Please respond to Ford government survey on conservation authorities
Recent Ontario environment ministry invitation-only consultation on Conservation Authorities. -Conservation Ontario photo
From Kelsey Scarfone Environmental Defence
Over the last several weeks, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has been hosting invitation-only in-person consultation sessions regarding the Conservation Authorities Act. The primary audiences involved in these multi-stakeholder meetings were: municipalities, development corporations and associations, land owners’ associations, and conservation organizations.
While there was a lot of positive support and feedback at these sessions, there were also strong and adamant messages that conservation authorities be removed from the planning process and have their mandate and scope limited.
The workbooks presented at the meetings have now been adapted into a survey, and posted on Ontario.ca. The deadline to respond is March 13, 2020.
Considering the extremely limited environmental voice at the in-person sessions, we’re hoping the broader community will participate in large numbers for the online consultation. We encourage groups and individuals from across Ontario to submit feedback in the survey.
Below are some bullet points for consideration while responding to the questions. Don’t feel compelled to answer everything. If relevant, think about your personal experiences with conservation authorities and conservation areas and include your stories when responding.
Conservation Ontario has posted a backgrounder and their presentation from the meetings which will also be helpful. Those resources can be found here.
Some other things to keep in mind for the survey:
-The Conservation Authorities’ (CAs) role in planning decisions under the Planning Act and the Environmental Assessment Act ensure that developments do not result in changes to the floodplain and the natural heritage that would put communities at risk of flooding. The role of CAs in planning needs to be maintained.
-Other jurisdictions, such as Ohio, who have watershed coordinators without any legislative or regulatory authority, have found that to be a major barrier in meaningful watershed planning and flood protection.
-Watershed scale monitoring and planning support the “core” programs of flood mitigation, natural hazards, drinking water source protection, and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. Monitoring programs are necessary for delivery of these “core” programs prescribed by the province. Additionally, they hold significant value in broader environmental protections including land conservation, issues of water quality, and ecological restoration.
-The Flood Advisor’s report showed strong support for the Conservation Authority model in protecting Ontario from the risks of climate change. This model only works if CAs are given the regulatory power necessary to intervene on planning decisions in terms of watershed resilience to climate change and flooding.
-CAs partner with local environmental and conservation groups, farmers, and their communities to deliver regionally significant projects including rehabilitating natural heritage, implementing agricultural best practices, and restoring or creating wetlands. They often provide match funding, in addition to the on-the-ground expertise and relationships with the local community.
-In addition to flood mitigation, several environmental issues are best addressed at the watershed scale therefore CAs play a key role in the sustainability of our province across multiple issues. For example, the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan relies on the Lake Erie CAs for delivery of several projects, as well as monitoring and modeling phosphorus reductions.
As mentioned, there may be survey questions that are not relevant to you or your organization – feel free to leave those sections blank. Any concern or feedback you want to relay that is not prompted by the questions can be expanded on in Section 5: Additional feedback.
Kelsey Scarfone is water program manager for Environmental Defence