Proposed revisions to Ontario’s Independent Forest Audit Regulation under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act

ERO number
019-1006
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994
Posted by
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
December 20, 2019 - February 18, 2020 (60 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
December 20, 2019
to February 18, 2020

Decision summary

We have decided to proceed with the proposal as described, which will improve transparency, reduce burdens for industry and ensure our crown forests continue to be sustainably managed.

Decision details

A decision was made on July 21, 2020 to proceed with the proposal as described, subject to modifications made in response to public comments.  Changes take effect with the posting of this decision notice and apply to the implementation of the 2021 program. Removal of tabling requirements and new status reporting requirements take effect immediately.

Ontario Regulation 160/04 has been amended to:

  • provide for more timely public reporting by replacing to the requirement to table audit reports in the legislature with a requirement to make them available online
  • establish a ten-year audit period with the possibility of a 2-year extension
  • expand on the circumstances that may be taken into consideration in granting extensions
  • provide flexibility in scheduling audits and in determining how many are conducted annually
  • replace the action plan status report with a requirement to report on the completion of actions in management unit annual reports
  • update regulatory language to align with the current administrative and policy framework

These changes will:

  • support Ontario’s draft Forest Sector Strategy which focuses on promoting stewardship and sustainability of our forests, providing certainty for the forest sector, and creating good jobs for northern and rural communities
  • balance audit workload more evenly between years and improve audit timing and effectiveness, while maintaining rigorous oversight and sustainable management of Ontario’s Crown forests.

These changes will not significantly change the process for conducting an audit once decided an audit shall take place.

Comments received

Through the registry

16

By email

44

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

The proposal was posted on the Environmental Registry for a period of 60 days from December 20, 2019 to February 18, 2020.  Additional comments from First Nations (FN) and Métis communities were accepted until March 13, 2020.  Indigenous sessions were held across Ontario in January 2020 to solicit input on Ontario’s draft Forest Sector Strategy.  The following is a summary of substantive comments and how they were taken into consideration:

1. Reducing costs and streamlining program delivery

Comments included support for cost savings through proposed changes, including a longer audit period, a balanced schedule and efficiencies through a risk-based approach to the implementation of audits / consideration of forest certification. Changes will not reduce the effectiveness of the Independent Forest Audit (IFA) program and its pivotal role in Ontario’s sustainable forest management framework.

Response

A longer audit period and greater flexibility to update the audit schedule to adjust for a range of circumstances will result in improved audit timing and effectiveness, while a balanced audit schedule will enable improved allocation of limited resources.  In implementation, we will explore efficiencies with forest certification standards, possibly in relation to:  a) auditor risk assessment, b) optional criteria and procedures and/or c) areas of scope overlap; and in modifications to the sampling approach for a longer audit period.

2. First Nations participation in forest audits

There was a concern that changes benefit only government and forest industry and do nothing to benefit or increase participation/role of First Nations and Métis communities in IFAs.

Response

Audit process requirements for First Nations and Métis communities will not change. Indigenous communities will continue to be able to participate in audits.  Changes are intended to promote greater productivity and resource efficiency for the implementation of the IFA​ program.  Indigenous people may seek engagement as auditors.

3. Establishing a ten-year audit period

     a. Comments included concerns that the changes would that reduced government oversight in forest operations would and negatively impact sustainable forest management and the environment in general.

Response

We will continue to maintain oversight and protection of the environment through Ontario’s forest policy framework. The forest management planning manual and forest management guides provide planning and operational direction based on the best available science. The provincial forest compliance program ensures that forest operations conform to the standards and rules under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. Many companies are certified to internationally-recognized forest certification standards, providing an additional level of public assurance that forests are well managed.

     bThere was concern that non-compliant operations may go undetected and uncorrected, resulting in increased potential for environmental damage.

Response

Forest operations compliance inspections identify operational issues and address them through corrective actions. Many companies are also certified to internationally-recognized forest certification standards, providing additional opportunity to identify and address non-compliance. 

     cThere were concerns around audit timing and the availability of audit results for consideration in forest management planning. 

Response

Increasing the audit period to match the term of forest management plans while still allowing audit extensions will help to improve audit timing.  Effective timing will enable audit results to be used in forest management planning without placing additional demands on planning teams during plan production. Changes will not affect auditor independence or the process for conducting an audit once it is decided an audit shall take place.  

     d. There were concerns that increasing the length of the audit period would impact continuity from one audit to the next.  Changes in leadership and staff between audits would make it difficult to follow up on assigned actions and ensure they have been completed.

Response

We are improving continuity between audits by replacing the one-time action plan status report  and its replacement with a forest management planning manual requirement to report on action completion in management unit annual reports.

     e. There was concern that reducing the frequency of audits might be detrimental where circumstances might suggest that the frequency of audits should be increased, not reduced.

