Yesterday the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA) hosted its annual Environment Industry Day at Queen’s Park. Environment and cleantech leaders were at the Legislature meeting with MPPs to discuss the sector, issues, and opportunities ahead. It was a productive day of discussions about “Building Ontario Smarter and Faster.” Environment Journal is a proud media partner of this event.

“ONEIA members’ primary business is producing, providing and developing environmental solutions, services and technologies. Companies in this room apply innovation and science to environmental challenges and create solutions that generate good jobs, world leading exports and a better environment,” said Michelle Noble, executive director of ONEIA, the association that has been representing Ontario’s environment industry for more than 30 years. “Our non partisan association plays a pivotal role in bringing together industry with government. This event is one of the ways we do that.”

Ontario’s environment and cleantech industry includes a diverse range of companies whose primary business is producing, providing, and developing environmental products, services and technology that protect the environment. There are more than 3,000 companies in the sector, employing more than 226,000 people. These companies contribute more than $25 billion annually to Ontario’s circular economy, including $5.8 billion in exports. This is a growing sector that is expected to grow by about 10 per cent for the next five years.

John Yakabuski, MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

The parliamentary assistant to Ontario’s Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, John Yakabuski, provided remarks at the lively reception for the 23rd Annual Environment Industry Day.

“The relationship between ONEIA and the Ontario Legislature is not just one that we enjoy and benefit from, but it’s built out of necessity. Everybody, no matter what political party or persuasion you come from, we all have one absolute belief – that the environment is of paramount importance to us here in the province of Ontario and indeed across the world. Hence, why our minister is at COP28,” stated Yakabuski.

“When you’re talking about environment and government, we need to work together and keep moving forward as our population is growing. We’re going to have 20 million people in Ontario soon, and we have to provide what the people want and need in an environmentally responsible way. So, I want to thank you for joining us today.”

The 2023 Skip Willis Memorial Award was presented to Derek Webb, CEO of Biorem Inc., a leading cleantech provider headquartered in Guelph, Ontario. The annual award is presented to exceptional people working in the environment space in Ontario. The spirit of the award is to recognize those who, like the late Skip Willis, have gone above and beyond to promote collaboration between the industry and government and is a true leader who demonstrates integrity, generosity, tenacity and a track record for raising awareness about the environment sector in Ontario.

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Grant Walsom, longtime ONEIA volunteer and principal of XCG Consulting, presented the Skip Willis award to Derek Webb, longtime ONEIA volunteer and CEO of Biorem (centre), with Parliamentary Assistant John Yakabuski.

Since he joined the ONEIA Board of Directors in 2006, Webb made his mark participating as vice char, chair and past chair and is currently the secretary, as well as participating in each one of ONEIA’s committees. His steadying influence has provided many with guidance and leadership. Critical eye and business acumen, generous sponsorship, promoting events through his vast network.

“It’s an honour to be receiving this award,” said Webb. “I’m honoured to be a part of the group that has contributed so much to Ontario’s cleantech industry. I could go on for a long time but I’ve been a very outspoken proponent for how a sustainable environment and a prosperous economy are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand. In fact, we can’t have one or the other without each other. When I come to events like this, or when I support ONEIA, it’s because I truly believe in the dialogue that we have to have – open, fair, transparent, with government and industry and all the stakeholders. It’s the only way we’re going to achieve the solutions to the problems we have. The economy and the environment need to be prosperous together.”

(For further information on Derek Webb and Biorem Inc., read our recent Market Watch column here.)

Many reported having successful meetings with MPPs and Ministerial staff throughout the course of the day.

Environment Journal Editor Connie Vitello with Grant Walsom, principal at XCG Consulting and Colin Isaacs, Environment Journal columnist and owner of CIAL Group.

As per ONEIA’s policy brief, here’s how to help build Ontario faster and smarter:

Build More Homes Faster and Smarter by Building on Brownfields: Brownfields, vacant and underutilized sites where past uses may have left contamination, are a valuable land resource that we need to work together to maximize. Streamlining regulatory and municipal permitting processes to better facilitate the redevelopment of Brownfields would help Ontario build more needed housing and create affordable housing, while also improving the environment. Ontario should also encourage the redevelopment of Brownfields through more economic incentive vehicles to develop on Brownfields.

