Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/18)

Awareness, education key for Environmental Bill of Rights

The provincial government has room to grow when it comes to facilitating public policy issues, says Toronto lawyer Michael Cochrane, who recently spoke on the topic at a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR).

Cochrane, partner with Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP, was the chairman of the task force that designed the bill, which is credited for significantly improving public access to environmental decision making in the province.

At the conference, sponsored by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and titled Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR): Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities, Cochrane, joined by several others, including former cabinet Minister Ruth Grier, participated in a panel discussion on the vision, evolution and implementation of the EBR.

During the discussion, Cochrane shed light on the process used to create the EBR – the Principled Negotiation of Public Policy.

“I consider the combined achievements of the Class Proceedings Act and the EBR to be among the highlights of my career in public policy,” said Cochrane, who was also the chairman of the Class Proceedings Act task force.

Cochrane expressed disappointment that the government has not applied the public policy process to other issues facing the province, for example, “an overhaul of our family justice system which bankrupts families, homelessness and near homelessness which still plagues cities, transportation in the GTA, an overhaul of Children’s Aid Societies and services, democratic reform, a strategy for elders and natural resource development, such as the Ring of Fire." Cochrane suggested the Ontario government create a permanent cabinet office for facilitation of public policy issues.

A recurring theme at the conference, held Feb. 12, was the need to publicize the EBR to the general public, particularly young people, said Cochrane.

“I suggested that we use this year’s OBA Law Day to have Ontario’s lawyers take the EBR into classrooms across the province,” said Cochrane, noting he also proposed that all three parties recommit to the EBR in the upcoming session.

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