TORONTO - Another Ontario watchdog is jumping into the debate over the province's controversial eco fees.

Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller will issue a special report next Tuesday in response to the fee flap that forced the government to drop the levy earlier this week.

Much of the research was done in preparation for his annual report this fall, Miller said. But he decided to release the material early amid the public furor and the government's decision to retool the program over the next three months.

"We thought, well, it won't do any good for us to come out with our analysis in the fall," he said in an interview.

"It's best if we get in now to provide the analysis and the recommendations that we've come up with in this regard now, during the 90-day period when the government is reconsidering this stuff."

Miller declined to speak about his findings, saying he didn't want to pre-empt his own report.

But he said he does understand why there was a public uproar about the fees, which were quietly applied to thousands of household products July 1 — the same day consumers were hit with the new 13 per cent harmonized sales tax.

"I was entirely sympathetic to the kind of reaction, given the whole circumstances: the lack of public education and forewarning, and their appearance particularly at a time when everybody is paying attention to their sales slips because of the HST," Miller said.

"It's a time of heightened awareness and concern. So I fully understand the public's reaction."

Ombudsman Andre Marin has also promised to look into complaints about the eco fees, which sparked widespread confusion among retailers and consumers alike.

Environment Minister John Gerretsen dropped the fees Tuesday, but taxpayers are still on the hook for the program over the next 90 days.

Gerretsen estimated the government will spend up to $5 million to keep the program running while it's being revamped.

With Miller's report, taxpayers may finally get some answers about the eco fees, such as how the money is being spent, said Progressive Conservative critic Lisa MacLeod, who urged Miller to look into the fees.

"You can't tell me that on July 1st a tax magically appeared, but that's what happened here," she said.

"So someone dropped the ball. It's clearly Minister Gerretsen and the Environment Ministry, but why? How did that happen? So I think some of those questions will be answered."

Miller's decision to rush the delivery of his eco fee findings suggests the program has serious flaws, said NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns.

"It indicates that the program has got some real problems and that the environmental commissioner is worried that it's not actually doing what needs to be done," he said.

"If the fee was actually re-shaping the way companies dealt with toxic products, then I don't think we'd need any inquiry into it, but that doesn't appear to be what's going on."

The governing Liberals have been under fire for weeks about the eco fees, which range from a few cents to a couple of dollars.

The money helps fund a recycling program to divert potentially hazardous products such as fire extinguishers, laundry detergent and fertilizer from Ontario's landfills.

The government gave Stewardship Ontario — an industry-led, not-for-profit organization that oversees the program — the power to collect the fees, which were first introduced in 2008 on a small number of items.

But Stewardship Ontario didn't warn the public that the levy would be slapped on a wider array of products starting this month.

The "outsourcing" of environmental decisions to outside agencies needs to be examined, Miller said.

"We have to really look at this," he said.

On Monday, Canadian Tire announced it would stop charging the fee, blaming the widespread confusion on a botched rollout and a complex fee structure that no one really understood.

Hours later, the government was signalling its retreat on the despised eco fee.

It's yet another government stumble on the path to making Ontario more environmentally friendly, angering consumers and businesses and leading to embarrassing retreats.

Miller's announcement came one day after he blasted the Liberals for slashing the guaranteed rate for small solar-panel projects by 27 per cent.

The Ontario Power Authority angered many green energy producers July 2 when it dropped a very lucrative guaranteed payment for ground-mounted solar energy projects from 80.2 cents a kilowatt hour to 58.8 cents. Only rooftop solar projects will qualify for 80.2 cents per kwh.

Earlier this year, the Liberals quietly introduced a new tax on electricity to raise $53 million for conservation and green energy programs.

It amounts to about $4 a year for the average household, but that still prompted the Opposition to call it another "sneaky tax grab."

The Liberals have yet to deliver on their promise to close all of Ontario's coal-fired electrical generating stations by 2007, a date that was pushed back several times in subsequent years and is now set for 2014.