At the time this article was published
Richard Jennings is a research officer with the Legislative Research Service in
the Library of the Ontario Legislature.
Responsibility for science policy is spread
over several principal ministries and agencies in Ontario. The legislature does
not periodically review provincial science policy through a designated standing
committee. The last committee to examine overall provincial science and
technology policy in Ontario was the Select Committee on Economic and Cultural
Nationalism which made several recommendations in this area. In recent years
the major science policy areas of interest to the legislature have been energy
and environmental policy. From time to time standing committees have examined
some of these policy areas. Select committees such as that on Ontario Hydro
Affairs have dealt with specific science policy issues. This article describes
the distribution of responsibility for science policy in the Ontario
government. It gives an overview of the committees of the legislature and looks
at the activities, composition and recommendations of several recent committees
which have examined scientific and technical issues.
Science policy in Ontario is not the
responsibility of a single ministry. Several ministries have some jurisdiction.
Among them are: Agriculture and Food, Colleges and Universities, Energy, the
Environment, Industry and Tourism, and Natural Resources.
The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible
for the agricultural technical colleges and for the Agricultural and
Horticultural Research Institutes. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities is
responsible for science and research work conducted by post-secondary
The Ministry of Energy is responsible for
Ontario Hydro's overall policy and funds many research and testing projects
through its Conservation and Renewable Energy Group. The Ministry of the
Environment has jurisdiction over environmental assessment, and resource
management. Considerable analytical and research support work is conducted by
The Ontario Research Foundation which
conducts industrial research work comes under the authority of the Ministry of
Industry and Tourism. The Ontario Forest Research Centre where fast growing
hybrid poplars were developed is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of
Committees of the Legislature
In the legislature, standing policy
committees correspond to the provincial secretariats. These are: Resources
Development, Social Development, and the Administration of Justice and General
Government. Other standing committees include Procedural Affairs, Public
Accounts, Statutory Instruments and Members' Services. None of these conducts
reviews of provincial science policy. Ministry spending estimates are
periodically reviewed by the standing committees which examines that ministry's
policy. Generally, science policy per se, is not reviewed except on an ad hoc
basis by standing committees. Select committees have been set up to examine
specific issues in which a particular science policy may be reviewed.
A select committee in the early 1970s
examined research and development policy as part of a broader study of the
effects of foreign ownership on Ontario and Canada. In recent years the major
issues of a scientific nature which have been of interest to the legislature
have been environmental and energy ones.
The legislature's influence on environmental
issues has been limited by the fact that projects can be exempted from
environmental assessment by cabinet. Among the major projects whose exemptions
generated considerable controversy were the Darlington Nuclear Generating
Station and the proposed liquid waste disposal site in South Cayuga.
The Standing Committee on Resources
Development studied the liquid waste disposal facility proposed for South
Cayuga. During its examination of the proposal most of the Committee members
visited disposal facilities already operating in West Germany and Denmark. The
Committee's deliberations were interrupted by the election call on February 2,
Select Committee on Economic and Cultural
This Select Committee was formed in December
1971 and made its final report in December 1974. The Committee consisted of
eleven members. Its chairman was Russell Rowe, of the Progressive Conservative
Party. Two members of the Committee were appointed to cabinet during the
Committee's deliberations and did not sign or dissent from the final report.
The Committee staff consisted of two legal counsel, a research director and an
economic consultant in addition to the clerk.
During its deliberations the Committee held
hearings in seven cities in Ontario. In addition, members visited New York
City, Quebec City, Belgium, France, Germany. Sweden, Switzerland and the United
Kingdom. The Committee also commissioned ten studies some of which dealt with
science policy issues. During its hearings the Committee heard from civil
servants, academics, politicians, business executives, industry, and labour
representatives and independent public interest groups.
The final report of the Committee contained
a chapter on the impact of foreign ownership on research and development,
technology and innovation in Canada. It examined the high degree of Canadian
reliance on imported technology and government policy which has tended to
encourage this. The advantages and costs of importing technology, and the
impact it has had on education. research and development, job opportunities,
competition, exports, management and marketing in Canada and Ontario were
The Committee isolated four broad science and
technology policy options: importation of technology. development of indigenous
technology, seeking wider participation in the technological activities of
multinationals or a combination of these policies. The Select Committee's main
recommendation with regard to science policy was that the Ministry, of'
Industry, and Tourism should establish an agency responsible for research,
development, design, and technology. The agency would develop, implement and
co-ordinate Ontario participation in national science policy. Furthermore, it
would formulate and sponsor appropriate revisions in science policy. In
consultation with other government bodies the proposed agency would establish
technology assessment standards.
