July 9, 2014

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. Minister, in 2003, the Minister of the Environment released a report which found that the air in Beachville, in my riding of Oxford, had higher than acceptable particulate levels. The report laid out a plan that included annual site inspections, reviews of industry reports and communications with our community, but your ministry won’t give us any information.

Minister, in my letter to you on the day that you were sworn in, I told you that I have asked for this information. I have now asked your ministry three times and haven’t received a single response.

Minister, can you tell me and my constituents what your ministry has done to ensure that the air they are breathing is safe?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I think these are some of the most important questions that we as ministers get asked in the House. I respect my friend from Oxford for holding me and the government to account.

I apologize sincerely—I have only been the minister for a couple of weeks—that we did not get back to you. I have not personally seen your letter yet. I would ask—if you can take a few minutes after question period, I’d like to chat with you. I will go back to my office promptly after to review that letter and I will have an answer with you as soon as possible.
Again, I apologize we weren’t able to get that—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Thank you, very much, Minister. Since you didn’t address Beachville air quality in your response, I’m assuming, as you said, that you have not read the letter and also have not looked at the information.

People in my riding are depending on your ministry to ensure that the air they breathe is safe. It’s not acceptable for the ministry to simply refuse to provide the information. What, if anything, has been done? And this is over a period since 2003.

Minister, will you commit to providing me within two weeks with a full package, including the results of the annual site inspections, review of industry reports and the steps that have been taken, and will you commit to work with us to ensure that the air quality in the Beachville area is safe for the people of Beachville?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I will go back to the ministry, find out what information I’m legally allowed to release, and I will certainly make sure that anything that I can release as minister without compromising the integrity of the ministry or the process—I will do that.

I’m very concerned about the air quality in Beachville, as we are across Ontario. The Premier and I this morning were with a large number of children, confirming the reintroduction of the end to coal act. As you know, that was the equivalent of taking all of the cars in Ontario, the seven million cars, off our roads and was the single biggest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions—but it was also one of the single biggest reductions in nitrous oxide and particulate matter. When I came back to Ontario in 2005 after being away, there were 53 smog days that year alone—53 days when it wasn’t safe to go outside.

Hon. Glen R. Murray: Pardon me?
Hon. Michael Chan: Now it’s much better.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: This is obviously a great concern. It’s one that I share with the member. It’s certainly a priority to the government, and we’ll work with you, sir, on that.