Statement of Environmental Values: Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

1.   INTRODUCTION

The Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was proclaimed in February 1994. The founding principles of the EBR are stated in its Preamble:

  • The people of Ontario recognize the inherent value of the natural environment.
  • The people of Ontario have a right to a healthful environment.
  • The people of Ontario have as a common goal the protection, conservation and restoration of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

While the government has the primary responsibility for achieving this goal, Ontarians should have the means to ensure that it is achieved in an effective, timely, open and fair manner.
The purposes of the Act are:

  • To protect, conserve and where reasonable, restore the integrity of the environment;
  • To provide sustainability of the environment by the means provided in the Act; and
  • To protect the right to a healthful environment by the means provided in the Act.

These purposes include the following:

  • The prevention, reduction and elimination of the use, generation and release of pollutants that are an unreasonable threat to the integrity of the environment.
  • The protection and conservation of biological, ecological and genetic diversity.
  • The protection and conservation of natural resources, including plant life, animal life and ecological systems.
  • The encouragement of the wise management of our natural resources, including plant life, animal life and ecological systems.
  • The identification, protection and conservation of ecologically sensitive areas or processes.

To assist in fulfilling these purposes, the Act provides:

  • the means by which Ontarians may participate in the making of environmentally significant decisions by the Government of Ontario;
  • increased accountability of the Government of Ontario for its environmental decision-making;
  • increased access to the courts by residents of Ontario for the protection of the environment; and
  • enhanced protection for employees who take action in respect of environmental harm.

The EBR requires a Statement of Environmental Values (SEV) from all designated ministries.  The designated ministries are listed at:  http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/content/index2.jsp?f0=misc.links&f1=misc.links.value&menuIndex=5_1.

SEVs are a means for designated government ministries to record their commitment to the environment and be accountable for ensuring consideration of the environment in their decisions.  A SEV explains:

  • how the purposes of the EBR will be applied when decisions that might significantly affect the environment are made in the ministry; and
  • how consideration of the purposes of the EBR will be integrated with other considerations, including social, economic and scientific considerations, that are part of decision-making in the ministry.

It is each Minister's responsibility to take every reasonable step to ensure that the SEV is considered whenever decisions that might significantly affect the environment are made in the ministry.

The ministry will examine the SEV on a periodic basis to ensure the Statements are current.

2. MINISTRY VISION, MANDATE AND BUSINESS

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s vision is of a health care system that keeps Ontarians healthy, gets them good care when they are sick, and will be there for generations to come.

This requires individuals, providers and government to work together to deliver high-quality, outcome focused, consumer-centered health care, based on need and not ability to pay.
The vision will be guided by the following values:

  • patient-centered
  • accessible and responsive
  • equitable
  • integrated and aligned
  • efficient and effective
  • accountability shared among providers, government, community, consumers
  • evidence-based and focused on quality outcomes

The mandate of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is to develop plans and policies with an emphasis on the determinants of health; to introduce health care reforms in a well planned and integrated way that will shift the focus of the health care system from hospital/institution and illness-based care to community based services and disease prevention; and to ensure a safe, high-quality physical environment.

The businesses of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care focus on ensuring that people get the health care they need, when and where they need it.
More details on the responsibilities of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care can be found on the ministry website http://www.health.gov.on.ca.

3. APPLICATION OF THE SEV

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is committed to applying the purposes of the EBR when decisions that might significantly affect the environment and the health of Ontarians need to be made in the ministry, and as it develops Acts, regulations and policies.

The ministry works to protect the public from health hazards posed by environmental contaminants by promoting a healthy physical environment, and by promoting and monitoring the environmental health of the population.

Environmental Health, the protection and promotion of people's health, is a specific responsibility of the ministry's Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines carried out by the local boards of health.  The goal is to prevent or reduce adverse health outcomes resulting from exposure to health hazards “(a) a condition of a premises; (b) a substance, thing, plant or animal other than man, (or); (c) a solid, liquid, gas or combination of any of them, that has or that is likely to have an adverse effect on the health of any person” as defined in the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and including biological, physical and chemical agents, natural or manmade.

The ministry's decisions will seek to provide leadership, local and regional planning, open, collaborative processes, good research and information, attention to special needs, efficiency incentives, and sound human resource management in meeting the health goals for Ontario.  One of these goals is to ensure high-quality care and a safe work environment.

4. INTEGRATION WITH OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will integrate the Act’s objectives in its decision-making and will include a statement on the presence or absence of a significant effect on the environment in all policies, directives, guidelines, strategies and advice before their approval and implementation.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will encourage energy conservation in those sectors where it provides policy direction or programs.

The ministry plays a major role both in preserving our physical and social environment and in protecting Ontarians from existing and potential health hazards posed by environmental contaminants.

A safe physical environment is the best assurance of environmental health. Environmental contaminants and other hazards do exist, however, and the ministry has the responsibility to help ensure appropriate and practical measures are taken to protect the public from their effects.

In reviewing policies for a significant effect on the environment, the ministry will consider all proposals specifically in the light of section 2(2) 1-5 of the Act.  In addition the ministry will consider:

  • The extent and nature of the measures that might be required to reduce or prevent any harm to the environment that could result from the decision.
  • The geographic extent (local, regional or provincial) of any harm to the environment that could result from the decision.
  • The nature of the private and public interests, including government interests, involved in the decision.
  • Any other matter that the minister considers relevant.

The ministry recognizes that this SEV applies only to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care itself, and nothing in the SEV affects in any way the legal or fiscal responsibility of hospitals and other health transfer agencies.  Nevertheless, the ministry will encourage these other institutions to practice environmentally responsible behavior similar to that set out in this SEV.

5.   MONITORING USE OF THE SEV

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is committed to applying its SEV when making policy decisions that might significantly affect the environment and the health of Ontarians.  It has a process to monitor and track the consideration of the SEV in its decision-making.  The proposals will be reviewed to ensure they do not have a negative impact on the environment and that they support the ministry’s SEV.

The ministry will provide communication, advice and training to ministry staff in the implementation and application of the purposes of the Environmental Bill of Rights.

6.   CONSULTATION

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care believes that public consultation is vital to sound environmental decision-making.  The ministry will provide opportunities for an open and consultative process when making decisions that might significantly affect the environment.

The influence of the environment on health issues will require the ministry's involvement with other ministries and jurisdictions whether working with interministerial advisory groups or as the lead ministry.  The ministry will contribute to a collaborative process to recognize the need for society to become a conserver of diminishing non-renewable natural resources and to reverse trends and practices whose final disposition has been harmful to the natural environment.

7.   CONSIDERATION OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLES

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recognizes the value that Aboriginal people place on the environment.  When making decisions that might significantly affect the environment, the ministry will provide opportunities for involvement of Aboriginal people whose interests may be affected by such decisions, so that Aboriginal interests can be appropriately considered.  This commitment is not intended to alter or detract from any constitutional obligation the province may have to consult with Aboriginal people.

8. GREENING OF INTERNAL OPERATIONS AND ENERGY CONSERVATION

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care believes in the wise use and conservation of natural resources.  The ministry will support Government of Ontario initiatives to conserve energy and water in its own operations, and to wisely use our air and land resources in order to generate environmental, health and economic benefits for present and future generations.

The ministry will continue to encourage energy conservation and resource conservation in its own operations by, for example, ensuring that office lights are turned off when possible and office equipment is turned off when not in use, and explicitly considering environmental performance of the various options when equipment leases or purchase decisions are made.  The ministry will also continue to educate and encourage staff on the 3Rs – reduction, reuse and recycling – to divert materials from disposal.