The Ontario government is consulting on changes to the province’s Conservation Authorities Act that would focus Conservation Authorities’ activities on a core mandate of protecting people and property from flooding and other natural hazards.
The changes would define the core mandatory programs and services provided by Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities to be natural hazard protection and management, conservation and management of conservation authority lands, drinking water source protection (as prescribed under the Clean Water Act, 2006), and protection of the Lake Simcoe watershed (as prescribed under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, 2008).
“The people of Ontario need our conservation authorities to be focused on dealing with the impacts of climate change and we must be certain that resources are being directed to programs and services that have the greatest impact on our communities while ensuring effective use of public funding,” said Environment, Conservation and Parks Rod Phillips in a statement.
Ontario is also looking at changes to the Conservation Authorities Act to:
- update how Conservation Authorities use municipal levies to pay for programs and services
- streamline and standardize the role Conservation Authorities play in permitting and municipal planning, reducing overlap and making approvals faster and less costly
- improve Conservation Authorities' governance and accountability.
Separately, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is proposing a new regulation that would reduce certain regulatory restrictions around wetlands, exempt low-risk development activities from permit requirements and allow for other exemptions at the Conservation Authority’s discretion.
Maverick MPP Randy Hillier, a long-standing critic of Conservation Authorities, has welcomed the proposed changes even though he believes they don’t go far enough.
“Many of the changes to Conservation Authorities that I have proposed and been talking to municipalities about have been posted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario for public feedback,” he wrote on his Facebook page on April 9, 2019. “However, it still falls short of returning Ontario’s Conservation Authorities back to their original mandate & purpose.”
Conservation Ontario, the umbrella organization that represents Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities, was still developing its response when contacted by EcoLog News on April 11, 2019.