The proposed agency would also systematically
identify technological areas in which Ontario should concentrate research and
development efforts. The areas recommended by the Committee were: environmental
protection, resource conservation and safety technologies. In addition, those
technologies likely to promote job satisfaction, product durability, new
domestic industries and exports should be encouraged. Special attention would
be given to important sectors which have significant levels of foreign
ownership. little domestic research and development at present and where the
possibility of Canadian participation exists. The proposed agency would
undertake, moreover, a review of the system of funding technological
development in Canada and the return from this funding.
Several other major recommendations were
made. Among these was the proposal that the federal and provincial governments
should review the terms and restrictions under which technology is currently
imported. In the Committee's view a tax treatment of technological content should
differentiate between imported and Canadian technology. Technological content
would include management and marketing expenditures, associated with product or
technological development. Imported technological content would be deducted for
income tax purposes at a rate of two-thirds of expenditures while for Canadian
technological content four-thirds of expenditures would be deductible.
The Committee further recommended that
Canadian patent, trademark and other legislation be reviewed and replaced by
some more supportive of technological development in Canada. Government
funding, purchasing and technology policies should attempt to increase the
level of technological development in Canada and to ensure as much as possible
that technologies developed in Canada are exploited and applied here.
The Committee also recommended that the
Ministry, of Industry, and Tourism negotiate with multinational enterprises and
other governments for wider Canadian participation in technological
development,, with the results periodically reviewed. To date none of the
Committee's recommendations with regard to science policy have been adopted.
Select Committee Investigating Ontario
The Select Committee on Ontario Hydro
Affairs has examined several science issues in some depth during its hearings.
A Select Committee investigating Ontario Hydro was originally established on
October 30, 1975 after the Ontario Energy Board had recommended that Ontario
Hydro be granted a 26.7 percent increase in bulk power rates for 1976. The
Committee's terms of reference were to examine this proposed increase in light
of the federal government's anti-inflation program and Ontario Hydro's
obligation to provide power at cost.
The Committee consisted of 12 members. Under
the minority Progressive Conservative government the composition of the
Committee was five Progressive Conservatives, three New Democrats, three
Liberals and a New Democrat chairman, Donald C. MacDonald. Committee staff
consisted of a counsel and two consultants in addition to the committee clerk.
Hearings were held in November and early December of 1975 with the Committee
tabling an interim report in the legislature on December 12, 1975. Further
hearings were held from January to June 1976 with the final report tabled in June
1976. Witnesses appearing before the Committee represented Ontario Hydro,
government, and to a lesser extent industry, universities, consultants, and
The Committee's main recommendations were to
Ontario Hydro and the provincial government to increase conservation efforts
and to take other steps to reduce electrical generation capacity requirements
below the levels forecast. In addition, the Committee recommended that Ontario
Hydro's nuclear commitment should be examined by a Select Committee and that
Ontario Hydro should report to a Select Committee of the legislature on a
periodic basis with respect to its new system expansion plan. The Committee
further recommended that Ontario Hydro should report on how 'it was proceeding
with the implementation of the Committee's recommendations beginning in the
spring of 1977.
Select Committee on Ontario Hydro Affairs
On November 24, 1977 a Select Committee on
Ontario Hydro Affairs was established to inquire into the cost of construction
of the two heavy water plants being built by Ontario Hydro at the Bruce Nuclear
Power Development. Moreover, it was to review the implementation of the
recommendations of the previous Select Committee and Ontario Hydro's nuclear
The new Select Committee consisted of 14
members: six Progressive Conservatives, four Liberals and four New Democrats.
Donald MacDonald was appointed chairman. The energy critics for the two
opposition parties and the parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Energy
were among the members appointed to the Committee. Four other members had sat
on the previous Select Committee. Staff from the previous Committee were
retained to make use of the expertise and knowledge they had gained.
The Committee began hearings in January 1978
by examining proposed long-term uranium contracts between Ontario Hydro and
Denison Mines and Rio Algom/Preston Mines at the request of Premier William
Davis. On February 23 the Committee tabled minority reports by each of the
parties, none of which was able to elicit majority support of the Committee.
Next, the Committee examined the
construction costs of the Bruce Heavy Water Plant. Public hearings were held
for 23 days in July, August and September of 1978. The Committee also toured
the plant site and held a public meeting there. The Committee reported to the
legislature on this in October 1978. They recommended that Ontario Hydro be
required to provide the government with a semi-annual summary of the costs of
each major capital project, both under construction and proposed. The summary
was to be referred to a legislative committee for review. Specifically the
Committee recommended that only half of Bruce Heavy Water Plant D would be
needed. The other half should be mothballed.
In January, February and March, 1979 the
Committee held 29 days of public hearings on the need for electrical capacity
in Ontario. The main recommendation of the Committee was that Ontario Hydro's
load growth forecast should be reduced to the two to three percent per annum
range. Planning on this basis would delay the need for the Darlington station
units by eight to fourteen years. No further stations would be needed until the
next century. The six Progressive Conservative members dissented; they felt a
broader range of two or four percent should be used because of uncertainty, and
that a Darlington delay should not be recommended.
