This consultation was open from:
July 8, 2020
to August 22, 2020
We have exempted certain Crown projects related to provincial parks and conservation reserves from Environmental Assessment Act requirements and approved the Project Evaluation Policy (formerly referred to as the Environmental Impact Assessment Policy) to move projects forward faster without compromising environmental protection.
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Ontario is developing sensible, practical changes that would ensure environmental oversight while reducing delays on projects in provincial parks and conservation reserves by focusing on those with higher potential for harm to the environment.
After considering feedback received on its proposal, the government has approved an amendment to Regulation 334 that exempts certain Crown projects related to provincial parks and conservation reserves from the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). This change will help speed up the process of completing these projects while maintaining environmental protection.
We have also approved a Project Evaluation Policy (PEP) under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006 (PPCRA) that applies to certain exempted projects. Please see ERO posting 019-7356 for more information on the PEP.
The new policy will be used by the ministry to evaluate certain projects instead of using the Class Environmental Assessments for Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves (Class EA-PPCR). The environmental protections under the PPRCA will remain in place and the ecological integrity of provincial parks and conservation reserves will continue to be a top priority for the government.
Exemption for certain Crown projects related to provincial parks and conservation reserves
Regulation 334 (General) has been amended under the EAA to exempt certain Crown projects related to provincial parks and conservation reserves from the EAA. The exemption applies to:
- establishing, amending or rescinding the boundaries of a provincial park or conservation reserve
- acquiring land for establishing new provincial parks or conservation reserves or for adding land to an existing provincial park or conservation reserve
- disposing of any interest in land in a provincial park or conservation reserve
- any activity related to a provincial park or conservation reserve that is carried out by, or on behalf of, the Minister responsible for the administration of the PPRCA
The exemption does not apply to:
- projects related to land claim settlements and other agreements with Indigenous communities about land, which are already addressed in an existing exemption
- projects for which a process of public consultation under the Class EA-PPCR is underway, until such time that a Statement of Completion is submitted
The exemption came into force on September 8, 2023.
Project Evaluation Policy (formerly referred to as the Environmental Impact Assessment Policy)
The previous framework under the EAA involved assessment and consultation of projects under the Class EA-PPCR and, in the case of acquisitions, the Public Work Class Environmental Assessment.
With the exemption for certain Crown projects related to provincial parks and conservation reserves now in force, the new PEP will help guide consideration of potential environmental effects and consultation for certain proposed projects within provincial parks and conservation reserves. The new policy will move projects forward faster without compromising environmental protection. It will also be used by the ministry to evaluate certain projects instead of the Class EA-PPCR.
The ministry will continue to oversee all decisions related to provincial parks and conservation reserves. In addition to the existing environmental protections under the PPRCA, the ministry’s environmental oversight will be informed by the new policy.
For additional information on the PEP, please see ERO posting 019-7356.
By removing the requirements under the EAA for provincial parks and conservation reserves, together the PPRCA and its related PEP will be the primary source of guidance to inform the planning of projects, including assessing potential environmental effects for certain projects and consulting with Indigenous communities, government agencies and the public.
We will streamline the process for projects that matter most to Ontarians, while maintaining strong environmental oversight.
Effects of consultation
In addition to collecting feedback through this Environmental Registry posting, we also held:
- information webinars and meetings with Indigenous communities and stakeholders informing them of the ministry’s EA initiatives, including this proposed exemption and new policy
- one-on-one meetings to discuss any questions and issues
The majority of the comments received generally opposed the exemption, with the following concerns:
- policy is not legally enforceable
- perceived lessening of consultation with Indigenous communities and the public
- perceived reduction of environmental protection (e.g., cumulative effects, cultural heritage)
- concern that the exemption regulation would eliminate the ability for communities to submit a Section 16 Order request to the Minister
We have reviewed all the submissions and have concluded that:
- although not legally binding, the PEP is a tool for considering potential impacts to support the requirements for maintaining ecological integrity, per the PPRCA, in provincial parks and conservation reserves
- the new process provides opportunities for consultation with Indigenous communities, the public, stakeholders, and government agencies
- where engaged, the Crown’s duty to consult with Indigenous communities respecting projects carried out under the PPRCA is not affected or impeded by the exemption and PEP; rather, the ministry will continue to consult on any Crown conduct related to provincial parks and conservation reserves that may adversely impact constitutionally protected Aboriginal or treaty rights
- any potential impacts on traditional lands, cultural values, archaeology, and cumulative effects may continue to be evaluated under the PEP and other legislative requirements continue to apply (e.g. Ontario Heritage Act, 1990)
- an issues resolution process is included in the PEP
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Environmental assessment modernization
Ontario is updating its almost 50-year-old environmental assessment (EA) program to support building safer and stronger communities. In our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, we committed to supporting strong environmental oversight by addressing duplication, and improving processes and service standards to reduce delays.
