Say NO to Schedule 6 attack on Conservation Authorities
Nottawasaga River -Gary Christie photo
Action Alert – We Need Our Conservation Authorities
From the Canadian Environmental Law Association – Scroll down for Environmental Defence, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and others
On November 5, 2020, the Ontario government tabled omnibus budget measures Bill 229 in the Ontario Legislature, Schedule 6 of which proposes fundamental changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and to the conservation authorities’ role in land use planning.
Bill 229 is the most recent in a disturbing trend of using omnibus budget measures bills to make substantial changes to environmental laws, thereby sidestepping the public’s right to comment under the Environmental Bill of Rights.
In CELA’s view, the proposed changes to conservation authorities in Bill 229 will not achieve the crucially important goal of building climate resilience for Ontario. To the contrary, the package of amendments as proposed are likely to set back watershed planning and implementation of an ecosystem based approach by decades.
CELA recommends that Schedule 6 not be enacted in its present form and instead be withdrawn in its entirety from Bill 229.
Further, CELA recommends that the Ontario government immediately seek to ensure that the current mandate of the province’s 36 conservation authorities is maintained and enhanced, in order to effectively protect, restore and manage the watersheds where 95 percent of the people of Ontario reside.
Conservation Authorities need our help
Call your MPP and ask them to drop Schedule 6 from the budget bill
Conservation Authorities keep our environment safe. Now the Ontario Government is gutting them.
The Ontario government has just launched an all-out attack on Ontario’s protected forests and wetlands.
Hidden in their latest budget Bill is a clause that will take away any control over the protection of our precious wetlands, forests, wildlife habitat and natural spaces from Conservation Authorities, and give huge new powers to developers to push through destructive projects.
Worse, by sneaking through these changes buried in a budget bill, the government is avoiding public consultation that is normally required on laws that impact the environment.
That’s why we need every MPP to hear about this so that they push to remove schedule 6, which guts Conservation Authorities, from the budget Bill.
Conservation Authorities are a vital line of defence for the natural spaces that mitigate flood risk, provide precious land for hiking, fishing and escape into nature and provide essential habitat for the many species of wildlife, including endangered species that call Ontario home. If we lose these spaces, we can’t get them back.
Key talking points for your call:
1. Introduce yourself (let them know that you are a constituent).
2. Ask them to remove Schedule 6 from Bill 229 (Ontario budget bill) and protect Ontario’s wetlands and forests.
3. Tell them Schedule 6 only benefits developers.
4. Explain why protecting Ontario’s wetlands and forests are important to you and your community.
5. Thank them, and remember to leave your contact information and request they return your call. You will most likely just be leaving a message, so asking to speak to someone in person is very powerful.
Changes to Conservation Authorities Act are irresponsible and unjustified
Ford government eviscerates CA powers putting environment and property at risk
Lake Simcoe, Ontario – Last week the province of Ontario snuck changes to Conservation Authorities’ (CAs) powers into their budget bill, which could be passed without consultation as early as next week. The proposed changes are widely regarded by the environmental community as a vindictive stab at the environment and CAs led by the Premier’s Office. Critics argue that these changes will undermine the effectiveness of CAs. Additionally these changes will add costs and “red tape” for both the CAs and those seeking development permits in lands now regulated by CAs.
The proposed changes include:
-Creating a mechanism for the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to use his/her “opinion” to override the science-based decisions of Conservation Authorities regarding the protection of wetlands, woodlands, endangered species habitats and flood protection;
-Forcing Conservation Authority Board members to “generally act on behalf of their respective municipalities” instead of the goals and objectives of the Conservation Authority and the watershed health it was entrusted to protect; and
-Tangle up permitting processes while providing appeal rights for developers, and adding red tape and costs for all involved.
Conservation Authorities have professionally trained staff, including ecologists and hydrologists, who are best qualified to understand the impacts of development on key environmental features. By taking over control to authorize or deny development permits, the Ontario government will help the development industry continue to destroy key forests, wetlands, and recreational areas across the province. This will allow, for example, the province to ensure the destruction of the coastal wetland in Lower Duffins Creek to proceed despite the objection of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Town of Ajax and thousands of citizens’ objections.
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition’s Executive Director, Claire Malcolmson, was invited to participate in the province’s public consultation on Conservation Authorities, and did not hear an overwhelming call for the radical changes advanced by the Province. The Province has not released details on how they made the CA Act change proposal in relation to the comments received in their public consultation process. This is where an independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario would have been helpful, but eliminating the independence of that position was one of the first attacks on the environment completed by this provincial administration.
