LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Responding to Conservation Authorities critiques

Seaway News Staff
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Responding to Conservation Authorities critiques
Jim McDonell by the barbecue tent at the annual riding barbecue in 2019 (John MacGillis/ Seaway News photo).

Dear John Towndrow, Susan Towndrow, Kevin Parkinson,

Thank you for your letter to the Editor regarding the changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act through Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020.

We have heard through numerous discussions with municipalities, groups and citizens that now more than ever, conservation authorities need to be focused on their core mandate of protecting people and property from the impacts of natural hazards, conservation and management of conservation authority-owned lands, and their roles in drinking water source protection.

Improving the governance of conservation authorities and ensuring they are focused on their core mandate is also in line with Protecting People and Property: Ontario’s Flooding Strategy, Ontario’s first comprehensive plan to strengthen strengthening flood preparedness, response and recovery.

The recently passed amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act ensure conservation authorities focus on their core mandate and improve their governance, oversight and accountability. They also respect taxpayer dollars by giving municipalities more say over the additional services they contract and pay the conservation authority to perform.

Conservation authorities will continue to develop and deliver local, watershed-based resource management programs on behalf of the province and municipalities. They will also be able to provide non-mandatory programs and services, including those for environmental protection and rehabilitation, private land stewardship programs to remediate erosion of stream banks, water quality improvements, and more. They will continue to conserve and manage their own lands, including natural heritage features, provincially significant conservation lands and wetlands, areas of scientific and natural interest, the habitat of endangered species, and more.

The proposed changes reflect feedback the Government has received through discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders. The amendments will enable greater flexibility for municipalities to appoint members to a conservation authority, provide an appeal process for conservation authority decisions under certain provisions of the Planning Act, and enable conservation authorities to issue stop-work orders to address activities that could cause significant damage or jeopardize human safety.

Additionally, our Government has created a working group to help implement these changes. The recently announced working group includes Chairs and participants from conservation authorities in all regions of the province, a representative from Conservation Ontario, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. The working group representatives were selected by the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, with input from its Chair, Hassaan Basit, President and CEO of Conservation Halton. Please see the full list of representatives at https://www.ontario.ca/page/conservation-authorities.

Jim McDonell

Member of Provincial Parliament
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry

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