On June 20, 2006 the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA) received Royal Assent. This followed Third Reading in the Legislature on June 19, 2006. The PPCRA was drafted after a review of public and aboriginal comments that were provided as a result of public consultation about eight legislative proposals. Further amendments were approved by the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly and approved upon Third Reading.
Substantive changes as a result of consultation about the eight legislative proposals, and incorporated in a draft Bill introduced for First Reading include:
Legislated objectives were revised to include provision of scientific benefits and monitoring of ecological change;
A provision to allow the Minister to create new park classes was deleted;
A provision to add an "aquatic" park class once a scientific and policy framework is developed was added;
Provisions were included to require completion of management direction for protected areas within five years of proclamation or establishment of new areas, and completion of a new planning manual within two years;
The exemption to allow waterpower development for aboriginal communities not connected to the provincial electricity supply grid was expanded to include non-aboriginal communities;
The exception to allow existing waterpower facilities to remain in protected areas was expanded to allow these facilities to be redeveloped;
Specific provisions were included to minimize use of aggregate on logging roads in Algonquin Provincial Park;
Conditions were added for consideration of mining or forest access road crossings;
Limitations were added with respect to the size of areas that could be removed from protected areas by Cabinet, with areas over 2% of 100 hectares, whichever is less, requiring the approval of the Legislature; and
A prohibition on new private tenure was added, with an exception only for extensions of existing private tenure.
The following substantive amendments were approved at Third Reading:
To address aboriginal concerns a new section was added stating that "Nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982";
The objective for wilderness class parks was revised to stated that "visitors travel by non-mechanized means" and the Minister was provided with limited authority to establish exceptions to allow mechanized use by regulation;
The area of land that could be deleted from a protected area without the approval of the Legislature was reduced to 1% of 50 hectares, whichever is less;
The definition of the contents of state of protected areas reporting was expanded;
Section 19 was revised to make it clear that existing resource access roads would not be subject to closure after five years, but could continue in use; and
Various provisions were added to strengthen penalties for contraventions of the PPCRA.