Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act is intended to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of land, water and natural habitat with programs that balance the human, environmental and economic needs. Conservation authorities are established on a watershed basis, often impacting lands that Ontario farmers own and farm.
Over recent years, there have been successive efforts to amend the Conservation Authorities Act. amendments were passed in 2017 and 2019. Most recently, Schedule 6 of Bill 229, passed on December 8, 2020, amended the Conservation Authorities Act.
Bill 229 proposed to define those mandatory programs and services that conservation authorities must offer related to natural hazards, programs and services related to the Clean Water Act, 2006 or programs and services under the Conservation Authorities Act. In addition, programs and services that conservation authorities may develop on behalf of one or more of their “member” municipalities and optional programs and services that a conservation authority considers to be advisable. Amendments like these were enacted in 2017 and 2019 but did not come into effect.
Bill 229 also authorized the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks the authority to appoint an agriculture sector representative to a conservation authority’s Board. Bill 229 also clarified the ability of an authority to issue a “stop work” order and to appeal certain matters to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
Although not included in the initial text of amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act, the final version of the amendments included provisions that obligate a conservation authority to issue a permit for any development project where the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has issued a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO).
OFA welcomed the provisions that authorize the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks the authority to appoint an agriculture sector representative to a conservation authority’s Board. We see the agriculture sector representative contributing to a better understanding of agriculture’s contributions to watershed health while also producing food, fibre, and fuel.
Over amendments in 2017, 2019 and now 2020, OFA has supported clearer definition of which programs and services are mandatory, which programs and services are being delivered on behalf of a municipality and which programs and services an authority considers advisable.
OFA objected to the expanded entry powers for conservation authority staff; they fail to acknowledge the biosecurity provisions many farmers utilize to minimize the risks of diseases, pathogens, or pest transfers from unannounced entry by conservation authority staff.
OFA expressed concern that removing an authority’s powers to issue a stop work order or appeal matters to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal were excessive.
OFA has been active in responding to Conservation Authority consultations in the past as well.
Here are direct links to our responses to these consultations:
2015 – https://ofa.on.ca/resources/ofa-submission-conservation-authorities-act-review/
2016 – https://ofa.on.ca/resources/ofa-submission-regarding-conservation-authorities-act-review/
2017 (two) – https://ofa.on.ca/resources/ofa-submission-standing-committee-social-policy-bill-139/ and https://ofa.on.ca/resources/ofa-submission-proposed-conservation-authorities-act-amendments/
2019 – https://ofa.on.ca/resources/ofa-submission-regarding-modernizing-conservation-authority-operations
2020 – (Bill 229) https://ofa.on.ca/newsroom/ofa-believes-conservation-authorities-have-vital-role-in-working-to-protect-our-land-and-water-resources/