MECP Orders in the Face of a State of Emergency

 In Environmental Law

Under s. 157.1 of the Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19 (“EPA”), as amended, Provincial Officers with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (“MECP”) are given the authority to issue orders for preventative measures to be taken to prevent or reduce the risk of discharge of contaminant into the natural environment or to prevent, decrease or eliminate an adverse effect that may result from the discharge of a contaminant or the presence or discharge of a contaminant in, on or under a property.

Section 157.3 of the EPA allows a person to whom an order has been issued under s. 157.1 to request a review of that order by the Director of the MECP.  Under the legislation, the request for review must be served on the Director within seven (7) calendar days of the date of the order.

On March 20, 2020, the Province of Ontario issued an Emergency Order under s. 7.1(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, which suspended any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding.

During the state of emergency, Provincial Officer have continued to issue orders.  These orders contain deadlines for the completion of the actions that are ordered to be undertaken.  Often, there is not a great deal of time between the date of the order and the first deadline.

The MECP is proceeding on the basis that the Emergency Order suspends the seven (7) day period in which a request for review must be served until such time as the Emergency Order is lifted.  For all practical purposes, however, delaying the request would render it moot.

A Provincial Officer’s order is not stayed unless ordered stayed by the Director.  The Director will not order a stay until a request for review is served.  As a result, the deadlines set out in the Provincial Officer’s order will continue to be in force, in spite of the Emergency Order.

Although the Emergency Order suspends the period for filing a request for review, the purpose of requesting a review may be lost if service of the request is delayed.

This blog post was written by Cheryl Gerhardt McLuckie, a member of the Environmental Law team.  Cheryl can be reached at 613-369-0365 or at cheryl.mcluckie@mannlawyers.com.

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