Dianne Saxe

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Dianne Saxe
Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.jpg
Deputy Leader, Green Party of Ontario
Assumed office
November 16, 2020
Personal details
Children2; including Rebecca
Alma mater

Dianne Saxe is a Canadian environmental lawyer and politician. She was the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario from 2015 to 2019. Saxe was appointed Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Ontario (GPO) in 2020, serving with Abhijeet Manay, and is currently on leave to contest the 2022 Toronto municipal election.[1][2] She has been rated among the top 25 environmental lawyers in the world.[3][4]

Saxe studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School, earning an LL.B. in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1991. Prior to entering the government sector, Saxe worked in private practice with two major law firms and then ran an environmental law boutique firm for 25 years. Her early career focused on the intersection of environmental law and corporate liability, while her more recent practice has centred on climate change and related law. She has published widely on environmental issues. From 1975-1989, Saxe practiced law with the Ontario government, serving with both Conservative and Liberal governments. Doug Ford’s Conservative government terminated her position as Environmental Commissioner after she released a series of reports critical of environmental rollbacks.[5]

Saxe's position as Deputy Leader was announced along with her candidacy for the GPO in University-Rosedale in November 2020.[6] Her 2022 election bid was the Ontario Greens' highest-profile campaign in the city.[5] Saxe finished the race with 15.9% of the vote. Shortly after the conclusion of the provincial race, Saxe announced her candidacy for the 2022 Toronto municipal election, slated for October 24, 2022; she is contesting Ward 11 University—Rosedale.[7] With 14 initial contenders, the ward is one of the most highly-contested in the city.[1]

Saxe is the daughter of Canadian doctor, businessman, media personality, and politician Morton Shulman,[8] who served as a Member of Provincial Parliament for the Ontario New Democratic Party in the 1960s and 1970s. She is the mother of MIT Neuroscience professor Rebecca Saxe, and University of Toronto Civil Engineering Professor, Shoshanna Saxe.

Legal career[edit]

After completing her LL.B., Saxe worked in Ontario Government Legal Services from 1975 to 1989, overlapping the provincial premierships of Bill Davis and David Peterson. Her focus included major infrastructure design, approvals, and tradeoffs, as well as complex prosecutions related to spills. She produced a research paper on liability for contaminated site for the Canadian Law Reform Commission.[9]

In 1991 Saxe moved into private practice. She represented the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in their successful $115 million claim against Stewardship Ontario for the cost of Ontario's Blue Box program in 2014.[10]

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario[edit]

Saxe was appointed to the position of Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in 2015 by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, unanimously, for a five year term.[3] The Commissioner was an independent legislative officer, guardian of the Environmental Bill of Rights and required by the Bill [11] to report to the Ontario Legislature each year on Ontario's progress on each of energy conservation, environmental protection and climate change. She was also permitted to deliver special reports. As Commissioner, she delivered 17 reports to the Legislature on topics including environmental injustice to First Nations,[12][13] electricity, waste and circular economy, endangered species, water pollution,[14] soil health and climate policy.[15][16]

On November 15, 2018, five months after the beginning of the Doug Ford term, it was announced that her position would be abolished by legislation and some of its functions transferred to the Auditor General.[17] Saxe had published reports critical of the incoming administration's environmental positions, including the absence of a climate change policy.[18] The decision to eliminate independent environmental oversight was widely reported on. More than 200 scientists and researchers sent an open letter to the Premier calling for reconsideration.[19] Her last report was even more critical of the Doug Ford government.[20] After 25 years, the position of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario ceased to exist when the Environmental Bill of Rights was amended on April 1, 2019.[11]

Political career[edit]

