Toronto – Environmental Defence and United Steelworkers, working together through Blue Green Canada, applauded all parties in the Ontario Legislature for passage of the Toxics Reduction Act today.
“We commend Ontario for being the first province in Canada to pass a toxics reduction law,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “We look forward to the government creating regulations quickly to strengthen the Act’s health and environmental protections, and contribute to the creation of green jobs.”
A key commitment under the Act is to reduce Ontarians’ exposures to toxic substances by requiring businesses that employ 10 or more people and involve 10,000 kg or more of specific substances to report and track harmful chemicals and develop pollution prevention plans. Like a successful law in Massachusetts, the implementation of these plans is voluntary.
While the groups are pleased the Act has passed, they would like to see strong regulations so that the bill adequately protects Ontarians from hazardous substances.
“It is crucial now that regulations be brought in that cover occupational issues within the Toxics Reduction Act,” said Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director of Canada. “They must break down the silo between the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Environment and require employers to inventory the potentially dangerous chemicals used in the workplace.”
Other key areas that need to be addressed by the regulations include the establishment of a list of safer alternatives to hazardous substances and a toxics reduction institute to support reduction initiatives, as well as the application of the law to sewage treatment plants to provide incentive for municipalities to prevent pollution through effective sewage control by-laws. Blue Green Canada also expressed hope that the government would lower the reporting thresholds to ensure more polluters are included in the bill’s provisions.
“This Act is a huge step forward,” said Smith. “We’re hopeful the regulations will address critical issues that will really make Ontario a leader in toxics reduction.”
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada’s contribution to climate change.
About United Steelworkers (www.uswa.ca): The United Steelworkers (USW) is an international union with a highly diverse membership in many sectors of the Canadian economy.  It actively promotes the interests of its members through collective bargaining and political action.  It is a well-known advocate for workplace health and safety and human rights, and has long embraced the need to address environmental issues.
About Blue Green Canada (www.bluegreencanada.ca): Blue Green Canada is an alliance between the United Steelworkers and Environmental Defence to support the development of good green jobs as part of a new green economy.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Bob Gallagher, United Steelworkers, (416) 544-5966; (416) 434-2221 (cell