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NVCA concerned controversial Bill limits environmental authority

December 18, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The provincial government’s controversial Bill 229, which will allow the minister of natural resources to take over some decision making on developments in the province not only has Conservation Authorities alarmed, it has caused some members of the provincial Greenbelt Council to resign.

The Bill will allow developers to appeal Conservation Authorities decisions directly to the Minister who could overturn those decisions.

The Ford government said the changes are aimed at speeding up the approval process for small, environmentally insignificant projects.

Conservation Authorities are worried that the proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act will significantly limit and completely change the role of Conservation Authorities to protect Ontario’s environment and ensure people and property are safe from natural hazards.

It is Schedule 6 of the Bill that is causing the concern. Schedule 6 proposes fundamental changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and their role in land use planning.

“While it appears that a few amendments around board governance may address some of NVCA’s concerns, the proposed changes don’t go far enough, particularly around planning, permitting and enforcement,” said Keith White, Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority chair. “Currently, NVCA issues permits to protect lives and property against flooding and erosion in 18 distinct municipalities in the Nottawasaga Valley watershed. Not only do the new changes to Schedule 6 not address our concerns, they further erode our ability to protect the people and environment in our watershed.”

When reviewing development applications, conservation authorities use scientific studies to ensure new development is located outside of natural hazard areas, and that wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitat and drinking water resources are protected and enhanced.

Some members of the provincial Greenbelt Council have decided to resign in protest of the pending changes.

Council chair David Crombie submitted his resignation on December 5. Six more council members followed suit.

“It cuts out the heart of integrated watershed planning and management; severely cripples the Conservation Authorities in the pursuit of their historic stewardship of environmental issues, and now with the grossly expanded use of Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZO) and other procedural revisions, essential public discussion and debate will be stifled or shut down,” Crombie said in his resignation letter.

There are 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario that are responsible for watershed management, and are mandated to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats through programs that balance human, environmental and economic needs.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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