Although our previous meetings have helped us best understand the inner workings of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, meeting Dianne Saxe, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), provided the opportunity to truly think outside the walls of Queens Park. Beyond providing assistance to Ontario about the Environmental Bill of Rights 1993 (EBR), the ECO reports on the implementation and compliance of the provincial government with respect to climate, energy, conservation and overall environmental responsibilities. We were provided with executive summaries of the three main annual reports on Environmental Protection, Climate Change and Energy Conservation and special reports prepared by the ECO that touch on other regulations under the EBR including water, wildlife and fisheries, mining, contaminated site remediation, forestry and waste.
Interestingly, the ECO has no parallel agency or group, not only among the other provinces of Canada, but internationally as well (except for New-Zealand!). We were able to ask many questions about the difficulty of developing and implementing environmental policy due to the multi-jurisdictional ambiguity of many environmental topics, the lack of awareness and communication surrounding the EBR to Ontarians as well as the intrinsic economic and educational considerations inherent to environmental work. We discussed the necessity for individuals to decrease their carbon footprint and also the opportunity the ECO holds to ensure that the government is creating and upholding legislation and policy around the multitude of topics under the ECO.
It is evident that Dianne Saxe is extremely competent and eloquent in her role; she was able to draw connections and summarize several system level challenges of her work in a comprehensible manner. She noted that this was a personal goal she created upon beginning her role in December of 2015. She is personally motivated to make the ECO’s work more accessible by creating concise and digestible reports to inform and communicate the public. We appreciated the honesty and humility of Ms. Saxe and the effort and commitment of her office in upholding the mandate of the ECO.
Thank you to the Commissioner for taking the time to meet with us, and for sharing your expertise. We left with many more (important) questions and considerations to explore throughout the rest of our internship!