04/10/2012 10:46 EDT | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Drummond Shows His Green Thumb

Though it makes for some über-heavy bed-time reading, and deserves a more thorough analysis than this blog pretends to be, a first pass through Don Drummond's 668-page report on public service reform in Ontario reveals some very interesting conclusions and recommendations related to environmental protection (see here, here, here, and here).

Drummond makes a compelling case that improved environmental outcomes and overall savings to the public purse can go hand in hand.

For starters, the report correctly notes that the resources the government dedicates to environmental protection are inadequate and have not kept pace with demand. Looking ahead, it adds, "demand for continued oversight of environmental approvals, compliance and natural resource stewardship is due to rise," and it highlights the need for "transformational changes."

The report recommends moving towards more accurate valuation of environmental services and full cost recovery. It notes that polluters need to be made to pay more to clean up their mess. Drummond makes an intriguing and eloquent argument for a "SuperFund"-type law to expedite the clean-up of contaminated sites throughout the province. As opposed to the Gold Rush mentality being advocated in some quarters, the report stresses that development in the mineral-rich "Ring of Fire" should benefit aboriginals and all Ontarians.

The report urges the Ontario government to exercise enhanced national leadership to create a national transit strategy and to ensure that federal greenhouse gas mitigation programs provide fair and equitable support for Ontario's clean energy initiatives.

And finally, Drummond asks some sober questions regarding the streamlining of the agencies that deliver environmental and energy programs. For example, do we really need 36 Conservation Authorities and 80 separate Local Distribution Companies for energy? Answer: Probably not. These could likely be amalgamated on a watershed (for CAs) and regional (for LDCs) basis while actually improving efficiency.

Though I don't always agree with his take (he's wrong, for example, regarding the use of RFPs to procure larger new green energy projects) reading Drummond is a study in contrasts with the overheated rhetoric recently exhibited by the federal government regarding its goal of expediting approvals of massive energy projects. In the case of the federal government, the agenda is clearly to short-circuit environmental regulation for the private benefit of massive oil companies. In the case of Drummond, his much more thoughtful and focused suggestions deserve careful consideration.