Response

Although the minimum audit frequency has been increased to ten years, there are a range of factors which may be considered in determining the timing of forest audits, including the results of previous forest audits, whether concerns from the previous audit have been addressed and whether scheduling an audit is in the public interest.  If circumstances warrant, the IFA regulation enables audits to be held more frequently.

4. Public Release of Audit Reports

There was concern that replacing the requirement to table audit reports in the legislature with a requirement to make available online will not result in the same awareness of audit results.

Response

Removing the requirement to table audit reports in the legislature will not diminish their importance.  The timely online posting of audit reports and action plans without having to wait for the reports to be tabled in the legislature will increase transparency and maintain their value and utility to the public.

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.

Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch
Address

70 Foster Drive
Suite 400
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
P6A 6V5
Canada

Office phone number

Connect with us

Contact

Nick Baggs, Senior Policy Advisor

Phone number
Email address
Office
Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch
Address

70 Foster Drive
Suite 400
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
P6A 6V5
Canada

Office phone number

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Original proposal

ERO number
019-1006
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994
Posted by
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Proposal posted

Comment period

December 20, 2019 - February 18, 2020 (60 days)

Proposal details

Ontario’s forest industry generates over $16 billion in revenue and supports approximately 155,000 direct and indirect jobs in communities across the province. Our wood and wood products are globally recognized as coming from forests that are responsibly and sustainably managed. We are also recognized as innovators and leaders in the global industry. And yet Ontario’s forest sector has not been able to reach its full potential.

On December 4, 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry released a draft Forest Sector Strategy that aims to stimulate job creation, promote economic growth, and reduce unnecessary burden and costs for businesses, all while ensuring Ontario’s forests continue to be managed sustainably.

The plan to create a provincial strategy for the forest sector was announced in September 2018. Since that time, the ministry has heard from Indigenous partners, industry and municipal leaders through seven roundtables across the province. Input was also received from the public through survey and email submissions.

Based on feedback, four main areas of focus were identified to shape the draft strategy: promoting stewardship and sustainability; putting more wood to work; improving our cost competitiveness; fostering innovation, markets and talent.

The Ministry is proposing changes to Ontario Regulation 160/04, Independent Forest Audits to provide flexibility for selecting and scheduling management units (MU) for audit.

Administrative changes are also proposed to better reflect the current policy framework for the IFA program, and to improve transparency by replacing the requirement to table audit reports in the legislature with the requirement to make final audit reports available to the public on a publicly accessible website.

Our goal is to reduce total program costs and workload for the forest industry and streamline program delivery by government, while maintaining the effectiveness of the program to ensure that Ontario’s Crown forests are managed in accordance with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA). The proposal would provide for an audit to be carried out in each MU at least once every 10 years.

The proposal would also allow the Minister to extend the 10-year audit period for a MU in order to achieve any of a range of objectives, including, but not limited to supporting:

  • preparation, implementation, renewal, or extension of forest management plans, or the development of a contingency plan, and other related forest management needs
  • decisions regarding the designation, amalgamation or division of MUs
  • decisions regarding the issuance, amendment, or transfer of a forest resource license, and the review of licensee compliance
  • balancing the number of audits to be carried out annually in particular areas of the Crown forest

In the course of determining whether the audit period for a particular MU should be extended, the Minister would be required to consider a range of factors, including:

  • timeliness of the audit to support the objectives described above
  • length of time since the previous audit
  • the results of previous IFAs related to the MU
  • the status of actions responding to recommendations or findings in a previous IFA on the MU

Although changes could involve reducing the frequency of IFAs and/or modifying the audit scope, they would not significantly change the process for conducting an IFA on a MU once selected. Changes are intended to come into effect for the 2021 IFA program.

For more information on IFAs, please see the related external links section below.

Public consultation opportunities

This proposal has been posted for a 60-day public review and comment period starting December 20, 2019.

Regulatory impact statement

The anticipated environmental consequences of the proposal are neutral. The IFA program will continue to provide assurance that Ontario’s Crown forests are being managed sustainably.

The anticipated social consequences of the proposal are positive. Stakeholders, First Nations and Métis communities, and the public will continue to have opportunity to participate and provide input to IFAs and will benefit from timely public reporting.

The anticipated economic consequences of the proposal are positive. IFA efficiencies will promote greater (forest industry and MNRF) productivity and resource efficiency for the implementation of the IFA program.

No new administrative costs are associated as a result of this proposal.

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.

Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Address

70 Foster Drive, Suite 400
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
P6A 6V5
Canada

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from December 20, 2019
to February 18, 2020

Connect with us

Contact

Nick Baggs, Senior Policy Advisor

Phone number
Email address
Office
Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch
Address

70 Foster Drive
Suite 400
Sault Ste. Marie, ON
P6A 6V5
Canada

Office phone number