Ontario Water News

January 2018: Stay Informed – Recent Developments in Policy, Regulations, and Programs

At WaterTAP, we’re closely watching policy, regulatory, and program developments related to Ontario’s water sector. Here are some recent updates that may be relevant to your organization:

Provincial

Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program: Regulations under the Ontario Immigration Act, 2015 create a regulatory structure to deliver the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP). ONIP allows Ontario employers to apply for the approval of permanent, full-time positions to be filled by foreign nationals and recruit foreign nationals to fill those positions.

Regulatory Costs: Changes under the Reducing Regulatory Costs for Business Act, 2017 aim to cut red tape for small businesses by reducing regulatory costs, streamlining compliance for small business, aligning international or national standards, rewarding good actors, and guaranteeing electronic documentation submission.

Cap and Trade: Amendments to the Ontario Greenhouse Gas Cap and Trade Program link Ontario’s program with those of Quebec and California. They also adjust caps for 2021-2030 and lead to administrative amendments that improve program efficiency.

Arsenic Standards: Ontario is enforcing a more stringent standard for arsenic. The standard has changed from 0.025 to 0.01 milligrams per litre. See the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards for more details.

Drinking Water Requirements: It is mandatory for all laboratories licensed to analyze drinking water tests to submit all test results to the Ministry of the Environmental and Climate Change. See the Drinking Water Testing Services Standards for more details.

Municipal Asset Management Planning: A regulation comes into effect under the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015, setting out requirements for municipal asset management planning. The regulation will be phased in over a six-year period, with the first requirement, the submission of a municipal asset management policy, due July 1, 2019. For more information, see here.

Environmental Compliance Approval: The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has committed to a one-year service standard for all Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) applications. For details, see here, and for the updated ECA guide, see here.

Minimum Wage Increase: Ontario’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, received Royal Assent in November. The Act raises the minimum wage, ensures more fairness for part-time and contract workers, and expands personal emergency leave. The minimum wage increased to $14 an hour on January 1, 2018, and will increase to $15 an hour on January 1, 2019. For additional employment standard changes, see here under “Ministry of Labour.”

Building Code Fees: Various fees related to the Building Code have changed. See here for details.

Carbon Offset Credits: Ontario has finalized a regulation (O. Reg. 539/17) to allow for the creation of offset credits for use in compliance within Ontario’s cap and trade market. Ontario allows facilities subject to the cap and trade regulation to use offset credits to help me up to eight percent of their compliance obligations. The first offset protocol, for landfill gas, is part of this regulation. Other protocols are being developed.

Second Offset Credits Program: Ontario is proposing to develop a second program that enables the creation of carbon offset credits in Ontario’s voluntary carbon offsets program. This does not relate to the offset credits for use in Ontario’s formal cap and trade program. Instead, a voluntary offset is for one tonne of greenhouse gas emission reductions which the government, private sector and others can purchase to meet voluntary emissions reduction goals (e.g., carbon neutrality commitments). Ontario’s proposed voluntary offsets program will create a clear set of rules and requirements for anyone who wants create and sell credits in this side market. Comments will be accepted until January 15, 2018. See the Environmental Registry posting for more information.

Businesses and Employees: Ontario has passed the Stronger, Fairer Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017.

Expanding the Greenbelt: Ontario has launched a public consultation on expanding the province’s Greenbelt to include areas in the outer ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The consultation comprises areas most in need of protection, including moraines, cold water streams, and wetlands. This area also include valuable water resources that communities rely on for their water resources. Comments will be accepted until March 7, 2018. See the Environmental Registry posting for more information.

China Trade Mission: Premier Kathleen Wynne led a trade mission to China, which led to a number of announcements of new Ontario-China partnerships and agreements on water research and technology. More than 100 Ontario delegates accompanied the Premier on the mission, including WaterTAP’s Senior Analyst Raad Seraj, who presented at the Nanjing International Water Summit on the province’s water innovation ecosystem.

Long-Term Infrastructure Plan: Ontario released Building Better Lives: Ontario’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan 2017. The plan sets forth a vision for Ontario infrastructure planning and investment as a key step in meeting the requirement for Long-Term Infrastructure Plans set out in the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015. It specifies an investment of $190 billion over 13 years, starting in 2014-15. The plan proposes to advance infrastructure planning and delivery with consideration such as life-cycle assessment, climate change, and resilience. Comments will be accepted until January 27, 2018. See the Environmental Registry posting for more information.