We are committed to building a strong EA program that considers the input of local communities and focuses on projects that have the highest impact to the environment.
We are looking for public comment and feedback on the following two items:
- A proposed exemption under the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) for all projects in provincial parks and conservation reserves carried out by or on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (ministry).
- A proposed new environmental impact assessment policy under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA) for projects carried out in provincial parks and conservation reservations, which would replace the requirements under the current Class Environmental Assessment for Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves (Class EA-PPCR).
Proposed exemption under the Environmental Assessment Act
Currently under the EAA, the ministry must consider the environmental impacts of projects carried out in provincial parks and conservation reserves pursuant to the Class EA-PPCR.
The Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA) provides environmental protection for Ontario’s protected areas, including:
- the objectives for permanent protection of ecosystems, biodiversity and provincially significant elements of Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage
- the requirements that management decisions be guided by principles that include the maintenance of ecological integrity as the first priority and provision of opportunities for consultation
- prohibition on industrial activities
- the requirement that prescribed conditions be satisfied for resource access roads and trails and utility corridors
- the requirement to consider environmental impacts when making decisions respecting other authorizations, such as work permits
The ministry is proposing to remove the requirements under the EAA for provincial parks and conservation reserves, allowing PPCRA to be the primary source of guidance.
The new policy will allow Ontario to focus its resources on projects with higher potential environmental impact. We will reduce delays on projects that matter most to Ontarians, while maintaining strong environmental oversight.
The proposed exemption would apply to all projects in provincial parks and conservation reserves. This includes, but is not limited to:
- managing existing parks or conservation reserves
- fish and wildlife management
- land management
- building or structures including infrastructure
- campgrounds and day use facilities
- water and shoreline works
These projects would be evaluated under a newly proposed environmental impact assessment policy for assessment and consultation.
Proposed Environmental Impact Assessment Policy
We are proposing an Environmental Impact Assessment Policy under the PPCRA to guide a streamlined and consistent consideration of potential environmental effects and as well as consulting on proposed projects and authorizations within provincial parks and conservation reserves. This new policy would replace the environmental evaluation and consultation requirements under the Class EA-PPCR, which currently informs decisions respecting proposed projects in provincial parks and conservation reserves by or on behalf of the ministry.
The purpose of the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA) is to:
- permanently protect a system of provincial parks and conservation reserves that includes ecosystems that are representative of all of Ontario’s natural regions
- protect provincially significant elements of Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage
- maintain biodiversity
- provide opportunities for compatible, ecologically sustainable recreation
The new policy under PPCRA, would inform decision-making on projects in provincial parks and conservation reserves, specifically with respect to:
- consideration of PPCRA objectives and provincial park and conservation reserve values
- appropriate mitigation of negative effects on the natural, social, economic and cultural environments
- the maintenance of ecological integrity
To meet this purpose, the proposed policy:
- describes how environmental impact assessment fits into the planning framework for provincial parks and conservation reserves
- describes the types of activities that are subject to this policy
- identifies when management planning is required prior to implementing projects
- identifies an efficient and effective screening, evaluation and consultation process for assessing impacts during implementation planning
Overall, the new policy will provide:
- a mechanism to assess environmental effects and consult with Indigenous communities, government agencies, and the public for these activities and projects; and
- an opportunity to fulfill the Crown’s duty to consult.
