Ontario Plans to Toughen Environmental
Laws Against Spills
By Joe Schneider
Published October 8th, 2004
Ontario companies responsible for spills that damage the
environment will have to pay immediate penalties of as
much as C$100,000 ($80,000) a day under legislation proposed
by the provincial government.
Under the new law, penalties can be levied by the Ministry
of the Environment rather than by the courts, with charges
of as much as C$20,000 per day for individuals and C$100,000
for corporations. The law will also impose tougher penalties
on corporate officers and directors, including jail terms
of as long as five years for convictions, the government
``Our message to polluters is simple: You spill, you
pay,'' Premier Dalton McGuinty said in a statement.
Chemical companies such as Nova Chemicals Corp. in southwestern
Ontario's ``chemical valley,'' mining companies such as
Inco Ltd. and pulp and paper companies like Cascades Inc.
may be most likely to be affected by the new law because
their businesses involve materials that can hurt the environment
if spilled. Cascades was fined C$10,000 last month for
a spill that resulted in a black liquid leachate flowing
into a drainage ditch and onto the ice of Lake Superior
Leon Marineau, who is in charge of environmental affairs
at Cascades, said he wasn't aware of the new legislation
and declined to comment. Nova spokeswoman Stephanie Franken
also declined to comment immediately. Inco officials didn't
immediately respond to requests for comment.
Currently, the Ministry of the Environment can lay charges
and fines are imposed by the courts. The proposal will
pass unless the government changes its mind, because the
governing Liberal Party has a majority in the provincial
The government plans to bring the bill to the legislature
by December, said Art Chamberlain, a spokesman for Environment
Minister Leona Dombrowsky. He said the government will
consult with companies.
Companies will be able to appeal the fines to the Environmental
Rights Tribunal, a government-appointed board, which can
make decisions more quickly than courts, Chamberlain said.
The province also plans to create a cleanup fund to pay
for repairs needed because of spills.