Ontario Announces Working Group to Better Focus Conservation AuthoritiesPublished on December 20, 2020
The Ontario government is creating a working group to help implement changes to conservation authorities. Hassaan Basit, President and CEO of Conservation Halton will chair the new group which will provide input on the development of proposed regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act, and on how conservation authorities 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," said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. "I'd like to thank Hassaan Basit for the discussions over the last few weeks which helped inform some recent amendments to the legislative changes to ensure conservation authorities have the tools they need to protect their communities. I look forward to continuing our positive and constructive dialogue towards our shared goals."
As part of the government's commitment to ensuring conservation authorities focus and deliver on their core mandate of protecting people and property from flooding and other natural hazards and conserving natural resources, the province introduced legislative changes through Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act, 2020, which received Royal Assent on December 8, 2020. Amendments were made to the Bill based on valuable feedback from stakeholder groups, including conservation authorities.
The new working group will include representatives from conservation authorities and other experts. Representatives of the working group will be announced in the coming weeks.
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 and the transition period associated with non-mandatory programs and services, and
- How local members of the community can participate in their conservation authorities through community advisory boards.
"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," said Hassaan Basit, President and CEO, Conservation Halton. "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."
In addition to the input provided by Hassaan Basit and the working group, Ontario will also be seeking the public's feedback on regulatory and governance proposals through the Environmental Registry. Public consultation on these proposals is also expected to begin early in the new year.
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.
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