Legislative and regulatory proposals affecting conservation authorities to support the Housing Supply Action Plan 3.0

ERO number
019-6141
Notice type
Regulation
Act
Conservation Authorities Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Notice stage
Proposal Updated
Proposal posted
Comment period
October 25, 2022 - December 9, 2022 (45 days) Open
Last updated

Update Announcement

This notice was originally posted on October 25, 2022 with a 30-day comment period ending on November 23, 2022. The comment period was extended on November 23, 2022 to December 9, 2022.

This consultation closes at 11:59 p.m. on:
December 9, 2022

Proposal summary

Legislative and regulation changes under the Conservation Authorities Act to streamline processes, provide clarity and certainty for development, and focus on conservation authorities’ natural hazards mandate.

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.

Background

Ontario is proposing a series of legislative and regulatory changes affecting conservation authorities to support Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan. This would accelerate housing development approvals while continuing to protect Ontario families, communities, and critical resources. The proposed changes would further focus conservation authorities on their core mandate, support faster and less costly approvals, streamline conservation authority processes and help make land suitable for housing available for development.

Proposed Changes

A series of legislative changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and Planning Act are being proposed. More specifically, they include:

  1. Proposed updates to the regulation of development for the protection of people and property from natural hazards in Ontario (legislative changes)

Focusing development approvals under the Conservation Authorities Act on the risk of natural hazards, including flooding, and addressing their relationship to municipal land use planning delivers on the commitments and objectives outlined in Ontario’s Flooding Strategy.

The proposed legislative changes to the Conservation Authorities Act, if passed, would:

  • enable the exemption of development authorized under the Planning Act from requiring a permit under the Conservation Authorities Act in municipalities set out in regulation, where certain conditions are met as set out in regulation
  • remove the terms “conservation of land” and “pollution” and add the terms “unstable soils and bedrock” while also maintaining “flooding”, “erosion”, and “dynamic beaches” to the matters considered in permit decisions
  • update the timeframe after which an applicant may appeal the failure of the conservation authority to issue a permit to the Ontario Land Tribunal from 120 days to 90 days
  • require conservation authorities to issue permits for projects subject to a Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator order under section 34.1 of the Planning Act and allowing the Minister to review and amend any conditions attached to those permits
  • with regards to permits issued where a zoning order has been made under the Planning Act (under section 34.1 or 47):
    • extend the existing regulation making authority of the Minister to prescribe conditions on a permit issued by a conservation authority where there is a Minister’s Zoning Order, to enable the Minister to also prescribe limits on what conditions a conservation authority may include  
    • specify that where the Minister has made a regulation allowing development to begin prior to an ecological compensation agreement being signed and has set a date by which it must be signed, the development may not continue if the agreement has not been reached within the time period outlined in regulation
  • minor corrections and clarifications to ensure the Act is clearly written (i.e., removing “proposed” from provisions referring to permits that have already been issued; clarifying the definition of “development project”)

In addition to these proposed legislative changes, there is a regulatory proposal notice currently being consulted on to further the regulation of development for the protection of people and property from natural hazards in Ontario. This can be found here.

  1. Focusing conservation authorities’ role in review of development related proposals and applications (comments, appeals)

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is proposing amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act and to establish a new Minister’s regulation to focus conservation authorities’ role when reviewing and commenting on proposals, applications, or other matters related to development and land use planning:

  • The proposed legislative changes, if passed, would scope conservation authorities’ review and commenting role with respect to development applications and land use planning policies under prescribed Acts to:
    • matters within their core mandate as currently set out in the Mandatory Programs and Services regulation (O. Reg. 686/21), made under the Conservation Authorities Act
  • The new regulation proposes to prescribe the following Acts under which a conservation authority could not perform this review and commenting role as a “municipal” or “other" program or service under sections 21.1.1 and 21.1.2 of the Conservation Authorities Act
    • The Aggregate Resources Act
    • The Condominium Act
    • The Drainage Act
    • The Endangered Species Act
    • The Environmental Assessment Act
    • The Environmental Protection Act
    • The Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act
    • The Ontario Heritage Act
    • The Ontario Water Resources Act
    • The Planning Act

Conservation authority appeals under the Planning Act

In addition, through amendments to subsection 1 (4.1) of the Planning Act via the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing proposal notice found here, the province is proposing to limit conservation authority appeals, when acting as a public body, other than when acting as an applicant, of land use planning decisions under the Planning Act to matters related to natural hazards policies in provincial policy statements issued under the Planning Act. This provision and an associated transition provision would also be proclaimed to ensure that conservation authorities can continue as a party to any appeal commenced prior to the proclamation of these provisions.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry anticipates these changes, if approved, would provide greater certainty and clarity with respect to planning and development related applications, while ensuring conservation authorities focus on their core mandate to best protect people and property from the impacts of natural hazards, reducing duplication and barriers to development, that is important to Ontarians.

  1. Freezing conservation authority fees

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is proposing an amendment to the Conservation Authorities Act to enable the Minister to direct a conservation authority to maintain its fees charged for programs and services at current levels. This would enable the Minister to issue temporary direction to a conservation authority preventing the authority from changing the amount of a fee it charges under subsection 21.2 (10) for its programs and services, including reviewing and commenting on planning and development related proposals, as well as for permits issued by conservation authorities.