“Despite promises in the Made in Ontario Environment Plan, these changes will have negative effects on water quality, natural area protection, and will make us more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including heavy rain and flooding events. The proposed changes put downstream homeowners at greater risk of flooding, as the permitting and oversight powers of CA’s in the planning process have been gutted,” says Malcolmson.
The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) has developed leading-edge policies and programs that help to minimize the significant impacts of development on water quality, which were enabled by the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, but not acted on by the Province. Developers are for the most part doing their part to participate and are thereby reducing harm to Lake Simcoe as compared to a pre-Lake Simcoe Protection Plan scenario. The LSRCA has also developed an exceptional Natural Heritage and Restoration Strategy, a key tool in achieving the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan’s natural heritage protection targets. If the LSRCA is changed in the ways proposed by the Province, no regulator will be taking care of Lake Simcoe.
Changes to Conservation Authorities Act Trigger Red Flags for Conservation Ontario
from Conservation Ontario November 6 2020
Conservation Ontario and the conservation authorities (CAs) are reviewing the Province’s changes to the Conservation Authorities Act (CA Act) which were released in the 2020 Ontario Budget yesterday.
“There are a number of changes that we feel could have significant impact on conservation authorities, and on their watershed management responsibilities,” said Kim Gavine, General Manager of Conservation Ontario (CO). Conservation Ontario is the association which represents Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities.
The CA Act has been under review by the Province since April 2019. Earlier this year, the Minister of Environment, Parks and Conservation (MECP) hosted a series of five consultation meetings across the province with invited representatives primarily from municipalities, conservation authorities and agriculture, landowner and development sectors. Conservation Ontario was a presenter at these sessions.
“There are a number of changes that could actually create more red tape and delay permit application approvals and I’m not sure that’s what the Province intended to do,” Gavine pointed out. Over the past two years, CO has been working with CAs, the development sector and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to develop better streamlined client service approaches for CAs to use when reviewing plan review and permit applications. The initiative has been well-received and is ongoing.
As well, changes have been made to the planning role for conservation authorities which could actually put more people at threat, rather than protect them from natural hazards. “One of our main goals throughout this review has been to maintain the conservation authorities’ watershed- based approach to protecting people from natural hazards and ensuring the conservation of Ontario’s natural resources. Some of the changes will impact the CAs’ ability to do so,” Gavine said.
Some of the other changes included in yesterday’s budget bill (Bill 229) are around new rules for CA Board appointments, scoping of non-mandatory programs and services, and creation of new Ministerial powers.
“If nothing else, pandemic conditions this year have certainly reinforced how much we rely on a healthy environment for our own well-being,” Gavine said. “It’s important that conservation authorities are able to continue to protect our natural environment and ensure the safety of Ontario residents.”
The 2020 Ontario budget accelerates attacks on the environment on behalf of special interests
from Environmental Defence November 6 2020
Legal changes hidden in the budget show the Ontario government is accelerating its attack on the environment on behalf of developer and industry interests at the expense of the public and future generations.
Proposed changes include:
-Creating a mechanism to override the science-based decisions of Conservation Authorities regarding the protection of wetlands, woodlands, endangered species habitats and flood protection
-Permanent exemption of the forest industry from compliance with the Endangered Species Act
“The Ontario government is busy taking apart 75 years of progress in preventing and mitigating the impacts of flooding, preserving forests, wetlands and protecting our sources of clean drinking water,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “Replacing the science-based decisions of Conversation Authorities with political ones that serve developer interests is a recipe for disaster.”
Conservation Authorities have professionally trained staff, including ecologists and hydrologists, who are best placed to understand the impacts of development on key environmental features. By taking over control to authorize or deny development permits, the Ontario government will help the development industry continue to destroy key forests, wetlands, and recreational areas across the province. This will allow, for example, the province to ensure the destruction of the coastal wetland in Lower Duffins Creek to proceed over the objection of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Town of Ajax and thousands of citizens objections.
Similarly, the province’s further gutting of protection for endangered species is a long sought goal of the forest industry, as it continues to extirpate woodland caribou from Ontario’s boreal forest.
“Now the forest industry will be free to ignore the plight of woodland caribou and other species that are threatened with extinction or extirpation,” said Tim Gray.
These proposed changes will be exempt from public consultation because they are contained in a budget bill.