Proposed exemption to the Environmental Assessment Act and a new policy under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act for projects in provincial parks and conservation reserves

ERO number
019-1804
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Environmental Assessment Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal
Proposal posted
Comment period
July 8, 2020 - August 22, 2020 (45 days) Open
Last updated

This consultation closes at 11:59 p.m. on:
August 22, 2020

Proposal summary

We are proposing an exemption under the Environmental Assessment Act for all projects in provincial parks and conservation reserves, and an Environmental Impact Assessment Policy under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act.

Proposal details

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.

Proposed changes

We are looking for public comment and feedback on the following two items:

  1. 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).
  2. 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

Other information

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.

Burden reduction

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.

Contacts

Proposed exemption under the EAA

Proposed Environmental Impact Assessment Policy

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