Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller in his own words.
On why he chose to preface his annual report with a quote by American conservationist Terry Tempest Williams warning of future ecological disaster if we don't do the right thing today.
The discussion really is about future legacy. How is it going to be seen when we look back on Ontario stalling and blundering along and doing nothing on our waste management problem? Most of our pressures and fears are short-term. But we know it's the resilience of our society in the long term that's paramount. And any conversation that can turn our attention to that is important.
On his biggest disappointment.
That we have not moved on the Great Lakes. It has been the historical norm since the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was negotiated in the 70s that the Americans put money up and we put money up. It was always a mutual affair, and now we've gotten into lack of action, dragging and stalling on negotiations.
On the government losing momentum on the environment file.
There's no doubt that our problems are more difficult and our resources more limited than they have ever been. But there are people who actively work to reframe ecological issues to confuse the public and undermine the possibility of solutions. So what starts off as a logical solution to the problem ends up being changed, twisted or confused, such that the benefit is lost and politicians chicken out. Look at what happened with eco fees. We lost control of that narrative entirely. The whole discussion became about something else that wasn't even real. That's what's happening on climate change.
On why overall waste diversion rates are where they were a decade ago.
We've created a climate where it's cheaper to just dump the stuff, whether it's in Lake Ontario at the Leslie Street Spit or somewhere in Durham Region, when we should be taxing, which is what they do in Britain. At some building sites in London, 70 per cent of the building is recycled on site. And the architects are working into the designs materials from the buildings being torn down. Landfill is just too damn cheap in our system because we've got too much land. "We have the luxury of the space, so why not waste it?" is our policy.
On the "crisis of capacity" in the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Natural Resources.
Already I'm identifying places where they are failing to do their job for lack of people, lack of money, loss of expertise. There is effectively a tipping point. I don't know where that is, but take the Ministry of the Environment. Look at all the files they have: drinking water, sewage treatment, subsurface sewage treatment, waste management, hazardous waste management, industrial air pollution, climate change. Where is it going to happen? I don't know, but I'm very, very concerned there's going to be another major failure.