Cap and Trade, Environmental Approvals, Environmental Assessments
Statement from Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Cap and Trade
“I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report.
We recognize that climate change is an urgent global problem requiring governments around the world to work together in order to solve it. A reduction in greenhouse gas pollution anywhere — not just locally — benefits us all.
As noted by the Auditor General, our decision to eliminate coal plants resulted in a ‘significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.’ Building on that success, we are now taking the next step by adopting a responsible plan that is both affordable for families and businesses and effective at reducing greenhouse gas pollution. Cap and trade — when combined with additional investments — is the best approach for achieving both.
To be clear, the main purpose of cap and trade is to fight climate change by guaranteeing overall emissions will go down. Other systems, like a carbon tax, cannot provide that assurance. Our plan goes even further by reinvesting cap and trade proceeds into green projects like transit, electric vehicle incentives and housing retrofits, helping us reduce GHG pollution right here in Ontario.
While the Auditor General is critical of certain aspects of our plan, it’s clear that others, including the independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) and expert third-party economic modelling firm EnviroEconomics, know cap and trade is the cheapest, most effective way to reduce emissions here in Ontario. The ECO also notes that, ‘linked cap and trade programs can have less price volatility and that linking can be beneficial for smaller jurisdictions like Ontario.’ And they both agree the alternatives, like a carbon tax, would be more expensive for families and businesses and not as successful at reducing emissions.
Given the evidence, we are moving ahead with cap and trade because it makes sense for Ontario. While there may be those who would prefer us do nothing, we know that is not an option. That is why it is so important for all jurisdictions, including sub-nationals like Ontario, California and Quebec, to work together in the fight against climate change. We look forward to building on our successes together.”
“We are committed to taking steps to better protect and improve our environment. We appreciate the Auditor General’s recommendations as we look to strengthen Ontario’s Environmental Approvals program.
Overall, the approvals process is already among the most protective in North America and involves strict standards that are updated on a regular basis. Still, the Auditor General rightfully points out that there are circumstances where policies have not necessarily kept pace with the demands of Ontario’s growing economy.
While creating jobs and growing the economy is our top priority, we recognize that there must be stronger mechanisms in place for monitoring and enforcing environmental approvals. As discussed with the Auditor General, we will consider expanding the use of our financial assurance approach, ensuring that we have collected amounts that represent true clean-up costs should companies walk away from their environmental responsibilities. While we will continue to focus our compliance efforts on high risk sectors and activities, we will also enhance our public complaints approach to make investigating high risk incidents a priority. We will also be looking at ways to better identify emitters operating without the proper approvals.
Still, Ontarians should be proud of what we have accomplished over the past decade. Since 2000, we have eliminated dirty coal, brought in 68 new or updated air standards, two updates for soil and groundwater standards and are constantly reviewing drinking water standards to reflect the latest science to protect our health and environment. We have also created the world’s largest permanent greenbelt, eliminated smog days and are now moving forward with our Climate Change Action Plan. These are all concrete achievements Ontario is widely recognized and applauded for.
The Auditor General’s recommendations will help as we work to improve the Environmental Approvals program. We appreciate her thoughtful advice and look forward to working with her and her team again.”
“Ontario was ahead of the curve when we became the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce environmental assessment legislation. While we’ve long been recognized as a leader, we agree with the Auditor General that improvements are necessary to realign Ontario’s environmental assessment program with best practices both in Canada and internationally. We are taking action to make that a reality.
Large, complex projects covered under the legislation and potentially posing the highest environmental risk will continue to undergo rigorous assessments. However, we recognize the scope could be expanded to include any project with the potential for a significant environmental impact. Substantial reforms, such as including private sector projects in the legislation, are under consideration.
Public engagement could also be enhanced. Ontarians deserve to know what is happening in their own backyards and we are looking at ways to improve transparency and help people participate in the process more easily. We will also work with project owners so we can improve access to information.
Since being introduced 40 years ago, environmental assessments have played an essential role in helping balance the different needs of business and the environment. Our economy continues to grow and Ontario’s environmental assessments legislation needs to be strengthened to match that growth. We thank the Auditor General for agreeing and look forward to incorporating her thoughtful recommendations into our work.”
E-Health, Hospital Operations, Physician Billings, Psychiatric Hospitals and Supportive Housing
Statement from Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
“I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report.
Over the past decade, Ontario has worked to modernize the way health records are stored, shared and accessed. Our goal is to build a system where a patient’s records follow them as they moved through the health system. As one of Canada’s pioneers of electronic health records, we invested heavily and early in information technology because we saw how digital solutions could improve patient care.
