Modernizing conservation authority operations - Conservation Authorities Act

ERO number
013-5018
Notice type
Act
Act
Conservation Authorities Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
April 5, 2019 - May 21, 2019 (46 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
April 5, 2019
to May 21, 2019

Decision summary

We amended the Conservation Authorities Act to ensure that conservation authorities focus on their core mandate and to improve public transparency, consistency, and accountability in conservation authorities’ operations.

Decision details

We updated the Conservation Authorities Act to improve public transparency, accountability and consistency in conservation authorities’ operations. These changes:

  • define the core mandatory programs and services offered by conservation authorities as programs and services related to: the risk of natural hazards; conservation and management of conservation authority owned or controlled lands; drinking water source protection; and the protection of the Lake Simcoe watershed
  • allow the government to prescribe by regulation, for a limited period of time, additional programs and services as mandatory
  • increase transparency in how conservation authorities levy municipalities for mandatory and non-mandatory programs and services
  • establish a transition period and process for conservation authorities and municipalities to enter into agreement for municipal funding of non-mandatory programs and services
  • enable the minister to appoint an investigator to investigate or undertake an audit and report on a conservation authority.
  • clarify that the duty of conservation authority board members is to act with a view to furthering the objects of the conservation authority

Comments received

Through the registry

381

By email

97

By mail

17
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

We received feedback to our proposal to modernize conservation authorities’ operations through a 46-day Environmental Registry posting. All comments were reviewed and considered.

A large number of comments focused on the proposed amendments to prescribe mandatory programs and services for authorities and require authorities to enter into agreements with each participating municipality to provide non-mandatory programs and services. The response to the proposed amendments was mixed:

  • in general, those who were supportive of these amendments were in favour of clarifying the mandate of conservation authorities, focusing conservation authorities’ work on these activities, and putting more control over conservation authority budgets into the hands of each participating municipality
  • concerns were raised that conservation authorities’ mandatory programs and services were being defined too narrowly, and that the proposed system would undermine the watershed-based collective decision-making model of conservation authorities, add administrative burden, and create inconsistency in programs and services within each conservation authority.

To address the comments that conservation authorities’ mandatory programs and services were being defined too narrowly, a provision was added to the amendments of the Conservation Authorities Act allowing the government to prescribe additional programs and services in a mandatory programs and services regulation for a limited period of time.

Overall, there was support for provisions to improve transparency and accountability.

The provision to add new investigative powers for the Province was generally supported, with the caveat from some that reasonable grounds for inquiry and conditions under which an authority may be required to pay for the inquiry should be specified.

There was a more mixed response to the amendment specifying that the duty of members of conservation authority boards is to act with a view to furthering the objects of the authority. The responses ranged from complete support for the provision to some concern that this duty could cause confusion about members’ duty to act in the interest of the municipalities they represent.

Supporting materials

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Sam Lyon

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Source Protection Programs Branch
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Original proposal

ERO number
013-5018
Notice type
Act
Act
Conservation Authorities Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

April 5, 2019 - May 21, 2019 (46 days)

Proposal details

Conservation Authorities Act

The Conservation Authorities Act, an Act introduced in 1946, enables programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario. Under the Act, 36 conservation authorities were created at the request of municipalities. They are governed by municipally appointed representatives to deliver local resource management programs at a watershed scale for both provincial and municipal interests.

The initial focus of conservation authorities was to prevent flooding, erosion, drought, and deforestation through improved land, water and forestry management practices. As extreme weather, particularly heavy rains and flooding becomes more frequent due to climate change, the core frontline role that conservation authorities play in our communities is becoming increasingly important. Since the 1940s when the Act was established, the programs and services delivered by conservation authorities have expanded. Conservation authorities are the second largest landowners in Ontario, next to the Province; collectively they own and manage 146,000 hectares of land in Ontario.

Summary of proposed changes

We are proposing to make amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act, an Act introduced in 1946 that would, if passed:

  • clearly define the core mandatory programs and services provided by conservation authorities to be, natural hazard protection and management, conservation and management of conservation authority lands, drinking water source protection (as prescribed under the Clean Water Act), and protection of the Lake Simcoe watershed (as prescribed under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act)
  • increase transparency in how conservation authorities levy municipalities for mandatory and non-mandatory programs and services. Update the Conservation Authorities Act an Act introduced in 1946, to conform with modern transparency standards by ensuring that municipalities and conservation authorities review levies for non-core programs after a certain period of time (e.g., 4 to 8 years)
  • establish a transition period (e.g. 18 to 24 months) and process for conservation authorities and municipalities to enter into agreements for the delivery of non-mandatory programs and services and meet these transparency standards
  • enable the Minister to appoint an investigator to investigate or undertake an audit and report on a conservation authority
  • clarify that the duty of conservation authority board members is to act in the best interest of the conservation authority, similar to not-for profit organizations.

We are also proposing to proclaim un-proclaimed provisions of the Conservation Authorities Act related to:

  • fees for programs and services
  • transparency and accountability
  • approval of projects with provincial grants
  • recovery of capital costs and operating expenses from municipalities (municipal levies)
  • regulation of areas over which conservation authorities have jurisdiction (e.g., development permitting)
  • enforcement and offences
  • additional regulations.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is consulting on a proposal to streamline and focus conservation authorities development permitting and role in municipal plan review. For more information, visit Environmental Registry 013-4992.

In the spring 2019, we will also develop and consult on a suite of regulatory and policy proposals to support the proposed amendments to and proclamation of un-proclaimed provisions of the Conservation Authorities Act.

Purpose of Act

As extreme weather events increasingly threaten our homes, businesses and infrastructure, conservation authorities play a key frontline role in helping Ontario families and businesses prepare for the cost and impact of climate change in their communities.

Conservation authorities also play an important role in Ontario’s land use planning and environmental protection process. They not only help protect people and property from extreme weather, such as flooding and other natural hazards, but they also are essential to protecting sources of drinking water and conserving our province’s natural resources.

It important that conservation authorities refocus on delivering their core mandate.

To support this, the government is consulting with stakeholders and the public on how conservation authorities can improve delivery of their core programs and services, as outlined in our made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.

Please see Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019 for proposed legislation.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from April 5, 2019
to May 21, 2019

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