Update on Implementing Changes to Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act

Written by CELA Special Projects Counsel, Healthy Great Lakes, Anastasia Lintner

The provincial government has initiated the first (of three) steps toward implementing remaining changes to Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act that have been on the books for a couple of years.

CELA, as expressed in our submission and recap, remains dismayed that the Ontario government is limiting the role and responsibilities of conservation authorities. In order to ensure that Ontario is equipped to be resilient to a changing climate — with the wilder and wetter weather that comes along with it — we need to invest in and enhance the role of integrated watershed management in land use decision-making. 

As was stated in a letter to Ontario’s Premier, which CELA endorsed along with over 100 other organizations, conservation authorities are a widely respected innovation. Operating at the watershed level, they are ideally positioned to encourage science-based collaborative strategies and decision-making.

That said, we have the opportunity, as guaranteed by Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, to participate in the decision-making regarding the implementing regulations. Phase 1 is open for public comment until June 27, 2021. In this phase, descriptions of potential regulations related to the following are being considered:

  • Descriptions of mandatory programs and services, including a proposed requirement that conservation authorities create watershed-based resource management strategies
  • Governing agreements between conservation authorities and their participating municipalities, as relates to the use of municipal levies to fund non-mandatory programs and services
  • Requirements for conservation authorities’ transition plans
  • Establishment of community advisory boards to every conservation authority
  • Consolidation of a series of regulations regarding “conservation areas” (eg, lands owned by conservation authorities), including prohibited activities and activities requiring permits

A second phase of proposed regulations from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Park will be aimed at municipal levies for mandatory and non-mandatory programs and services, including municipal appeal mechanisms, as well as standards and requirements for delivering non-mandatory programs and services.

The final implementing regulations are anticipated to follow-up on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry 2019 consultation “Focusing conservation authority development permits on the protection of people and property” and be related to how conservation authorities regulate prohibited development and other activities (termed “section 28 regulations”).

As CELA continues to review and assess the Phase 1 proposal, we will share insights and updates on our website and through our social media feeds.