While the Auditor General does acknowledge that the scale of implementing electronic health records across Ontario is an enormous task, she confirmed that a significant number of community-based physicians have adopted electronic medical records, and that our government has made significant progress since the last audit.
While, like other jurisdictions, we have had challenges implementing an electronic health record system, a recent report by the Premier’s Business Advisor, Ed Clark, noted that $900 million in annual healthcare benefits are being realized. Canada Health Infoway (CHI) has also estimated that since 2007, digital health systems have produced an estimated $16 billion in benefits nationally, and that Ontario’s share of that is over $5.7 billion.
We will continue working on improving, adapting and implementing the digital health care system with the top priority of protecting patient information and increasing quality of care in Ontario. In the near future we will be announcing the next steps of our digital health strategy that will continue modernizing our system further improving patient access, connectivity and experience.”
“Ontarians deserve access to high-quality health care when they need it and as close to home as possible. Patients come first and every decision we make is centered on helping people in their everyday lives by providing high-quality, convenient care.
We appreciate the Auditor General’s recommendations and recognize that while the specific cases mentioned are unacceptable and need to be addressed, Ontario’s health care system is better today than when we came into office.
We have increased our investment in the system each and every year, allowing us to treat more patients, provide better care and reduce wait times to some of the shortest in the country. The results speak for themselves. More than a million more people — and 94 per cent of all Ontarians — now have access to a primary-care provider. Wait times are down, with both the Fraser Institute and Wait Time Alliance consistently ranking Ontario as having some of the shortest in Canada. Health Quality Ontario also notes that people are seeing doctors more quickly upon arriving in emergency departments, with overall wait times being shorter as well.
Ontarians can be proud of their world-class health care system and we are continuously working to make it even better. As part of this year’s Budget, we announced $345 million more for hospitals across the province; helping expand access to services, keep wait times low and increase funding for procedures like hip and knee replacements. Building on that, we just announced another $140 million to help hospitals respond to growing demand. Together with other initiatives, this new funding will help make our health care system even better.”
“We have worked hard over the past decade to provide access to a family doctor when Ontarians need them most. Our health care philosophy of primary care first has helped achieve this, with 94 per cent of all Ontarians now having access to a primary care provider.
There are currently strong tools in place to review and investigate discrepancies in physician billings, including routine monitoring of anomalies. However, there are opportunities to enhance these oversight measures.
Ontario needs to work collaboratively with all of our health care partners, the OMA included, to ensure that every decision we make advances the system and enhances the service and quality patients receive. That is why we have been working hard over the last year and a half to find the appropriate balance to ensure physicians are among the highest paid in Canada, while also investing in important services to increase quality of care.
I take the recommendations in this report very seriously, and I look forward to working with our partners in healthcare to directly address the Auditor General’s findings.”
“Ontarians living with mental illness and addiction need to be supported throughout their life. Families, caregivers and advocates have played an important role to raise awareness and make more appropriate treatment options available. Our government is focused on finding solutions and improving access and quality of care for people living with mental illness and addiction. While we already have a strong record of investing in mental health supports, we agree with the Auditor General that more can be done.
Our government has been making investments to improve access, reduce wait times and fill gaps across the system. Recent investments include additional funding for the four speciality psychiatric hospitals, a new mental health and addictions centre in London, more mental health beds in Barrie and a new mental health service centre in Toronto. We have also created a new dedicated mental health branch, which the Auditor General calls, ‘a step in the right direction.’ Taken together, these initiatives continue to support our psychiatric hospitals, increasing access to care and helping patients get the treatment they need.
To support these investments our government is working with the Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council and listening to their advice on how to build a stronger, more equitable mental health system in Ontario. We agree with the Auditor General that a shortage of supportive mental health housing means some patients are staying in hospitals longer than necessary. That is exactly why we are in the midst of creating 1,000 new supportive housing units across the province. New units will give our most vulnerable access to the safe, stable and affordable housing they need and lower the burden on psychiatric hospitals.
We also agree with the Auditor General that it is unacceptable for nurses and other employees to feel unsafe at work. They are on the front-line every day, providing high-quality care in difficult circumstances and their safety needs to be the top priority. Together with the Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn, we have formed a leadership table that consists of senior executives from the health sector, both ministries, front-line workers, patient advocates and experts. We are developing an action plan to make hospitals safer. We need to prevent violence before it starts and this work will help make that happen.
The people of Ontario deserve access to mental health support services across the province and we are confident our mental health strategy, Open Minds, Healthy Minds will ensure all Ontarians living with mental illness have access to the right care when they need it. We thank the Auditor General for her thoughts and recommendations and look forward to incorporating them moving forward.”
