A recent survey of municipal politicians and Chief Administration Officers commissioned by a coalition of over 70 Ontario municipalities has found that four in ten municipalities are open to the idea of acting as a host to a new landfill.
The coalition was formed to lobby the Ontario government into allowing more municipal control on the approval process for landfills in the Province. The coalition calls itself the Demand the Right Coalition of Ontario Municipalities. It commissioned Public Square Research to conduct the survey.
The survey involved a random selection process, with 325 participants. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to a list of over 1,700 Mayors, Reeves, Councillors and chief administrators in Ontario.
Currently in Ontario, a private sector company is required to go through an environmental assessment process and then a technical environmental approval process before being permitted to develop a landfill site. Both of the processes are managed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MOECP). No municipal approval is required.
The current timeline for approval for a new landfill in Ontario is anywhere from five to ten years. Extensive public consultation is required as part of the process as is discussions with municipal government officials. Many private sector proponents would likely see another level of government approval for landfill development as an added time and cost burden with very limited environmental benefit.
In November 2018, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks published its Made-in-Ontario Environmental Plan. The plan included a proposal to provide municipalities with the right to approve new landfills. Further details of the proposed change were released for public comment in the follow-up Discussion Paper on Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities, published in March 2019.
The results of the survey found that the chief concerns of municipal leaders for new landfill approvals are environmental (27%), site location (19%), and financial considerations (15%). Other issues of importance included resident opinion (9%), odour controls (9%), and public safety (8%).
“We can now confirm that municipal approval will improve landfill operations, not eliminate them,” said Ted Comiskey, Mayor of Ingersoll and Chair of the Demand the Right Coalition. “By placing municipal governments on a level playing field with private waste management companies, councils and staff can negotiate for enhanced environmental protections, better site selections, and improved financial considerations on costs such as tipping fees and municipal services.”
Comiskey said, “Municipalities want the right to say yes or no, as we do with casinos, cannabis stores, and nuclear waste sites. This will be good for all concerned, as it means that communities will be given real choices. There will also be a cost impact on waste management. If the cost of landfill goes up, there will be a financial incentive for everyone to reduce their waste. Currently, there is none.”