January 22, 2007

ECO survey finds Ontarians want more dollars spent to protect the environment

A survey done for the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) indicates that the people of Ontario put a much higher value on protecting the environment than is reflected in government budget allocations.

The ECO poll asked Ontarians to estimate what percentage of the provincial operating budget they thought was assigned to the Ministry of Environment (MOE), and then asked what percentage they thought should be allotted to the ministry.

Respondents thought, on average, that about 12% of the budget would be slated for the MOE, and over 90% assumed that the ministry was allocated at least 1%, or much more, of the provincial budget.

In fact, the actual portion of the budget assigned to the Ministry of the Environment for the fiscal year 2006/2007 is a mere 0.36%, roughly one-third of 1%. Once they learned the real budget allocation, more than 80% of those polled thought it was too low.

The people responding to the ECO poll were then asked what percentage of the province's annual budget they thought should be allotted to the Ministry of Environment. Three-fourths of poll respondents, on average, said that the ideal allocation of the provincial budget assigned to the ministry should be 12%.

"Unfortunately, the one-third of 1 per cent allotted to the Ministry of the Environment is only a tiny sliver of the provincial budget," said Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller. "For too many years, the key ministries of the Environment and Natural Resources have simply not been given the human and financial resources that are realistically required to meet the broad expectations imposed by their mandates," he added.

"At the start of a new year, with the provincial budget cycle still in its final stages, I think it's wise to compare the priorities of the public with the priorities of the government regarding environmental protection," Miller noted.

He cited a Statistics Canada report which revealed that in 2004, Canadians directed about 2% of their charitable donations toward environmental causes and 2% of their total volunteer hours toward conservation and environmental protection. "It appears that by any measure - whether by opinion poll, voting by their wallets or by volunteer hours - Ontarians put a high priority on protecting the environment," he said.

Carried out by a professional polling agency, the ECO poll interviewed 300 adult Ontarians, sampled randomly; results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 5.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Poll respondents were asked to keep in mind that changing spending in one government area would cause an increase or decrease in spending in other areas.

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