Proposed updates to the regulation of development for the protection of people and property from natural hazards in Ontario

ERO number
019-2927
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Conservation Authorities Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Notice stage
Proposal
Proposal posted
Comment period
October 25, 2022 - December 30, 2022 (66 days) Open
Last updated

This consultation closes at 11:59 p.m. on:
December 30, 2022

Proposal summary

The ministry is proposing a regulation that outlines how conservation authorities permit development and other activities for impacts to natural hazards and public safety.

Proposal details

Everyone in Ontario should be able to find a home that is right for them. But too many people are struggling with the rising cost of living and with finding housing that meets their family’s needs.

Ontario’s housing supply crisis is a problem which has been decades in the making. It will take both short-term strategies and long-term commitment from all levels of government, the private sector, and not-for-profits to drive change. Each entity will have to do their part to be part of the solution to this crisis. 

Ontario needs more housing, and we need it now. That’s why the Ontario government is taking bold and transformative action to get 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years.

To support More Homes Built Faster: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan 2022-23, the government introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, which, if passed, would ensure that cities, towns, and rural communities grow with a mix of ownership and rental housing types that meet the needs of all Ontarians.

These changes are providing a solid foundation to address Ontario’s housing supply crisis over the long term and will be supplemented by continued action in the future.

Proposal background

As part of the Housing Supply Action Plan, the government is proposing to streamline approvals under the Conservation Authorities Act to focus on natural hazards and to help meet Ontario’s housing supply needs. These changes would improve clarity and consistency in decision making to support faster, more predictable and less costly approvals.

Proposed Regulation

The ministry is proposing a regulation governing the activities that require permits under the Act. The proposed regulation would focus permitting decisions on matters related to the control of flooding and other natural hazards and the protection of people and property. This regulation would allow the updates made to the Conservation Authorities Act in recent years to come into effect.

There are currently 36 individual regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act, one for each conservation authority in the province, that set out the activities and associated requirements for permits (or permissions). These regulations are proposed to be revoked through proposed legislative amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act. The ministry is proposing to make a single provincial regulation to ensure clear and consistent requirements across all conservation authorities while still addressing local differences.

The proposed regulation would streamline rules for development and is a first step towards increased coordination between conservation authority permitting and municipal planning approvals.

This proposal is part of the government’s commitment under the Housing Supply Action Plan to support 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years to address Ontario’s housing supply needs.

Focusing approvals under the Conservation Authorities Act on protecting people and property against the risk of natural hazards will also deliver on the commitments and objectives outlined in Protecting People and Property: Ontario’s Flooding Strategy.

Note: The Ministry is also considering this proposal in the context of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. To help implement the Plan, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act requires permit decisions by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority to conform with certain identified Plan policies. Elements of this regulatory proposal may apply differently to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority to continue to advance the objectives of that Plan, which may include adjustments to areas where permits are required or to the criteria considered in a permit decision.

Consultation Guide

A consultation guide is provided that includes additional descriptions for the following proposed changes:

  • defining wetlands and hazardous lands and development activity as per the existing definitions in the Conservation Authorities Act
  • updating the definition of “watercourse” from an identifiable depression to a defined channel having a bed, and banks or sides  
  • maintaining the existing river and stream valleys limits and areas that are adjacent or close to the shoreline of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System or to inland lakes that may be affected by flooding, erosion or dynamic beach hazards, as well as the flood standards for the determination of hazardous lands associated with flooding
  • updating the “other areas” in which the prohibitions on development apply to within 30 metres of all wetlands
  • streamlining approvals for low-risk activities, which may include exempting some activities from requiring a permit if certain requirements or conditions are met (i.e., requiring that an activity be registered with an authority before it can proceed)
  • requiring conservation authorities to request any information or studies needed prior to the confirmation of a complete application 
  • limiting the site-specific conditions a conservation authority may attach to a permit to matters dealing with natural hazards and public safety
  • providing increased flexibility for an authority to issue a permit up to its maximum length of validity, and issue extensions as necessary

The consultation guide also includes proposed service delivery standards as requirements for the administration of permits by conservation authorities, including requiring a conservation authority to:

  • develop, consult on, make publicly available, and periodically review internal policies that guide permitting decisions
  • establish, monitor, and report on service delivery standards including requirements and timelines for determination of complete applications
  • provide maps depicting the areas where permitting requirements apply and notify the public and consult on any significant changes
  • outline a process for pre-consultation on a permit to ensure clear understanding of requirements for a complete application

The consultation guide also includes information on a tool proposed to be included in the Conservation Authorities Act through Bill 23More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 that would provide the ability to exempt development authorized under the Planning Act from requiring a permit under the Conservation Authorities Act. The Ministry has not proposed a regulation utilizing this exemption tool as part of this regulatory proposal but is requesting initial feedback on how it may be used in the future to streamline development approvals while still ensuring the protection of people and property from natural hazards.

Regulatory Impact Statement

The anticipated regulatory impacts of the proposal are neutral to positive. The proposed changes are intended to:

  • provide greater certainty and clarity on regulatory requirements for development while ensuring the protection of people and property
  • reduce regulatory and financial burdens
  • streamline approvals by making processes more efficient and predictable

We expect that there will be some minor administrative costs for conservation authorities and municipalities based on the time needed for staff in the short-term to learn about and understand the proposed legislative and regulatory changes.

Through this posting, we welcome comments on anticipated benefits or costs to better help the Ministry understand the real costs or cost savings associated with these proposed changes.

Other Information

The government is currently pursing legislative and associated regulatory changes designed to streamline conservation authority processes, provide clarity and certainty for development, and further focus conservation authorities on their mandate to protect people and property from the impacts of natural hazards. These changes can be read by viewing posting: Legislative and regulatory proposals affecting conservation authorities to support the Housing Supply Action Plan 3.0.

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Public Input Coordinator

Office
MNRF - PD - Resources Planning and Development Policy Branch
Address

300 Water Street, 6th Floor, South tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 8M5
Canada

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Contact

Public Input Coordinator

Office
MNRF - PD - Resources Planning and Development Policy Branch
Address

300 Water Street, 6th Floor, South tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 8M5
Canada

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