• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Please respond to Ford government survey on conservation authorities

In Agencies
Feb 21st, 2020

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

4 Responses to “Please respond to Ford government survey on conservation authorities”

  1. Gaia Seagram says:

    As a landqwner of provincially significant wetlands at Thunder Beach, Tiny, |Ontario. I am very concerned that the government of Ontario could consider reducing the scope of involvement
    of Conservation Authorities in planning processes.
    A number of young family friends and relatives who have recently purchased new homes in subdivisions built across central Ontario (Elmvale, Collingwood, Barrie) are now trying to deal with wet basements, mold and flooding. It is clear that proper assessment of building sites was not undertaken.
    Building design and location must be adapted to the realities of building sites. You can not build down full basements on land which is close to wetlands or has a clay base. The safe amount to go down needs to be carefully studied with all stakeholders at the table.
    Subdivisions are the short term vision way to build a lot of houses quickly for a lot of families.
    Unfortunately the shoddy materials used, the rapid often sloppy, careless way buildings are erected is not obvious to the majority of young home buyers. These houses are no good after 25-30 years.
    What a waste. Competent architects need to be hired, quality control needs to be enforced, and a long term vision which considers size of building to lot, lot landscaping to ensure good drainage away from building and sensible choice of durable building materials. When building in bulk prices for quality can come down. Who is overseeing this?
    Please keep the Conservation Authorities’ place secure on planning committees and boards at all government levels.

    • Conservation Authorities serve a very important role in our communities. They protect our water sources and soil health. They ensure building safety by ensuring that sites for development are not detrimental for future buyers and are not harmful to our environment. In my own community, Essa, the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority has provided many services to the public to safeguard our water table. They ensure that old well are decommissioned in a safe fashion, and have many public initiatives to protect our environment. In our current climate crisis, we need our conservation authorities more than ever. There should be increased investment in these very important protectors of our natural environment.

  2. Heather Belanger says:

    I am very concerned about our local conservation authority (NVCA) lack of action and disappointing track record of carrying out their mandate when private landowners disregard the law mandating permits when performing work on their property. The role of CA’s should certainly not be reduced but at the same time, they need to proactively do their job, protect watersheds, environmentally sensitive lands… Their salaries are paid by us taxpayers.

  3. Holly Levinter says:

    Ford seems to have no respect for the environment in any way. He is even thinking about housing in the Greenbelt area and Downsview Park. He has cut resources to environmental groups and ministries, animal protection and basically made the SPCA toothless. Well, it was to an extent anyway but the perception was that it protected and removed neglected and abused animals. Our whole environment must be protected. We need our water protected, air protected, farmers who produce our food protected. We need green space to absorb toxins, we need our forests protected. We need to make trades attractive to young people. What we don’t need is $1.00 beer.

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