Minto calls for province to reconsider changes to conservation authorities

MINTO – Town council has approved a resolution asking the province to rethink proposed changes to legislation governing conservation authorities.

Through Bill 229, the Budget Measures Act, the Ontario government has introduced a number of changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act.

Those changes will either significantly limit or “completely change the role of conservation authorities to protect Ontario’s environment and ensure people and property are safe from natural hazards,” states a backgrounder accompanying a letter to Minto council from the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA).

“The changes risk watering down or limiting the conservation authorities’ ability to ensure a watershed-based approach to development and to overall protection of Ontario’s environment,” states the document, which was discussed by Minto council on Dec. 1.

A letter signed by MVCA chair Dave Turton, who is deputy mayor of Minto, asks council to support three requests to the province, including removal of Schedule 6, which amends the Conservation Authorities Act, from the budget bill.

“This schedule has nothing to do with the proposed budget bill,” the MVCA letter states.

The letter also asks the province to:

  • work with conservation authorities and municipalities to identify effective solutions for streamlining development review and approval;
  • embrace their long-standing partnership with the conservation authorities and provide them with the tools and financial resources they need to effectively implement their watershed management role;
  • and maintain the current relationship between conservation authorities and municipalities.

“Municipalities should continue to have the flexibility to appoint either a member of council or a citizen from the municipality to a conservation authority,” the letter states.

The MVCA is also asking the province to maintain the current governance responsibilities.

“Members should continue to act in the best interests of the conservation authority at all times,” the letter states.

“This is a fundamental principle of responsible governance in both private and public sector bodies. It should be maintained.”

Turton asked council to approve a resolution of support for the MVCA’s position.

“Everybody knows where Maitland Valley stands and the province is kind of trying to pull the wool out from under a lot of the conservation authorities for numerous reasons,” said Turton.

“I’m hoping (environment) minister (Jeff) Yurek gets the message. I’m sure he will, but you never know.”

Introduced on Nov. 5, Bill 229 has passed first and second reading and is currently undergoing committee review.