“Our government recognizes that housing is a crucial and cost-effective option to meet our homelessness and poverty reduction commitments. While we already have a strong record of investing in housing, including mental health supportive housing, we agree with the Auditor General that more can be done.
A shortage of supportive mental health housing means it is taking too long for some patients to get access to the help they need. As the Auditor notes, this imbalance between current supply and demand is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. That is exactly why we have increased funding by 46 per cent over the last decade and are in the midst of creating an additional 1,000 new units to bring the total to 16,070 government-funded supportive housing units currently in use for people living with mental illness and addiction across the province. While this is a positive step forward, our government is committed to doing more. The Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS) supports Ontario’s Mental Health Strategy to contribute new supportive housing units with the goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2025. Once complete, the most vulnerable Ontarians will have access to safe, stable and affordable housing — a critical part of their recovery and mental wellness.
We accept the Auditor General’s recommendations and will work together with government and community partners to reduce wait lists and ensure that people who need supportive housing most receive it.”
Statement from Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development
“I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report.
We agree with the Auditor that it is important that our employment and training programs provide people with the support they need to find and keep good jobs that meet the needs of our current and future job market.
We are continuously reviewing and working on improving the outcomes of our employment and training programs to meet current and future labour market needs.
But we know there is more work to do.
We are modernizing and integrating our employment and training programs and taking an evidence-based approach to produce better employment outcomes.
As part of the Highly-Skilled Workforce Strategy, we are also modernizing our apprenticeship system and increasing participation and completion rates for underrepresented groups, while creating clearer pathways for learners.
We have a strategy in place now to drive completion rates, which includes:
We also know that we need to do a better job of measuring the effectiveness of our employment and training programs.
We are reviewing how we can collect more data on key performance measures and build long-term outcomes into our programming to effectively improve outcomes for people.
We agree with the Auditor that having access to detailed labour market information would allow us to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the labour market.
As part of my mandate letter and as part of our work following the Highly-Skilled Workforce Panel Report, I have been tasked with implementing a provincial Labour Market Information Strategy to improve access to credible, high-quality information that will help individuals make informed decisions about their future and help employers undertake workforce planning.
We thank the Auditor again for her review and recommendations.”
Statement from Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services
November 30, 2016
“I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report.
We know the majority of mental health and addiction issues begin in childhood or adolescence. That is exactly why it is so important to make sure children and youth have timely access to appropriate and effective supports when they need it the most.
I would like to thank the Auditor General for developing this report. Her advice is insightful and will ensure we continue to prioritize the changing needs of children and youth and their families.
I am committed to acting on the advice contained within her report; in fact, work is already well underway. This includes a new funding model for children’s mental health services based on need, changes that will hold service providers more accountable to ensure efficient use of government resources, and better use of data to assess agency performance and improve services.
We need a system that is easy to navigate and makes sense to parents and young people. That is why our government is committed to Moving on Mental Health, our action plan to deliver a co-ordinated and responsive system for parents and young people.
And while we have made significant progress in improving access to child and youth mental health services, we know there is more work to be done.
We will continue to rely on the advice from young people and their families, from our Indigenous partners and from independent officers of the legislature, such as the Auditor General, to develop a responsive system that positions all kids for success. In fact, just last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with young people from the New Mentality Youth Action Committee — a group of bright, engaging individuals from across the province who are working hard to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. I support the committee’s recommendations contained in Waiting for Change, as they will go a long way towards helping shape a stronger system for Ontario.
I look forward to continuing to meet with young people and partnering with the sector to work closely and collaboratively towards creative solutions.”
MTO & Metrolinx – Road Construction & Contract Oversight
Statement from Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation
November 30, 2016
“I would like to thank the Auditor General for her recommendations on construction and contractor oversight at both the Ministry of Transportation and Metrolinx.
To begin, I was encouraged to see that the comprehensive actions taken by the Ministry in response to the previous audit on winter highway maintenance — which have resulted in 84 per cent of the recommendations included in that report being fully or partially implemented — were acknowledged by the Auditor General.
Regarding this year’s audit, I want to be completely clear.
The Ministry does not pay for substandard work and, in fact, applies financial consequences to contractors that do not meet our requirements. I also want to make it clear that increases to the highway budget over the last few years are due to one thing and one thing only: a clear recognition of the need to ensure that Ontario’s extensive transportation system continues to perform effectively.
And we know that our investments are working and that the condition of our pavements and bridges has improved significantly. In 2007, 59 per cent of provincial pavements and 69 per cent of provincial bridges were classified as being in good repair — these numbers have significantly increased, as nearly 80 per cent of provincial pavements and 85 per cent of provincial bridges are now classified as being in good repair.
Having said that, I take the concerns raised by the Auditor General very seriously and, as such, I have directed ministry staff to develop a decisive action plan that will address the recommendations in the report.
