Ottawa/Queen's Park




RE: Bill 229, Ontario’s Conservation Authorities

Dear Mr Walker,

I am sure that you, like practically all residents of Grey and Bruce counties, much appreciate and value the work of Grey Sauble Conservation Authority — its flood control and water management throughout the area’s watershed,, as well as its educational, environmental awareness and stewardship.

Personally I have spent hundreds of hours walking the fabulous trails from Bognor Marsh to Bruce’s Caves and Indian Falls to Inglis Falls. Now, unfortunately, the mandate and powers of GSCA and other conservation authorities are under attack, as I explained today in a letter to John Yakabuski, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, with a copy to you.
Please read my letter and please take action. As a member of the government of Ontario you have a pipeline to your fellow MPPs. Please ask them to withdraw Section 6 of Bill 229 so that, as I put it below, full, frank, open-minded consultation can occur with conservation leaders and Board members. If the government won’t budge on this issue, if it is determined to hobble the authority of its conservation authorities, we will be forced to conclude that the interests of developers have trumped the environment once again. Here is what I said to the Ministers.

I am deeply concerned that, through Bill 229, you are about to make a serious mistake that will have a long-lasting impact on the government’s capacity to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. By downgrading the role of Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities, you will weaken their capacity to protect people, property, and the environment and mitigate the impact of climate change.

Apart from their role in flood control, conservation authorities have worked very successfully with municipalities across the province who are their primary funders. Now, through Section 6 of Bill 229, you are introducing significant changes that will limit the authorities’ ability to prevent harm to the environment brought about by undesirable, even dangerous, development on and near conservation lands. Section 6 of the Bill will create horrendous problems:

• Local control of conservation programs and priorities is compromised because the province, once regulations are published, will have the final say regarding which programs CAs can fund; even though the province only contributes about six per cent of CA budgets, and cannot be fully cognizant of the priorities of Ontario’s far-flung regions.

• Municipal councillors on CA Boards - no longer can municipalities appoint non-councillor members - are directed to put their municipal interests first, which may conflict with the science-based recommendations of CA professionals.

• The power of CAs to expropriate land in the public interest is eliminated.

• The power of CA officers to issue stop-work orders is eliminated.

• CAs' right to appeal land use planning decisions to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal will be eliminated.

• The appeal process has been politicized because developers or other interested parties who disagree with a CA ruling can now appeal directly to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry who can override the CA decision; and if the Ministry does not respond within 30 days, the appeal is automatically granted.

• New fee appeal provisions will cause a significant administrative burden on staff and hearing boards, ultimately leading to delays in development reviews.

• Any programs beyond the scope of the CAs’ flood management mandate will require the approval of each municipality that provides funding; which is a recipe for extensive negotiations, bureaucratic gridlock, and the waste of much time and money.

• The term of a Chair or Vice-chair on a CA Board is limited to one year and to no more than two consecutive terms; a provision that will make it difficult for Board leaders to accumulate a deep understanding of the work of their conservation authority.

• The Bill requires CAs to get the “consent of the occupant or owner” when assessment of dangerous or undesirable changes or development are taking place on lands near the CA.

The essence of Conservation Authorities’ mandate - to use scientific analysis to prevent floods, protect the environment and keep people safe with an integrated watershed approach - is attacked by all the provisions of Section 6 listed above. Conservation Authorities powers will be weakened while the interests of developers are strengthened.

To the Ministers and MPP Bill Walker: if you care about the protection of our precious environment, and if you are committed to strong action against watershed and wetlands degradation and the frightening impacts of climate change, please pull Section 6 from Bill 229; and please enter into full, frank, open-minded discussions with the Boards and senior staff of conservation authorities.


Michael Craig
Owen Sound




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