The Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (MCEA) process was developed by the Municipal Engineers Association (MEA) to provide municipalities with a risk-based approach to comply with the Environmental Assessment Act for both capital projects and infrastructure maintenance activities.
Over time, the MCEA process has become more complex, resulting in delayed projects and significantly increasing costs. In fact, a 2014 study by the Residential and Civil Construction Association of Ontario (RCCAO) showed that it was typically taking almost 27 months to complete the process for Schedule B and C projects, with study and consultant costs averaging $386,500 (not including municipal staff time).
A coalition of EA stakeholders, such as MEA, RCCAO, the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) and many others, agree that EA reform is needed and have been pressing the Government of Ontario to make changes for a number of years.
In February 2017, a joint application for review was submitted through the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and forwarded to the then Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). The Ministry responded positively to the application in mid-April 2017 and committed to completing a comprehensive review by December 2018. Although MOECC accepted the arguments made both in the joint application and by the Auditor General, little progress was made in 2017.
Without speedy reform, Ontario municipalities risk losing out on funding for projects that are subject to the MCEA process. This simply is neither proper infrastructure planning nor good asset management.