The Town of Ajax has moved to oppose what it says is a cut in the autonomous decision-making authority of regional Conservation Authorities such as TRCA and CLOCA.
Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier and Regional Councillor (Ward 3) Joanne Dies on Monday presented to the Standing Committee of Finance and Economic Affairs regarding the need to remove Schedule 6 (Conservation Authorities Act changes) from Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from Covid-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020, said a town statement.
“Changes outlined in Schedule 6 will decrease a CA’s autonomy in decision-making, impact their ability to enforce violations, and decrease efficiency overall, as permit decisions would be appealable to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), which is known to be a developer-friendly, arduous and expensive processes. Changes would also have a significant impact on Board of Directors’ roles and responsibilities, the statement pointed out.
It said Schedule 6 changes came as a surprise to stakeholders, who were awaiting regulatory changes following Bill 108 last year.
“The Town of Ajax (TOA) has built its reputation on being environmentally minded, and is proud to be a prominent voice in support our Conservation Authorities (CA) including the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA), who we rely on for timely expertise on build projects, as partners in program and service delivery, as managers of public spaces, and more, said the statement.
“The vital role of CAs in mitigating flood risks and hazards, and protecting life and property was highlighted in Ontario’s Flooding Strategy and the Independent Report from Ontario’s Special Advisor on Flooding, so changes must not be taken lightly.”
It pointed out that in addition to the Town of Ajax, CAs, and not-for-profits including Conservation Ontario, Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence, there are several other notable individuals and groups that have also voiced their concern with these changes and their inclusion in the budget bill.
- Ontario Big City Mayors, representing approximately 70% of Ontario’s population;
- The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, representing 444 Ontario municipalities;
- More than 20 local and single-tier municipalities individually;
- At least 4 Regional governments;
- David Crombie, Chair of the Greenbelt Council;
- David Lindsay, Vice Chair of Ontario Parks;
- 96 environmentally-focused not-for-profit groups;
- Indigenous leaders;
- At least 15 independent CAs;
- Over 150 media hits in support of CAs;
- Academic researchers and professors from across the province;
have all recommended that schedule 6 be removed or reconsidered, and the list continues to grow. In addition, there have been an excess of 20,000 emails sent to the Province of Ontario.
“Locally, there is an example of a Provincially Significant Wetland within the Lower Duffins Creek Watershed Complex that is being threatened by development, should these changes go through.,” the statement said.
“I want to thank Premier Ford, Hon. Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, and the Standing Committee members for their commitment to stakeholder engagement on this Bill, and welcoming this important conversation. There must be a balance struck between our economic development ambitions and need for environmental protections for long-term benefit. At the end of the day, it simply does not make sense to reduce CA autonomy and enforcement ability to lengthen processes and increase uncertainty around valid, science-based local decision-making, leaving the door open to broad appeals and political interference. It is imperative that Schedule 6 be removed from Bill 229 and that any changes to the Conservation Authorities Act be given a full public consultation process,” said Mayor Shaun Collier, TOA.
- Changes to the Conservation Authorities Act were contained in the annual Budget, Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020 (Schedule 6)
- Changes included in Schedule 6 came as a surprise to Conservation Authorities and their stakeholders (like municipalities), and would functionally decrease autonomy and enforcement ability of local Conservation Authorities
- TOA is a proud supporter of our Conservation Authority partners, protectors of our natural environment
- The TOA response aligns with the position taken by municipal associations including the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and Ontario Big City Mayor (OBCM)
- For a list of support for Conservation Authorities, including media coverage, visit https://conservationontario.ca/policy-priorities/conservation-authorities-act/support-for-conservation-authorities