Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

April 24, 2007 15:56 ET

Environmental Commissioner's Report Echoes OPSEU's Call to Rebuild the MNR and MOE

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 24, 2007) - The McGuinty government must act immediately to restore full funding to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment on the heels of a devastating report released today by Ontario's environmental commissioner, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

"The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has hit the nail firmly on the head: for more than a decade these two ministries have been thoroughly gutted of jobs and money because Queen's Park has ignored the urgent needs of our lakes, rivers, forests and air quality," said OPSEU President Warren "Smokey" Thomas.

"Our membership has witnessed the steady loss of skilled personnel and funding at the MNR and the MOE. The Commissioner's report is a wake-up call to the people of Ontario that it's time to save these crucial public services before Ontario loses its natural treasures because of willful neglect."

Thomas said the environmental commissioner's findings echo those of OPSEU's 'Save the MNR' campaign, launched in September, 2006. The campaign has drawn widespread attention to the MNR's chronic under funding and job losses.

MNR staff in several northern communities have organized charity BBQ's, bottle-return drives and bake sales to raise money for the Ministry. Budget cutbacks have meant that MNR enforcement vehicles often sit idle because the Ministry lacks money to put gasoline in their tanks.

In his 83-page report, Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller said the two ministries "have suffered a gradual but steady erosion of funding, staffing and expertise. As a result the ministries of Environment and Natural Resources are faltering in a number of core functions such as inspection, enforcement and monitoring.

"At a time of unprecedented public concern for the health of the planet, Ontarians may find it hard to believe that these two ministries are today struggling with fewer resources than in the early 1990s, but that is unfortunately the case," commented Miller.

He noted that per capita spending at the MOE has declined by 43 per cent between 1992-93 and 2006-07, and by 32 per cent in the same period at the MNR.

Miller calculated that about 4,000 jobs have been cut at the two ministries between the early 1990s and 2006-07.

"The loss of these skilled positions is shameful and a smear on Ontario's reputation for protecting its fragile environment and abundant natural resources," said Thomas.

The Environmental Commissioner's full report is available at: http://www.eco.on.ca

Contact Information

  • OPSEU Communications
    Greg Hamara
    (416) 448-7441 or (647) 238-9933 (cell)