In order to ensure that the Conservation Authorities Act is meeting the needs of Ontarians in a modern context, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has, with input from Stakeholders, Indigenous communities and the general public, undertaken an extensive review of the roles, responsibilities, funding and governance of conservation authorities in the context of natural resource management.
In the coming weeks the ministry will be posting ‘Conserving our Future: A Modernized Conservation Authorities Act’ which outlines the suite of legislative, regulatory, policy and program changes proposed to be made as a result of the review.
Bill (139), the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act was introduced in the legislature on May 30, 2017, and proposes the outlined amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act that will enable the regulatory and policy changes contained within the Conserving Our Future document.
Key highlights of the proposed changes to Conservation Authorities Act will achieve the following:
STRENGTHEN OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN CONSERVATION AUTHORITY DECISION MAKING
• Enable municipalities to set the term of appointments and replace authority members as appropriate;
• Enable the province to prescribe board composition and qualifications for board members;
• Move requirements related to conservation authority governance practices from regulations to by-laws, and updating those requirements for greater consistency with municipal expectations;
• Enable MNRF to conduct reviews of conservation authority programs, services and operations; and
• Update requirements for amalgamation decisions including requirements for public notice and MNRF approval.
INCREASE CLARITY AND CONSISTANCY IN PROGRAMS AND SERVICES
• Clarify that conservation authorities are created to provide programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources;
• Clarify that conservation authorities must provide programs and services assigned by the province in accordance with regulations made under the authority of the Act;
• Clarify that conservation authorities may provide programs and services on behalf of municipalities in accordance with memorandums of understanding (MOU) between municipalities and conservation authorities;
• Clarify that conservation authorities may develop additional programs and services deemed advisable by the authority to further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources within their jurisdiction; and
• Enable the Lieutenant Governor in Council to assign the delivery of additional programs and services to all or individual conservation authorities in the future.
INCREASE CLARITY AND CONSISTANCY IN REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS
• Clarify that the purpose of conservation authorities’ existing development and interference regulation is to manage impact(s) to the control of water-related natural hazards;
• Update the suite of compliance tools that can be used by a conservation authority to enforce compliance with regulatory requirements (e.g. ability to issue stop work orders, increases to fines); and
• Enable the Lieutenant Governor in Council to regulate any activity that impact the conservation, restoration, development or management of natural resources in the future.
IMPROVE COLLABORATION AND ENGAGEMENT
• Enable, where appropriate, the regulation of requirements for consultation and outreach undertaken by conservation authorities - including the ability for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations mandating the use of advisory boards.
MODERNIZE FUNDING MECHANISMS TO SUPPORT CONSERVATION AUTHORITY OPERATIONS
• Enable the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations that determine the manner in which municipal levies are apportioned and appealed;
• Increase transparency in and use of fees by requiring conservation authorities to establish policies that include a fees schedule, public notification requirements and timelines; and
• Enable the minister to establish regulations to support the development and use of conservation authority fees