The Ministry anticipates this proposal would enable a reduction to the financial burden on developers and other landowners making development related applications and/or seeking permits from conservation authorities, further accelerating housing in Ontario to make life more affordable.

  1. Identifying conservation authority lands suitable for housing and streamlining conservation authority severance and disposition processes that facilitate faster development

Conservation authorities own and manage over 145,000 hectares of land, a large portion of which was acquired with provincial grants issued under the Conservation Authorities Act.

The Mandatory Programs and Services regulation (O. Reg. 686/21) requires conservation authorities to complete a conservation area strategy and land inventory of all lands they own or control by December 31, 2024. We are proposing to amend the regulation to require the land inventory to also identify conservation authority owned or controlled lands that could support housing development. In identifying these lands, the authority would consider the current zoning, and the extent to which the parcel or portions of the parcel may augment natural heritage land or integrate with provincially or municipally owned land or publicly accessible lands and trails.

To streamline processes associated with the disposition (sales, easements, leases) of conservation authority owned land that was previously acquired using a provincial grant under section 39 of the Conservation Authorities Act, we are proposing the following amendments to the Act:

  • Require a written notice to be provided to the Minister for all types of land dispositions. The conservation authority would be required to provide the notice to the Minister at least 90 days before the disposition in lieu of the current requirement for Minister’s approval.
  • Require conservation authorities to post a notice of public consultation on their website and conduct a public consultation for a minimum of 45 days, prior to providing the Minister notice, if the land disposition includes the following types of provincially significant lands:
    • areas of natural and scientific interest, lands within the Niagara Escarpment Planning Area, or wetlands defined in section 1 of the Conservation Land Act;
    • the habitat of threatened or endangered species;
    • lands in respect of which the authority has entered into an agreement with the Minister in relation to forestry development under section 2 of the Forestry Act; or
    • land that is impacted by a type of natural hazard described in subsection 1 (1) of the Mandatory Programs and Services regulation (O. Reg. 686/21).
  • The notice of public consultation would identify the type of land to be disposed, the proposed disposition date, and the future use of the lands, if known. Where public consultation is required, the written notice to the Minister must include a summary of comments received during public consultation, if any, and how they were considered.
  • We are proposing to maintain the current streamlined process when the disposition is for municipally or provincially approved infrastructure or utility purposes, by providing an exception to the timelines associated with the notification as well as the public consultation process described above.
  • Enable the Minister to direct the authority to apply a specified share of the proceeds of the dispositions to support their core mandate set out in the Mandatory Programs and Services regulation (O. Reg. 686/21). 

Streamlined severance processes for conservation authorities

The province is also proposing to amend the Planning Act via the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing proposal notice found here, to expedite the existing processes associated with the severance and conveyance of land, regardless of whether provincial grant money was provided under the Conservation Authorities Act, for the purposes of projects related to flood control, erosion control, bank stabilization shoreline management works or the preservation of environmentally sensitive lands. Currently under the Planning Act, exemptions from subdivision and part lot control in clauses 50 (3) (e) and 50 (5) (d) that enable these expedited conveyance / severance processes can only be relied on in association with a provincially-funded project approved by the Minister under section 24 of the Conservation Authorities Act. These changes would broaden the ability of a conservation authority to use existing streamlined processes to sever and dispose of land.

We anticipate that these changes, if approved, would result in the identification of additional lands that could be used to support Ontario’s need for more housing, while streamlining administrative land disposition and severance processes, potentially reducing conservation authority operating expenses and the associated municipal levy. They would also make it easier and cheaper for conservation authorities to dispose of excess lands that may be suitable for housing or other types of development.

Regulatory Impact Statement

Given the overall intent of the proposals is to streamline processes and focus conservation authorities on their core mandate to support Ontario’s commitment for more housing over the next decade, we do not expect that the legislative proposals under the Conservation Authorities Act and Planning Act, nor the associated regulatory proposals, would result in new costs for businesses nor an increase in administrative burden to municipalities or conservation authorities.

As conservation authorities are already in the process of ensuring a memorandum of understanding or other agreements with municipalities are in place as conservation authorities transition to the framework set out in the Conservation Authorities Act by January 1, 2024, we do not expect new costs to conservation authorities related to the proposal to focus conservation authority roles in reviewing and commenting on planning and development related proposals or applications. The related proposal to scope conservation authority appeals under the Planning Act may result in some savings for businesses, conservation authorities and municipalities through fewer appeals and avoiding delays in development. We expect there may be some savings to businesses through the freezing of fees charged by conservation authorities for programs and services they provide, such as those fees associated with reviewing and commenting on planning and development proposals and for conservation authority permitting, though costs not covered by fees may be offset through increases to the municipal levy. Some savings to conservation authorities and municipalities are also anticipated because of more streamlined land disposition and severance processes.

Anticipated environmental consequences of these proposals are neutral as development within areas located in a conservation authority’s area of jurisdiction that are prone to natural hazards will continue to be addressed through Conservation Authorities Act regulations. Additionally, social consequences of the proposal are positive. It will help conservation authorities focus permitting decisions on protecting people and property from flooding and other natural hazards.

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.

Supporting materials

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Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

MNRF - PD - Resources Planning and Development Policy Branch
Address

300 Water Street, 2nd Floor, South Tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 8M5
Canada

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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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