2022 Provincial Election[edit]

Saxe's provincial nomination in University-Rosedale was uncontested. Her candidacy was confirmed along with the Deputy Leader role on November 30, 2020.[6] She has cited the climate crisis as a primary reason for her political run as well as the well-publicized conflict with Ford over the closure of her office.[21][22] The riding was one of a small number of ridings the Ontario Greens targeted to add to the single-seat caucus of provincial leader Mike Schreiner in the 2022 election; Saxe featured prominently in party campaign messaging and her riding was chosen for the platform launch.[22] Housing policy and sprawl—key policy battles in Greater Toronto—were a focus of Saxe's campaign to curb Ontario emissions.[21] The official party platform listed mental health, affordable housing, and the climate economy as its primary election pillars.[23] Saxe concluded the race in University with 6,092 total votes for a share of 15.9%; the riding was won by the incumbent, New Democrat Jessica Bell.[24] Saxe nearly tripled the Green vote share achieved in the 2018 provincial election.

2022 Municipal Election[edit]

Toronto municipal Ward 11 University—Rosedale was left vacant for the 2022 election when councillor Mike Layton announced he would not seek re-election, citing family reasons.[25] Toronto ward slates typically fill up close to the filing date and Saxe was one of 14 candidates on the final list of August 19, amongst the highest totals in the city. Saxe is one of three or four candidates cited in early media reports as a key contender in the ward.[1][26] Broadcaster Ann Rohmer, one of the highest profile names on the ballot in Ward 11, withdrew early.[27]

Publications and media[edit]

After being the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Saxe reopened her SaxeFacts environmental law practice focussed on climate issues.[28] She publishes articles and a blog and presents on climate issues.[29][30][31][32][33] She was a McMurtry Clinical Fellow at Osgoode Hall Law School (2019-2020)[34] and is a senior fellow at Massey College and an adjunct professor at The University of Toronto School of the Environment. Her podcast, called "Green Economy Heroes" features interviews with green business leaders.[35] She has also been a public support to the youth climate strikes movement in Toronto.[36]


  • Environmental Offences Corporate Responsibility and Executive Liability (1990), Canada Law Book.[37]
  • A Buyer's Guide to Contaminated Land (1994), Edmond Montgomery.[38]
  • Ontario Environmental Protection Act Annotated (1990), Canada Law Book.[39]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Saxe is a recipient of numerous awards, including specialist certifications from The Law Society of Upper Canada,[3] Osgoode Hall Law School Alumni Gold Key for Achievement [40] and a 2020 Law Society Medal for exemplary leadership in environmental law.[41] In August 2020, Saxe completed her training to become an En-ROADS Climate Ambassador, a member in the international network that leads climate simulation events developed by Climate Interactive and the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative.[42] Saxe is also a trained Climate Reality Leader, having been personally trained by Al Gore on the climate crisis and its solutions.

Saxe sat on a number of public and private boards, including Draxis Health, Solarshare,[43] WindShare and Evergreen,[44] helped to manage the endowment of the Ontario Bar Association and is recognized as board-ready by Women in Capital Markets.[45] In June 2022, she was awarded an honourary doctorate of Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo.[46]


