Summary: We are proposing to introduce amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act, which if passed, would help conservation authorities focus and deliver on their core mandate, and to improve governance.
Conservation Authorities Act
The Conservation Authorities Act, an Act introduced in 1946, enables programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario. Under the Act, 36 conservation authorities were created at the request of municipalities. They are governed by municipally appointed representatives to deliver local resource management programs at a watershed scale for both provincial and municipal interests.
The initial focus of conservation authorities was to prevent flooding, erosion, drought, and deforestation through improved land, water and forestry management practices. As extreme weather, particularly heavy rains and flooding becomes more frequent due to climate change, the core frontline role that conservation authorities play in our communities is becoming increasingly important. Since the 1940s when the Act was established, the programs and services delivered by conservation authorities have expanded. Conservation authorities are the second largest landowners in Ontario, next to the Province; collectively they own and manage 146,000 hectares of land in Ontario.
Summary of proposed changes
We are proposing to make amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act, an Act introduced in 1946 that would, if passed:
- clearly define the core mandatory programs and services provided by conservation authorities to be, natural hazard protection and management, conservation and management of conservation authority lands, drinking water source protection (as prescribed under the Clean Water Act), and protection of the Lake Simcoe watershed (as prescribed under the Lake Simcoe Protection Act)
- increase transparency in how conservation authorities levy municipalities for mandatory and non-mandatory programs and services. Update the Conservation Authorities Act, an Act introduced in 1946 to conform with modern transparency standards by ensuring that municipalities and conservation authorities review levies for non-core programs after a certain period of time (e.g., 4 to 8 years)
- establish a transition period (e.g. 18 to 24 months) and process for conservation authorities and municipalities to enter into agreements for the delivery of non-mandatory programs and services and meet these transparency standards
- enable the Minister to appoint an investigator to investigate or undertake an audit and report on a conservation authority
- clarify that the duty of conservation authority board members is to act in the best interest of the conservation authority, similar to not-for profit organizations.
We are also proposing to proclaim un-proclaimed provisions of the Conservation Authorities Act related to:
- fees for programs and services
- transparency and accountability
- approval of projects with provincial grants
- recovery of capital costs and operating expenses from municipalities (municipal levies)
- regulation of areas over which conservation authorities have jurisdiction (e.g., development permitting)
- enforcement and offences
- additional regulations.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is consulting on a proposal to streamline and focus conservation authorities development permitting and role in municipal plan review. For more information, visit Environmental Registry 013-4992.
In the spring 2019, we will also develop and consult on a suite of regulatory and policy proposals to support the proposed amendments to and proclamation of un-proclaimed provisions of the Conservation Authorities Act.