From April to October 1979 the Committee
held hearings on the safety of nuclear reactors. An interim report on reactor
safety was tabled in December 1979 with a final report tabled in June 1980
following further hearings in February. During its deliberations the Committee
toured the Nuclear Power Demonstration facility in Rolphton and held a full day
of public hearings in Deep River as well as 56 days of public hearings in
The Royal Commission on Electric Power
Planning had held extensive public hearings on the nuclear safety question and
the Select Committee used the Royal Commission's interim report on nuclear
power as a background document. However, the Select Committee's hearings did
much more to significantly increase the availability of public information with
regard to reactor safety.
The Committee began to be seen by many as a
forum which would decide on the safety of the CANDU reactor. The nuclear
reactor safety issue is a very complex scientific and technical one. The
Committee heard from Canadian and international experts on both sides of the
issue. The Committee decided that it would need to have access to all Ontario
Hydro documents. Those Which were felt to be sensitive for commercial or safety
reasons would only be made available to the steering committee or staff.
Ontario Hydro agreed to make all documents requested by the Committee available
and to give them to the Legislative Library. There would be controlled access
to sensitive materials. That is, the public would be able to read the documents
and make notes but would not be able to photocopy the material.
The key, documents released by, Ontario
Hydro with unrestricted access were the station significant event reports.
Among the documents with controlled access were the station safety reports,
in-service reports, design manuals and operating manuals.
The main conclusion of the Committee was
that the CANDU reactor is acceptably safe. The New Democratic Party members of
the Committee dissented from this conclusion. The Committee made 24
recommendations. It recommended that Ontario Hydro continue to make public and
update information provided to the Committee. It was also recommended that
Ontario Hydro should review the present organization of its human resources,
improve follow-up procedures for station significant event reports, and
undertake a complete engineering review of the Nuclear Power Demonstration
facility at Rolphton. The establishment of an independent council to study
radiation was also recommended.
The undertaking of a Reactor Safety, Study'
for the CANDU reactor by, the Atomic Energy, Control Board (AECB), the federal
nuclear regulators, agency, was recommended although the Progressive
Conservative members dissented from this option. It was also recommended that
the Board change several of its procedures particularly in specifying and
strengthening its relationship with Ontario Hydro. Licensing requirements
specifically should he more detailed and comprehensive and have stricter
The Select Committee held hearings on the
management of nuclear fuel waste in October 1978 and from January to March
1980. The final report on this was tabled in June. 1980. During its deliberations
the Committee toured the Whiteshell Nuclear Establishment in Pinawa, Manitoba
and the research drilling site at Atikokan. The Committee held one day of
public hearings in Thunder Bay. and 26 days of hearings in Toronto. The report
made recommendations with regard to the transportation of radioactive spent
fuel, increasing research work. and establishing a Joint federal-provincial
nuclear fuel waste management agency. It also recommended steps to clarity, and
improve the regulatory process including ensuring meaningful public involvement
by those in affected communities.
Later in 1980 the Select Committee held
hearings on the mining, milling and refining of uranium in Ontario. During its
deliberations the Committee spent three days at Elliot Lake and one day, in
Port Hope in addition to public hearings in Toronto.
The Committee recommended that the Atomic
Energy Control Board should have jurisdictional responsibility for occupational
health and safety and environmental matters with respect to uranium mines.
Present provincial legislation in these areas should be adopted. Further
recommendations were made in the areas of improving workers' skills and health
and safety. It was recommended that the AECB require uranium mining companies
to reduce the environmental impact of mine tailings by increased research and
the adoption of new milling processes. Other recommendations called for the
establishment of a public monitoring committee, resolution of the concerns of
the Serpent River Indian Band, and adoption of the recommendations of the
environmental assessment board. In addition some recommendations were made to
increase the public accountability of the uranium refining and processing
In January 1981 the Committee began hearings
on public policy for the development of electrical energy. However, the
Committee was dissolved when a provincial election was called. In its just over
three years of existence the Select Committee on Ontario Hydro Affairs has
examined several issues of a very scientific and technical nature. Of the 14
members of the Committee, seven have been members throughout the Committee's
deliberations. Four others have been members for at least three quarters of the
Committee's duration. Th is continuity of membership helped several members of
the Committee gain some expertise in the science areas studied.
It appears that legislative committees in
Ontario have been useful in examining specific aspects of science policy. One
advantage which they have over other inquiries is independence from the
scientific establishment and industry. The Committee on Economic and Cultural
Nationalism examined overall provincial science policy and made several
important recommendations. The Ontario Hydro Affairs committee made specific
recommendations on complex science issues such as nuclear reactor safety,
nuclear fuel waste management, and uranium mining, milling and refining.
Committees, moreover. have played a useful role in increasing the availability
of public information on these issues.