  1. ^ a b c Rider, David (August 20, 2022). "Your early guide to the brawling in Toronto's civic election: look for it in the ward races". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 10, 2022.
  2. ^ McIntosh, Emma (November 16, 2020). "Former environmental watchdog Dianne Saxe appointed deputy leader of Ontario Greens". National Observer.
  3. ^ a b c "Dianne Saxe '74, '91 (PhD) appointed Environmental Commissioner of Ontario". Osgoode Hall Law School. Osgoode Hall Law School. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  4. ^ "About Dianne Saxe". Slaw: Canada's Online Legal Magazine. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Rushowy, Kristin (October 8, 2021). "Political parties are aligning their stars for next year's Ontario election". The Toronto Star. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Dianne Saxe named Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Ontario". Green Party of Ontario. November 16, 2020. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  7. ^ "List of Candidates & Third Party Advertisers". City of Toronto. August 20, 2022. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  8. ^ "Morton Shulman and Saxe family | Ontario Jewish Archives". search.ontariojewisharchives.org.
  9. ^ "Chronology". Saxe Facts. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  10. ^ "Update on Blue Box Arbitration". Stewardship Ontario. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Law Document English View". Ontario.ca. July 24, 2014.
  12. ^ "Environmental Commissioner of Ontario calls upon province to take action in Chemical Valley". Ecojustice. October 25, 2017.
  13. ^ "Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's Report". Dragun Corporation. November 8, 2017.
  14. ^ "Raw sewage overflowing into waterways at alarming rate: Ontario watchdog". Global News. November 13, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  15. ^ Saxe, Dianne. "ECO Reports and Environmental Policies in Canada".
  16. ^ "Reports by Topic: Environment". Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. 2021. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  17. ^ "Opinion | Eliminating Ontario's environmental commissioner a short-sighted move". thestar.com. November 19, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  18. ^ "The environmental commissioner shows why the powers Doug Ford just eliminated are so important". TVO.org. November 22, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  19. ^ "Scientists' letter to Ford on the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario". Evidence For Democracy. December 4, 2018.
  20. ^ "Ontario environment commissioner exits warning of 'frightening' policies". March 27, 2019.
  21. ^ a b Appel, Jeremy (April 8, 2022). "Environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe credits Jewish values and concern for the planet for her role in Ontario's Green Party". Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  22. ^ a b Powers, Lucas (May 11, 2022). "Green Party campaign platform includes $65B for 'new climate economy,' major health-care promises". CBC. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  23. ^ "The Green Plan". Green Party of Ontario. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  24. ^ "Ontario Votes 2022". Encyclopedia of Things. CBC. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  25. ^ "Toronto councillor Mike Layton will not seek re-election in October". thestar.com. July 27, 2022. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  26. ^ "Amber Morley: Toronto Mike'd Podcast Episode 1101" (Podcast). Toronto Mike. August 19, 2022.
  27. ^ Lavoie, Joanna (August 28, 2022). "Journalist Ann Rohmer discontinues Toronto city councillor campaign". CTV News.
  28. ^ Saxe, Dianne. "Climate Change Toronto and the Climate Crisis". Saxe Facts.
  29. ^ Saxe, Dianne. "Informative Climate Law Articles".
  30. ^ "10 principles to guide the transition to a green economy". Open Canada. September 16, 2019.
  31. ^ Saxe, Dianne (April 21, 2020). "Canada's murky bailout deal for oil and gas will cost us all". National Observer.
  32. ^ Saxe, Dianne. "Learn More in our Climate Risk Management Blog".
  33. ^ Saxe, Dianne. "In-Depth and Informative Climate Presentations".
  34. ^ "Meet the McMurtry Fellows". Osgoode Hall Law School.
  35. ^ Saxe, Dianne. "Green Economy Heroes Climate Podcast".
  36. ^ ICI.Radio-Canada.ca, Zone Environnement-. "Outiller les jeunes pour la lutte contre les changements climatiques". Radio-Canada.ca (in Canadian French). Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  37. ^ Saxe, Dianne. Environmental offences : corporate responsibility and executive liability – via www.torontopubliclibrary.ca.
  38. ^ )) "Book Review - A Buyer's Guide to Contaminated Land, 1996 CanLIIDocs 14". Canlii.org. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  39. ^ "Ontario Environmental Protection Act Annotated". store.thomsonreuters.ca.
  40. ^ "Alumni Gold Key Recipients". Osgoode Hall Law School.
  41. ^ "Law Society announces 2020 award recipients". Law Society of Ontario. Law Society of Ontario. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  42. ^ "Meet our Ambassadors". Climate Interactive. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  43. ^ "SolarShare". SolarShare. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  44. ^ "Home | Evergreen". www.evergreen.ca. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  45. ^ "WCM Board Ready Directory". Women in Capital Markets. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  46. ^ "Inspiring leaders will receive honorary degrees from University of Waterloo". University of Waterloo. May 31, 2022. Retrieved June 22, 2022.

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