On June 17, 2008, Bill 99 (the Lake Simcoe Protection Act), was introduced for first reading. If passed by the Legislature, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act would provide the tools necessary to protect and restore the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. Also, the legislation would provide a framework for the development of a Lake Simcoe Protection Plan that will be able to respond in a coordinated manner throughout the watershed to existing problems and new issues like climate change and invasive species, allowing the government to adapt its protection efforts as required.
The Lieutenant Governor in Council would be required by the proposed legislation to establish a Plan for the Lake Simcoe watershed. The proposed legislation defines the watershed as the Lake and the lands of Ontario that drain into the Lake. This area may be more particularly described by regulation. The objectives of the Plan are set out in the legislation and they include protecting, improving or restoring the elements that contribute to the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. The proposed legislation describes the components of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and the type of policies that may be included in the Plan to achieve the Plan’s objectives.
The plan may also designate a policy as a “designated policy”. The significance of “designated policies” is that the proposed legislation would require that decisions under the Planning Act and Condominium Act, 1998 must conform with designated polices, and have regard to the other policies in the Plan. Similarly decisions in relation to a “prescribed instrument” such as a sewage works approval issued under the Ontario Water Resources Act would be required to conform to the “designated policies” in the Plan and have regard to the other policies. The Plan may also include policies in relation to stewardship programs, outreach and education, best management practices, research and monitoring.
After the plan is in effect, the Minister could consider and propose an amendment to deal with activities that are located outside of the watershed, but which directly impact the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. Activities outside of the watershed that contribute air deposition of phosphorus into the lake is such an example. However, the ability to make an amendment to the Plan to have it apply to outside areas would be subject to a number of strict parameters: 1) The area must be adjacent or close to the watershed. 2) The Minister must prepare and consult on a report that demonstrates that the activities directly affect the ecological health of the watershed. 3) Policies for outside areas cannot affect Planning Act or Condominium Act decisions – other tools must be used. 4) Before an amendment to the Plan is made to apply to an outside area – the area must be described in a regulation (made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council).
The proposed legislation would require a Plan review every ten years. It includes provisions to permit the Minister to propose and consult on amendments to the Plan, and would require that amendments be approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council except in circumstances where the Plan permits the Minister to approve an amendment.
The proposed legislation also gives the authority to the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to regulate activities in the shoreline, tributary and wetland areas of the watershed. These regulated areas would be defined by the Plan. The regulation may specify the public body that will be responsible for enforcement of the regulation. The proposed legislation includes all necessary enforcement provisions including an inspection authority, offence and penalty provisions. The inspection and penalty provisions in the proposed legislation are very similar to what is now contained in the Clean Water Act, 2006.
The legislation would also, if enacted, establish two advisory committees which would be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and would report to the Minister: (1) a Lake Simcoe Science Committee and, (2) a Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee. The legislation sets out the functions of these advisory committees.
Additionally, if enacted, the legislation would give the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority the authority to apply regulations made under section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act to areas that are outside of its area of jurisdiction but within the Lake Simcoe watershed. The current regulation (Ontario Regulation 179/06) requires the permission of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority where development is proposed adjacent or close to shorelines, in river or stream valleys, wetlands and other areas within the jurisdiction of the Authority that are specified in the regulation.
The proposed legislation also includes a regulation-making authority to designate the participating municipalities for the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority for the purposes of this legislation. One of the purposes of this regulation-making authority is to ensure that when the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority is making a decision to apply a regulation under section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act to an area outside of its area of jurisdiction but within the Lake Simcoe watershed, the affected municipalities would be involved in the decision-making.
Finally, the proposed legislation also includes an amendment to the Ontario Water Resources Act, which would, if enacted, introduce a regulation-making authority to authorize the use of water quality trading in an area of the Province for a particular water quality parameter. Regulations authorizing water quality trading in an area of the Province could not be made unless the Minister first prepared and consulted on a report that examined the feasibility of using water quality trading in the area and assessed the potential for water quality trading to improve water quality in that area.
The proposed legislation reflects the approach consulted on in the Discussion Paper, “Protecting Lake Simcoe: Creating Ontario's Strategy for Action” (March 2008), and builds on input received from stakeholders, the Science Advisory Committee, and the public through the consultations.
The purpose of the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act is to protect and restore the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed ecosystem.
The government stated that the long-term strategy would be based upon the following principles:
- consideration of the broad range of societal values associated with the Lake Simcoe watershed, including the environment, recreation, the agricultural economy, and sustainable growth;
- an approach that allows for continuous improvement by adapting to what is learned from ongoing science and monitoring (i.e., an adaptive management approach);
- the use of consistent and coordinated policies, programs, and other management approaches on a watershed basis; and
- the use of a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory management tools, which build on the existing provincial regulatory frameworks and enable the use of new regulatory tools where necessary.
