state approach to retail cannabis legislation and allowing municipalities a veto on whether to host retail stores has been this government’s most visible announcement. But it’s not the only one.
Shortly after being elected, the Ford government cancelled 458 wind and solar projects that were being forced on unwilling communities.
It also cancelled a provincewide ban on vaping that would have taken the right to decide from Ontario’s 400-plus municipalities.
Whether you believe these were the right decisions or not, what is undeniable is that this government has systematically relinquished control from the province of many issues and returned it to municipalities where, I argue, it rightly belongs.
So now it’s time for Ford to keep his campaign promise of providing municipalities with the right to approve landfill sites.
As the leader of the Progressive Conservatives during the 2018 election, then-candidate Ford committed to support Ernie Hardeman’s private member’s bill that would have created legislation to entrench and enforce this right. He also pledged to introduce similar legislation once he formed a government.
The immediate concern of my municipal colleagues and me across Ontario is what the government and private waste operators call industrial, commercial and institutional waste (ICI).
Most municipalities aren’t responsible for its collection and management.
Our responsibility is for residential waste. Here, Ontario municipalities divert about 50 per cent of residential waste away from landfill and into recycling and reuse programs. For the private-operator-run ICI waste sector, their diversion rate is less than 15 per cent, with most of it coming from the GTA.
How much ICI waste are we talking about?
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario tells us that it’s 6.7 million tonnes a year, enough to fill the Rogers Centre 724 times over.
That means that private waste companies manage about 70 per cent of waste in Ontario yet only 15 per cent it is diverted from landfill. And the ability of these companies to build new landfill sites and even expand current ones is unimpeded by any approval needed from the municipalities in which they operate.
It’s easy to see why those opposed to our demand don’t want municipalities involved.
They’ll tell you the garbage must go somewhere. They’ll tell you they don’t need another layer of so-called bureaucracy. And they’ll tell you no community would voluntarily host a landfill site.
They’d be wrong. There are willing hosts. It’s just that Ontario communities are no longer willing to be ignored in the decision-making process.
It’s just not my community of Ingersoll. It’s also cities such as Hamilton, Sarnia and Ottawa, and regions such as Peel and Durham.
Each of these municipal governments have passed motions demanding that municipal governments have the right to approve. And a survey of all Ontarians found that eight of 10 residents support this demand.
In April, then PC MPs Ernie Hardeman, Steven Clark, Sylvia Jones and others stood with me in front of Queen’s Park and pledged their support for municipal rights for landfill approval. Today, all three are cabinet ministers.
They, along with this government, have shown an admirable respect for the rights of municipalities, across the board.
So, I am asking the Ford government to continue along its path to support and entrench municipal approval rights.
Please, introduce the legislation you promised to provide municipal governments with the right to approve.
Minister Hardeman has already created a good draft of this legislation.
Let’s get that draft walked over to the Minister of the Environment Rod Phillips and get it voted on.