Province creates working group focused on changes to conservation authorities

·3 min read

ONTARIO – The Ontario government announced the development of a working group to help implement changes to the province’s conservation authorities.

The new group will provide input on the development of proposed regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act and how conservation authorities (CAs) are governed.

“As we move forward together, we want to build stronger relationships with conservation authorities so we can work together to ensure consistent best practices, good governance and appropriate accountability to best serve the people of Ontario,” Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks said in a press release on Dec. 16.

The province introduced legislative changes through Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act, 2020, which received Royal Assent on Dec. 8.

Feedback from stakeholder groups, including conservation authorities, helped to create the amendments, according to the press release.

Phil Beard, Maitland Conservation’s (MC) general manager, said they are looking forward to participating in the working group.

“It allows CAs to provide input to the development of the regulations, along with other interested stakeholders,” he said.

“We look forward to seeing details on the membership of the working group and how it will work.”

“One of the key things we would be looking for would be the inclusion of the CA’s science-based watershed approach and watershed stewardship services, such as tree planting and soil and water conservation,” added Beard.

The new working group will include representatives from CAs and other experts, the press release said, and they will be announced soon.

Once they begin work in January, the working group will provide input to help the province develop regulations that will focus on:

-the mandatory core programs and services conservation authorities would be required to provide;

-the agreements between municipalities and conservation authorities, the transition period associated with non-mandatory programs and services; and

-how local community members can participate in their conservation authorities through community advisory boards.

Hassaan Basit, president and CEO of Conservation Halton, will chair the new group.

“Partnerships and collaboration are critical to ensure that conservation authorities can continue making watershed-based resource management decisions in the interest of the environment, health, and safety,” Basit said.

“Alongside conservation authorities across Ontario, Conservation Halton is looking forward to working with the province, offering scientific expertise and leadership, in the development of regulations pertaining to recent amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act contained in Bill 229.”

Ontario will also be seeking the public’s feedback on regulatory and governance proposals through the Environmental Registry.

Quick Facts

The Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act, 2020 included amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act such as:

- Enabling officers appointed by conservation authorities to issue stop-work orders, defined in a way that is consistent with entry powers without warrants. This will help ensure conservation authorities have effective enforcement tools in place to stop significant threats and impacts to the environment.

- Requiring 70 per cent of members appointed to a conservation authority by a participating municipality be members of council, as well as allowing the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to provide an exception from this rule at the request of a municipality.

- Allowing conservation authorities to appeal or be party to an appeal as a public body, under certain provisions of the Planning Act in the context of prescribed natural hazards matters.

- Ontario is served by 36 conservation authorities.

- The Ontario government recently announced a $30 million investment in a new Wetlands Conservation Partner Program to help conservation organizations create and restore wetlands in priority areas across the province.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times