The full plan is to be delivered to me within 60 days, and I will make it — and our progress with respect to implementing it — public.
Specifically, I can confirm today that this action plan will include the following:
§ To ensure that we receive high quality and durable asphalt we will change how we pay contractors for asphalt
§ Deploying the “extended aging” test for asphalt cement, which the Ministry began using on select contracts last year, to all relevant paving contracts
§ Starting in 2017, the care, control and oversight of asphalt samples used for testing will be the responsibility of the Ministry
§ Steps will be taken to ensure that there is appropriate independence between the engineers who verify construction quality and the contractors responsible for a project.
I think it is also important to note that many of the concerns outlined by the Auditor General are items that we have already been addressing.
Regarding her comments on asphalt cement, Ontario has been at the forefront in both identifying the underlying problem and developing solutions and the appropriate tests. There has been significant debate between different experts and jurisdictions regarding the root cause of the asphalt cracking and the Ministry has been working hard to implement various solutions.
To that end, we have already fully implemented one of our new asphalt tests and have been phasing in the second, with all relevant paving contracts to include the Extended Aging tests in 2017.
As it relates to Metrolinx, in March of this year, I issued a letter of direction to Metrolinx designed to improve financial and contract management at the agency.
I released our report back recently and have also provided a mandate letter for the agency. It is my view that these proactive steps will help to address the recommendations made by the Auditor General with respect to Metrolinx.
As minister, I take my responsibilities for Ontario’s transportation network seriously. Through our ongoing work with Metrolinx and our forthcoming action plan regarding highway construction, I am confident that we will continue to deliver on our mandate to provide a transportation system that meets the needs of Ontario’s growing population.”
Supply Chain Procurement & Procurement Practices
Statements from Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Government and Consumer Services
November 30, 2016
Supply Chain Procurement
“I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report, which will help us improve the government’s IT consulting procurement practices.
The Ontario government is committed to ensuring value for money on its IT spending, and agrees with the Auditor General’s recommendations.
It is important to point out that the government uses IT consultants mainly for short-term and non-recurring projects where we need to gain external advice and specialized expertise.
Since 2001 the government has reduced the number of consultants and the respective annual spending by about 50 per cent, from $656 million to $329 million in 2014–15.
The government has converted about 1,400 IT consultants into full-time staff position since 2004, and we are continuing on this path as recommended by the Auditor.
To date, the conversion of consultants to staff positions has resulted in ongoing savings of approximately $65 million a year.
As part of our IT modernization initiative we are planning to convert an additional 96 external consultant positions into OPS IT positions, which is expected to save $4 million annually by 2018–19.
We are committed to continuing our efforts to modernize IT by lowering costs and improving how technology supports the delivery of government programs.”
“Overall, the Auditor General found that ministries are following procurement requirements and that the procurement of goods and services is mostly competitive, fair and cost-effective.
Our procurement practices are grounded in the principles of openness, fairness and transparency. Using these principles, we have developed and implemented procurement processes that allow ministries to procure the goods and services they need to deliver good government to the people of Ontario.
The Auditor General has made many valuable observations we can use to further optimize compliance with our procurement requirements.
We are committed to following up and acting on these recommendations and we will continue our ongoing work to strengthen every aspect of our procurement practices.”
Premier Expands Economic Opportunities in Japan
Meetings with Economic Leaders Promote Ontario’s Auto and Aerospace Industries
Premier Kathleen Wynne has concluded the Japan leg of her business mission by meeting with key economic leaders and manufacturing executives to promote Ontario’s innovative business environment and encourage future investments.
Ontario and Japan’s economies are strongly connected through the manufacturing sector. At a meeting today with F-Tech, known as F&P and Dyna-Mig in Ontario, the Premier discussed investment opportunities in auto parts manufacturing.
Yesterday, the Premier met with manufacturing executives in Nagoya to explore opportunities for collaboration in the aerospace and auto industries. The Premier met with executives from Toyota to discuss innovation in the auto industry and with a team from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to promote investment opportunities in Ontario’s aerospace sector.
To strengthen Ontario’s cultural and political ties with Japan, the Premier met with the Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike. The Governor and Premier discussed Tokyo and Ontario’s common priorities, including climate change, infrastructure and innovation.
From December 1-2, the Premier will continue her business mission in Seoul, South Korea.
Building new international partnerships and growing Ontario’s manufacturing sector are part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.
” International partnerships are critical to Ontario’s economic success and competitiveness in today’s global market. Ontario and Japan share many common priorities — including innovation and manufacturing — and there are many opportunities for collaboration. Meetings with business and political leaders open the door for future partnerships and business deals.”