Within the Province’s latest budget bill (Bill 229), issued November 5, were a number of changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act that will limit conservation authorities’ role in protecting Ontario’s environment and ensuring people and property are safe from natural hazards. Public consultation is not required on these proposals as it has been incorporated as part of the budget.
- Changes would authorize the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to take over and decide a development permit application in place of a conservation authority. Conservation authorities are science-based, non-partisan agencies. Granting permitting authority to the Minister would take science out of the equation, effectively politicizing the permitting process and allowing for development that may be considered unsafe or damaging to the natural environment.
- One of the reasons the province decided to amend the Conservation Authorities Act is to streamline the planning and permitting process. But the proposed changes will actually create more costs, delays and red tape as multiple avenues of appeal are made available, which will short-circuit the development review process.
- Proposed changes would prohibit conservation authorities from independently appealing decisions made around permits and municipal planning applications. This can put more people and infrastructure at risk and add additional stressors to our local environment.
- The Board acts on behalf of the watershed and its residents. Proposed changes would direct board members to act only on behalf of the municipality they represent, contradicting recent recommendations by Ontario’s Auditor General. Moreover, for members to act only on behalf of their municipality is counter to the intent of the Conservation Authorities Act, which was to transcend political boundaries for municipalities sharing a watershed to collectively manage and protect its resources.
- Proposed changes would remove the un-proclaimed provision for conservation authorities to issue stop work orders, a new tool in our enforcement toolbox that we had long requested from the province. This tool would provide the ability to stop significant threats to life, property and environmentally sensitive areas before having to resort to costly fines and prosecution.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Raise your voice…Take Action Now. Support Conservation Authorities and Our Environment
It’s time, now more than ever, to stand up for your local conservation authority. LTC is encouraging residents and watershed partners to reach out to the following individuals to request them to:
Withdraw Schedule 6 of the Budget Measures Act (Bill 229) Continue to work with conservation authorities to find workable solutions to reduce red tape and create conditions for growth Respect the current conservation authority/municipal relationships Embrace their long-standing partnership with the conservation authorities and provide them with the tools and financial resources they need to effectively implement their watershed management role