According to a new report, the government of Ontario is much better at diagnosing problems than actually solving them when it comes to the environment.

Earlier today, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller released his 2010-11 annual report, Engaging Solutions, which tracks progress on environmental performance by the province. Ontario’s performance was unacceptable, the report said. The province gets a good grade for identifying, studying, and proposing solutions to environmental issues, but it’s terrible at applying them.

One of the major issues raised was the Endangered Species Act, which earned the province much praise when it was created in 2007. Two years later, Ontario appears to spend more time granting exemptions that allow forestry, mining, and other industrial activities to disturb and destroy habitat than it does protecting areas that threatened species such as woodland caribou need to survive, according to the report. Which is a real shame, because solutions exist that can help preserve habitat and woodland caribou and make industry more sustainable.

In October, we wrote about how the Great Lakes are under stress from problems new and old. Today, the commissioner mentioned the toxic algal blooms — a deadly green goo that’s formed on Lake Erie and is visible from space. The goo is unsafe for animals, fish, and people. Miller also talked about the threats from invasive species such as Asian carp and industrial development (Read about our recent action on Asian carp). Ecojustice continues to monitor Great Lakes issues, including sewage overflows, and the use of green infrastructure to reduce runoff, water conservation, industrial wastewater regulation, and air pollution.

Another major take-away from the commissioner’s report was that for every dollar Ontario spends, less than a penny goes towards environmental protection (See YouTube clip below). Just last week, Ontarians learned the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources will receive no additional funding. It’s an unfortunate time for the government to slow its investment, given – as the commissioner mentioned during his press conference – that we are reaching a tipping point in terms of the environment.

We realize that safeguarding Ontarians’ health and environment is difficult work. But our communities and livelihood require that the government, our environmental guardian, defend the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we inhabit. As stated in the commissioner’s report, the potential is there. What’s needed is follow-through.