The Ontario government says changes to the penalty regime in its omnibus Bill 132, the Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019, will strengthen enforcement and compliance with environmental laws by broadening the application of administrative monetary penalties.
Keith Brooks of the organization Environmental Defence says Bill 132 will make it less costly for industry to flout environmental laws because it eliminates cumulative daily fines and places a cap on penalties.
Bill 132 will replace penalty provisions in several environmental statutes with administrative monetary penalties. The administrative monetary penalties will be easier to impose for a much wider range of offences. In some instances — the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act, for instance — the maximum penalty will be higher than is the case today. The Bill will also allow the maximum penalty to be raised further if the economic benefit to the offender exceeds the maximum.
However, administrative monetary penalties are one-time penalties only. Bill 132 will not allow for cumulative daily penalties for continuing offences, as do the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act now.
Whether those differences hinder or enhance compliance is something that only time will tell.
Bill 132 will allow administrative monetary penalties to be imposed for the first time under the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 and the Pesticides Act.
Administrative monetary penalties collected will all flow into an existing account under the Environmental Protection Act. Funds in that account may now be used to compensate persons who were harmed by an environmental violation. Bill 132 will replace that with a provision allowing that account to fund environmental protection and conservation activities.