The Ministry’s approach to protect Lake Simcoe is comprised of four key components:
- Introduction of a proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act, that would, if passed by the Legislature:
- Include a purpose provision to protect and restore the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed;
- Include an authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to establish a Lake Simcoe Protection Plan with clear objectives and targets;
- Establish two advisory committees which would be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and would report to the Minister: (1) a Lake Simcoe Science Committee and, (2) a Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee;
- Include an authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to govern activities in shoreline, tributary and wetland areas of the watershed;
- Amend the Ontario Water Resources Act to establish a regulation-making authority to create a water quality trading program; and
- Grant the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority the authority to apply regulations under section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act to areas that are outside of its area of jurisdiction but within the Lake Simcoe watershed in order to ensure consistent rules are applied to development that is taking place in environmentally sensitive areas.
- Development of a Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, including:
- Targets and measures for addressing the key threats to the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed;
- Policies that build on existing provincial legislation, regulation, policies and programs tools;
- Advice from the Science Advisory Committee, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, First Nations and the public.
- Based on the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy recommendations, two advisory committees would be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and would report to the Minister: a coordinating committee and a science committee. These advisory committees would coordinate implementation and provide advice to the Minister.
- Enhance Existing Voluntary Tools
- The government announcement of funding in the amount of $20M over four years ($5M per year) to support implementation of the protection plan. The funding would focus primarily on:
- providing assistance to farmers to encourage agricultural best management practices that reduce environmental impacts;
- scientific research and monitoring; and
This proposal was posted for a 60 day public review and comment period starting June 17, 2008. Comments were to be received by August 16, 2008.
All comments received during the comment period are being considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry.
Please Note: All comments and submissions received have become part of the public record.
Other Public Consultation Opportunities:
From March 27, 2008 to May 2, 2008, a Discussion Paper, “Protecting Lake Simcoe: Creating Ontario's Strategy for Action" was posted on the Environmental Registry (Registry Number: 010-2974) to begin to consult on some components of the proposed long-term Strategy. Elements of the proposed Strategy were outlined in the Discussion Paper.
Specific consultation questions were posed to help facilitate the public dialogue on developing a strategy to protect Lake Simcoe.
The topics of the questions were:
- A proposed goal for the Lake Simcoe Protection Strategy
- The contents of a Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, including possible mandatory and voluntary management tools and approaches
- Potential funding mechanisms, including innovative approaches such as a nutrient offsetting or trading program
- A proposed new implementation partnership
- The elements of possible legislation
- During the Discussion Paper consultation period several consultation events were held in the watershed to ensure the Ministry received a wide range of input on the topics of discussion. The Ministry held three community partner workshops in Newmarket, Jackson’s Point (Georgina), and Barrie and held two public information forums in Barrie and Newmarket. Over 150 people participated in the workshops and over 300 people attended the Barrie and Newmarket forums.
In addition, several focused stakeholder meetings were held including two meetings with the agricultural sector (Ontario Federation of Agriculture Environment Committee and the Ontario Federation of Fruit and Vegetable Growers), a presentation to the community and council of Town of Georgina (80 attended), two meetings with the Simcoe Chapter of Building Industry and Land Development Association and a meeting with the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority Board.
Over 15 comments and submissions were received through the Environmental Registry, and 25 comments were received by fax, email, or courier.
- The Ministry also created two advisory committees: a Science Advisory Committee and a Stakeholder Advisory Committee.
- Science Advisory Committee
- The 10 members of the Science Advisory Committee are experts in water quality and the ecology of lakes and their watersheds. Their expertise and advice will ensure the legislation and plan are based on best available science. They met 5 times in March and April and the results of their meetings have been posted on the public website.
- Stakeholder Advisory Committee
- The Stakeholder Advisory Committee was established in May and met once in May. The Committee is comprised of a wide range of interests from the Conservation Authority, municipalities, agriculture, tourism and non-governmental organizations.
- Aboriginal Engagement
- The Aboriginal Engagement Strategy which began in December 2007 to support the draft legislation framework focused on early engagement and outreach activities to First Nation communities and provincial Aboriginal organizations with a potential interest in the proposed legislation.
- Going Forward
- The Ministry will continue to work with the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, the Science Advisory Committee, First Nations, and the public to develop Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. The Ministry will continue to actively engage aboriginal peoples, particularly those with cultural, economic and heritage links to Lake Simcoe, to learn from their knowledge of the Lake and to seek their ideas on how to protect the Lake for future generations. Once a draft Plan has been prepared, all interested parties will have an opportunity to provide comments.
Senior Policy Advisor
Ministry of the Environment
Integrated Environmental Policy Division
Land and Water Policy Branch
77 Wellesley Street West