Climate Change Adaptation: Ontario is taking action to adapt to a changing climate and is proposing four adaptation initiatives:

  1. A new climate change adaptation organization to help build local adaptation capacity, enhance networks, and take action. This includes providing the public with access to the data, analysis, and services and program created by the organization through a central online platform.
  2. Working with experts to undertake a province-side risk assessment of the effects of climate change to better understand vulnerabilities and prioritize actions.
  3. Developing an enhanced all-of-government approach to climate change adaptation.
  4. Sharing information on the effects of climate change in order to help Ontario residents better understand the current and future effect of a rapidly changing climate.

Comments will be accepted until January 21, 2018. See the Environmental Registry posting for more information.

Chief Scientist: Ontario named Molly Schoichet the Province’s First Chief Scientist. Dr. Schoichet will advise Premier Kathleen Wynne directly on key scientific matters. In the coming months, Dr. Schoichet will help develop Ontario’s strategic research agenda and grow the province’s reputation as a top destination for global research talent.

Federal

Innovation Solutions Canada: Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the launch of the $100-million Innovative Solutions Canada program. The program invites Canadian small business to develop novel solutions to challenges proposed by federal departments and agencies. Twenty federal departments and agencies will work with businesses to help take their idea to market and advance the next generation of solutions that can become viable commercial products. See here for more details.

Business Tax Reform: In December, the Department of Finance announced that it will lower the federal small business tax rate from 11 percent in 2015 to 9 percent in 2019.the government is taking steps to limit the ability of owners of private corporations to lower their personal income taxes by sprinkling their income to family members who do not really contribute to the business. Changes on this front will take effect in the 2018 tax year and guidance is available here. The government will not be moving forward with earlier proposed changes that would limit access to the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption or changes to rules on conversion of income to capital gains.

First Nations Water Report: The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) released a report on the First Nations water and wastewater needs. The PBO estimates that the minimum capital investment required to meet actual and future water and wastewater need until 202 is $3.2 billion. The estimate of the annual operating and maintenance needs is $361 million. The analysis concludes that total historical spending and planned spending can only cover 70% of the total investment needs. These estimates are sensitive to growth factors and capital investment options (e.g., individual vs. communal systems).

China Trade Mission: Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, visited China in December to seek further cooperation on climate change and clean growth. While in China, she led a clean-technology trade mission with Canadian companies. Amongst the firms attending were some Ontario water technology companies, including A.U.G Signals, BIOREM, Echologics, and Pure Technologies.

Onsite Standards: The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is seeking feedback from stakeholders on the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO’s) new work item proposal for the development of a new standard on community-scale resource-oriented sanitation treatment systems. The ISO standard will define requirements and test methods to ensure safety, performance, and sustainability of community-scale resource-oriented fecal sludge treatment units that serve approximately 1,000 to 100,000 people. The standard will apply to treatment units that: primarily treat human excreta, are able to operate in non-sewered and off-grid environments, and are prefabricated. Submit your feedback here by January 30, 2018.

Smart Cities Challenge: Infrastructure Canada launched the Smart Cities Challenge. The program provides support for Canadian municipalities and Indigenous communities to undertake proposed smart city plans that address a particular community challenge. Communities are expected to team up with businesses, academia, and civic organizations to design innovative solutions to meet their most pressing challenges using data and connected technologies. Applications are due on April 24, 2018.

Public Sector Innovation: Following the third annual Clerks and Cabinet Secretaries Conference on Policy Innovation, the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Clerks and Cabinet Secretaries committed to the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Declaration on Public Sector Innovation. The Declaration recognizes that governments needs to work in new and inventive ways to address challenges across the country. This is part of the work of the Government of Canada’s Impact and Innovation Unit.

NAFTA: The Sixth Round of Negotiations of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will take place in Montreal from January 23 to 28. In the lead up to the talk, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer is leading a delegation of Conservative Members of Parliament to Washington. The delegation is the result of bipartisan cooperation between the Conservatives and the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Great Lakes

Great Lakes Day Outcomes: In November, a group of mayors, business representatives, and non-governmental organizations gathered in Ottawa as part of the second annual Great Lakes Day on Parliament Hill. During meetings with key Ministers and members of Parliament, representatives of Great Lakes organizations, such as the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, introduced the idea of a Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Task Force on the Canadian Interparliamentary Group and requested the Government of Canada’s participation in the creation of a common vision and blueprint for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region. In December, Catherine McKenna, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, announced $44.84 million for the Great Lakes Protection Initiative. The funding is part of $70.5 million allocated for freshwater protection in Budget 2017. McKenna has also convened a roundtable, moderated by the Council of the Great Lakes Region, to discuss the protection of the Great Lakes.