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Build Smarter by Building Sustainably: As we build more needed housing faster, let’s make sure that we are building smarter by ensuring that what gets built is sustainable and minimizes the demand on existing and new infrastructure. New homes should be built to be water and energy efficient or net energy positive. This will save homeowners money and could help deescalate the urgent need for massive amounts of new infrastructure.

Build Enabling Infrastructure Faster: Municipal environmental infrastructure – such as water, wastewater, waste and energy – is needed to enable the building and development of housing and communities. These critical infrastructure projects are huge and complex and municipalities need financial and non-financial support to manage their development and operation. New initiatives such as the Ontario Infrastructure Bank and New Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund should be designed to ensure the efficient and effective delivery of essential environmental infrastructure.

Build a Future That is Smarter and Resilient: As Ontario plans and builds communities and necessary infrastructure, let’s build smarter and ensure that everything built is climate resilient and can withstand the demand of extreme weather such as heat, drought and floods. Investors and insurers are already employing climate-focused decision-making and climate-related disclosure is a quickly evolving space. Work with us on climate friendly approaches to planning and development that create resilient infrastructure and communities, and encourage investment in Ontario.

Build Smarter by Turning Waste into Beneficial Resources: Ontario needs to build faster and smarter by capitalizing on opportunities to turn waste into products and energy. Doing so would help address landfill capacity challenges, reduce greenhouse gases, create local green jobs, encourage industry innovation and expand exports. Work with us to spur demand for provincially-sourced recovered products by developing tax-based, regulatory, or other policy mechanisms, and ways to encourage diversion of waste from the industrial, commercial, and institutional sector.

Make Ontario a Smart Place to Invest: Work with us to ensure that Ontario is an attractive place for environment and cleantech companies to invest. Global competition for investment is intense especially with the US Inflation Reduction Act and other similar green transition program around the world. We do not want Ontario to miss out or fall behind this significant global shift in economies and societies. The Canadian government has implemented programs to help level the playing field, but Ontario needs to do more to maintain and attract private sector investment. Work with us to design and support initiatives for clean energy and conservation that attract clean tech investment and jobs. Such initiatives will also lower energy costs for Ontario consumers while broadening the ability of consumers, businesses, and farmers to participate in the energy economy.

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Collaborate on a Practical Approach to PFAS: PFAS are “forever chemicals,” a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals with widespread use that are extremely persistent in the environment and that are being found to have significant impacts to human health and the environment. PFAS have been regulated at federal and state levels in several jurisdictions worldwide, and regulated standards for PFAS have been implemented in other provinces. A programmatic regulatory approach, based on a solid cost-benefit analysis, has been found to be the most effective approach to managing PFAS. Work with us to develop sound, science-based policy for the management of PFAS at contaminated sites, as waste, within the organics/food stream, and in drinking water (a direct means of protecting human health). Our membership has deep knowledge of the issues and options for managing PFAS, and can bring the Ontario government standardized and sustainable approaches that will ultimately support the development of economically sound and health-protective policy.

Get Ahead of Labour Market Challenges: Finding talented skilled workers, is a big and worsening challenge in our sector. This is a high growth industry and we anticipate that a significant portion of our workforce will retire in the next few years, so our current challenge is at risk of quickly becoming a crisis. Work with us to ensure that doesn’t happen and support us in undertaking research to identify the current and projected skills gap so that we can develop a plan to ensure we have the workers we need to help build Ontario faster and smarter.

Environment Industry event sponsors included: Waste Connections of Canada, Walker Industries, WSP in Canada, ALS Global, Biorem Inc., Blue Frog Environmental Consulting Inc., ERIS (Environmental Risk Information Services), Geosyntec Consultants, Parsons Corporation, RWDI Consulting Engineers and Scientists, and Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP.

Environment Journal Editor Connie Vitello with Mary-Margaret McMahon, MPP Beaches-East York and Legislative Member, Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy.

Upcoming ONEIA events include the first Diversity and Inclusion workshop on January 17th and Curling Bonspiel on February 27th. For further information or to register, click here.

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