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Retain the Current Mandate of the Province’s 36 Conservation Authorities | Conservation Authorities Under Fire

Retain the Current Mandate of the Province’s 36 Conservation Authorities | Conservation Authorities Under Fire:
On November 5th, the Government of Ontario revealed its plans to severely curtail the role of Conservation Authorities in watershed planning and management. Schedule 6 of omnibus Budget Bill 229 proposes numerous changes to the Conservation Authorities Act (CAA) that will undermine efforts to conserve biodiversity and build community resilience to climate change.
 The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) has prepared a preliminary analysis of Schedule 6, outlining the proposed changes and their implications. Among the key concerns identified are: Narrowing of the scope and powers of Conservation Authorities, impeding the achievement of the overall purpose of the CAA, which is to “provide for the organization and delivery of programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario;”
Restricting the duties of Conservation Authorities’ members so that they no longer must act to further the watershed-based mandates of the Conservation Authorities, but rather can act only on behalf of the narrower interests of their respective municipalities; Reducing the ability of Conservation Authorities to act as independent public bodies in land use planning, including removing their ability to seek to appeal municipal planning decisions; Introducing new rights for developers to force fast-tracking of development approvals and to appeal decisions they do not like, without providing the same opportunity to citizens who may wish to challenge decisions that damage the environment; and Giving the Minister new power to overturn a conservation authority’s decision to refuse to issue a permit for development.
Alarmingly, the proposed changes were introduced as part of a budget bill, which means that the public’s right to comment under the Environmental Bill of Rights is over-ridden, as explained in the Environmental Registry of Ontario notice (ERO # 019-2646). Ontario’s Conservation Authorities are a unique and widely respected innovation.
 The vital role of our Conservation Authorities in watershed-based land use planning and permitting must be retained to prevent unchecked development that puts communities at risk from flooding and other climate change impacts through loss of wetlands, woodlands and farmland. Please join Ontario Nature in asking the government to withdraw Schedule 6 in its entirety from Bill 229.

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