Improving government processes to benefit communities
The proposed changes will better align assessment and consultation of specific projects with other planning undertaken for provincial parks and conservation reserves under the PPCRA, rather than this being done separately under the EAA.
Key elements of the process in the policy will be drawn from the existing Class EA-PPCR.
The proposed policy will continue environmental oversight while:
- reducing the number of projects requiring evaluation under the EAA by eliminating duplication for projects already covered by work undertaken as part of the PPCRA and other processes (e.g. changing park or conservation reserve boundaries; acquiring land for park or conservation reserve purposes)
- focusing on projects with higher potential for harm to the environment
- establishing a process for assessment and consultation through itself under the PPCRA rather than EAA
- providing a process for issue resolution
Through the proposed changes, Ontario will be bringing its almost 50-year-old environmental assessment program into the 21st century, streamlining government processes to more quickly deliver on the projects that matter to Ontarians.
Implementation and timelines
If the proposed exemption is approved, there would no longer be any requirements for these projects under the Class Environmental Assessment of the Environmental Assessment Act. They would be subject to the new policy instead.
Our commitment to a more modern and efficient environmental assessment program
Ontario is committed to modernizing its environmental assessment program as part of our Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan to protect our land, water, and air. Our commitment includes:
- addressing duplication
- proving clarity to proponents
- improving service standards to reduce delays
- better recognizing the other planning processes, while ensuring strong environmental protections remain in place
Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA)
Provincial parks and conservation reserves are administered under the PPCRA. Ontario Parks (a branch of this ministry) is responsible for provincial parks and conservation reserves.
The following principles guide all aspects of the planning and management of Ontario’s system of provincial parks and conserve reserves:
- maintenance of ecological integrity shall be the first priority and the restoration of ecological integrity shall be considered
- opportunities for consultation shall be provided
The Minister will ensure that the ministry prepares management direction that applies to each provincial park and conservation reserve. This direction will:
- be approved by the Minister
- identify site-specific management policies for a provincial park or conservation reserve
- include a management statement or a management plan (e.g. Park Management Plans for provincial parks)
- guide the protection, development and management of values and resources in provincial parks and conservation reserves over a 20-year period
Planning for parks and conservation reserves
Direction for provincial parks and conservation reserves is developed at several levels:
- legislation and strategic planning (level one) identifies goals and objectives for Ontario’s system of provincial parks and conservation reserves (e.g., PPCRA, Ontario Provincial Parks Planning and Management Policies)
- system/land use planning (level two) identifies and recommends new, and amendments to existing, provincial parks and conservation reserves (e.g., Ontario’s Living Legacy Land Use Strategy)
- management planning (level three) develops site-specific policy and management actions for individual provincial parks and conservation reserves (e.g., park management plans)
- implementation planning (level four) evaluates how to best implement the policies and actions identified in the other levels of planning and considers location-specific impacts (e.g., environmental impact assessment, site plans)
Consultation is a key component of this planning to identify appropriate uses within a provincial park or conservation reserve, including confirming the boundaries of a park or conservation reserve and developing site-specific management policies for these protected areas.
The Class Environmental Assessment provided a process to assess and consult on the specific projects once other planning was completed for a provincial park or conservation reserve. The Class Environmental Assessment process was considered the last step in the parks and conservation reserves planning process.
If approved, the proposed change would allow the Environmental Impact Assessment Policy, under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA) to be the primary source of guidance for assessment and consultation, reducing delays on projects that matter most to communities of Ontario.
There are no direct compliance costs or new administrative burdens associated with the proposed regulatory amendments for this proposal, as there are existing processes to address the requirements of the EAA. There are also other applicable provincial and federal approvals and permits that would still be required.
Proposed exemption under the EAA
- Name: Cindy Batista
- Email: Cindy.Batista@ontario.ca
- Telephone: 437-248-0058
Proposed Environmental Impact Assessment Policy
- Name: Debbie Scanlon
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
View materials in person
Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.