Conservation Authority Act Review

Overview

In 2015, the Province of Ontario initiated a review of the Conservation Authorities Act, which addresses the roles, responsibilities and governance of Conservation Authorities in resource management and environmental protection.

In 2016, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry released their suggested priorities for renewal of the CA Act: Conserving Our Future. Proposed Priorities for Renewal. This paper is based on earlier feedback received from 2015 Stakeholder Engagement sessions. Conservation Authorities are pleased to participate in the discussion and review of the Conservation Authorities Act.

The general public is encouraged to provide their comments online. You can send an email which supports confirming an integrated watershed management approach and the role of Conservation Authorities as watershed management agencies.

Conservation Halton’s top priorities

Conservation Halton recommends that the following six priorities form the foundation of the renewal of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act:

  1. Maintain the broad mandate of Conservation Authorities as outlined in the Act
  2. Recognize, validate and strengthen the role Conservation Authorities play in helping to achieve provincial and municipal objectives
  3. Maintain the current collaborative approach of Conservation Authorities to recognize the important partnerships we have with municipalities and numerous provincial ministries
  4. Establish a sustainable and equitable funding model
  5. Ensure the Act and its administration allow Conservation Authorities to support emerging natural resource management issues including the directions of the Provincial Plans currently being updated – Read the Provincial Plans (click here)
  6. Facilitate Conservation Authority Service Excellence

For more information you can Visit Conservation Ontario’s webpage: Conservation Authorities Act Review is Underway
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Maintain the broad mandate of Conservation Authorities as outlined in the Act

The broad objects and powers of Conservation Authorities in the Act allow them to respond to natural resource management needs and challenges, even when they change, evolve and intensify – as they have since the Act was created. We anticipate that needs and challenges will continue to change over time, so the objects and powers should remain broad to continue to facilitate adaptation.

Recognize, validate and strengthen the role Conservation Authorities play in helping to achieve provincial and municipal objectives 

Owing to their unique position, Conservation Authorities play a critical role in achieving a number of provincial and municipal goals and objectives related to natural resource management, sustainability and climate change. The lack of provincial validation can create confusion about Conservation Authority roles and responsibilities, and may limit Authorities’ ability to support provincial objectives as needed in the future. Greater recognition of, and support for, the roles of Conservation Authorities will result in more effective natural resource management, ultimately leading to improved well-being of Ontarians.

Maintain the current collaborative approach of Conservation Authorities to recognize the important partnerships we have with municipalities and numerous provincial ministries 

The relationships between Conservation Authorities and municipalities, as well as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, have evolved into strong partnerships for the implementation of provincial and regional objectives, as well as meeting local needs. Municipalities are under pressure to meet growth targets and environmental standards set by the Province. Conservation Authorities provide invaluable support to municipalities in implementing these targets and standards.

Also, Conservation Halton and other Conservation Authorities work with a number of Provincial Ministries to deliver programs, projects, services and advice related to provincial natural resource management and environmental goals, including:

  • Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry MNRF,
  • Ministry of Municipal Affiars and Housing MMAH, and
  • Ministry of Environment and Climate Change MOECC

Maintaining the collaborative, partnership-driven approach of Conservation Authorities, through a Provincial policy directive or memorandum of understanding, would enable opportunities to further grow the contributions of Conservation Authorities in achieving shared goals for building sustainable communities. The Crombie Panel report on the Provincial 4-Plan Review itself calls for “sustained focus, investment and coordination across provincial ministries and with other levels of government to ensure that the potential of this great region is realized.”

Establish a sustainable and equitable funding model 

The current funding model does not recognize the resources needed to sustain a broad suite of Conservation Authority programs that help build and support sustainable communities, while realizing provincial objectives and priorities in natural heritage planning and long term management; watershed protection, restoration and monitoring; hazard management and remediation/mitigation; cultural heritage and outdoor education; land acquisition and regional greenspace; community connections, stewardship and recreation; and climate change planning and adaptation. Also, although each watershed and municipality has unique challenges and needs, the reliance on municipal funding makes it challenging for Conservation Authorities with low populations to provide basic levels of service.

Ensure the Act and its administration allow Conservation Authorities to support emerging natural resource management issues including the directions of the Provincial Plans currently being updated 

Conservation Authorities, due to their expertise and ability to work collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and within an array of legislative processes, are well positioned to assist and support the Province on a number of emerging priorities.

As local implementers, Conservation Authorities can leverage successful partnerships and help fulfill the new directions emerging from the four Provincial Plans currently being updated, assess potential watershed impacts, and support sustainability and community transformation initiatives.

Facilitate Conservation Authority Service Excellence

Many of the suggested modifications outlined in “Conserving our Future – Proposed Priorities for Renewal” speak to applying modern and best practices to both the governance of Conservation Authorities and the administration of its Regulation. Conservation Authorities are dedicated to improving service standards and operations and have undertaken a number of initiatives to avoid conflict, duplication and delay in environmental review and approval processes. Conservation Halton agrees that this is a priority for the review of the Conservation Authorities Act and supports the province in continuing to improve the service delivery of Conservation Authorities.

 

Conservation Halton is one of Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities, local watershed management agencies which deliver a wide variety services and programs that protect and manage water and other natural resources in partnership with all levels of government, agencies, industry, and landowners.

The original Conservation Authorities Act was established in 1946. Some amendments have been made over time, including those in the 1990s which addressed local programs, fees, partnerships and other areas. In 2006, the scope of Conservation Authorities’ regulatory responsibilities changed to encompass additional water related hazards.