The solutions to brownfields and other contaminated soils problems are complicated. The province has made a start on the brownfields issue with the Brownfields Statute Law Amendment Act, 2001. The brownfields legislation may encourage the clean-up and re-development of some abandoned, underused or contaminated lands. To the extent that this happens, it can contribute to improving air quality by allowing for opportunities to develop around existing public transit, rather than development on greenfields that require additional road or transit infrastructure. While encouraging, the new legislation has not addressed key issues around the need for liability protection for developers, in part because such protection may shift the liability for some orphan sites to the provincial government. Moreover, the issue of civil liability, as opposed to regulatory liability, imposes huge constraints on how much certainty any developer or financer of brownfield developments can attain.
The issue of brownfields clean-up and re-development is under ongoing discussion by all levels of government in Canada, and it is likely that there will be new regulatory and incentive initiatives in the next few years. The Central Ontario Zone undoubtedly has a large number of brownfields in this region, and municipalities should therefore be active participants in the policy and regulatory work that is being done in this area. The barriers to achieving environmental improvement at brownfields are well known, as are some of the potential solutions.