Conservation Authorities Act (CA Act)

On November 5, 2020, the Province introduced a number of changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act that significantly either limit or completely change the role of conservation authorities to protect Ontario’s environment and ensure people and property are safe from flooding and other natural hazards.  The changes risk watering down or limiting the conservation authorities’ ability to ensure a watershed-based approach needed to conserve and restore Ontario’s important natural resources.

Coverage and Response to the Conservation Authorities Act

Our Ask?

We need the Province to:

  • Repeal Schedule 6 of the Budget Measures Act (Bill 229)
  • Continue to work with conservation authorities to find workable solutions to reduce red tape and create conditions for growth
  • Respect the current conservation authority/municipal relationships
  • 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

Conservation Ontario Concerns

Ontario’s environment will be at risk

Provincial changes to both the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act risk watering down or losing the conservation authorities’ science-based watershed approach which currently protects people and property from flooding and other natural hazards as well as ensures healthy natural resources.

  • Conservation authorities are important agencies who help protect Ontario’s environment. Their science-based watershed information helps to steer development to appropriate places where it will not harm the environment or create risks to people.
  • CAs bring the watershed science and information to the various tables where development and growth are being reviewed and discussed.
  • Provincial changes limit the conservation authorities’ ability to provide input to municipal planning applications and to permit decisions and appeals.
  • The conservation authority watershed model has served Ontario well and is relied upon by many levels of government, businesses and residents to reduce flooding and other natural hazards as well as to protect the environment from upstream to downstream.
  • Conservation authorities undertake a wide variety of watershed management programs and services including: monitoring, data collection management and modelling; watershed-scale studies, plans, assessments and strategies; and watershed-wide actions including stewardship, communication, outreach and education activities that protect our environment on a watershed basis.

Provincial changes will actually create more costs, delays and red tape around permit and applications and appeals.

  • There are new appeal processes which will significantly slow down the permitting process creating delays and more red tape.
  • If applicants are not satisfied with decisions made by the Hearing Boards (CA Board of Directors or Executive), then applicants can now appeal directly to the Minister who can make his or her own decision without a hearing and even issue a permit.
  • Alternatively, or in addition, the applicant can appeal a decision of the conservation authority to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
  • These changes could add as many as almost 200 days to the application process.
  • Conservation Ontario had already begun to streamline and speed up conservation authority permit approval processes through the CO Client Service and Streamlining Initiative.

Changes made by the Province to the conservation authorities’ role in not being allowed to independently appeal decisions made around municipal planning applications will put more people and infrastructure at risk of flooding and other natural hazards and add additional stressors to Ontario’s natural resources.

  • Changes have been made to the conservation authorities’ role in the land use planning  process. They are no longer allowed to appeal these decisions independently.
  • Being able to participate in appeals processes ensures that the watershed lens is being applied to planning and land use decisions and that people and their property are protected from natural hazards such as flooding.
  • Without our ability to look at development applications on a watershed basis, we run the risk of the plan review process being piecemealed and ultimately the potential to exacerbate risks associated with natural hazards and for cumulative negative environmental impacts.

The Province has removed the responsibility for municipally appointed CA Board members to represent the interests of the Conservation Authority.

  • The Province has changed the ‘Duty to Members’ section of the CAA to have municipal representatives on CA Boards actually act in the interests of their own municipality rather than the conservation authority’s interests.
  • It contradicts the fiduciary duty of board members of any organization to represent the best interests of the corporation they are overseeing. It puts an individual municipal interest above the conservation authority and watershed interests.
  • This change undermines the ability of the CA Board to address the broader environmental/resource management issues facing our watersheds today. It limits discourse on these issues and consideration of programs and services that address watershed-wide issues that span municipal boundaries is paramount in a time of increasing climate change.

Current and Proposed Section 28 Process Flow Chart

The new permit appeals processes being proposed by the Province will significantly slow down the permit process creating delays and more red tape. If applicants are not satisfied with decisions made by the Hearing Boards – which are currently the CA Board of Directors or Executive, then applicants can now appeal directly to the Minister who can make his or her own decision without a hearing and even issue a permit.

Alternatively, or in addition, the applicant can appeal a decision of the conservation authority to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). These diagrams demonstrate how the proposed changes do not streamline the permitting process but instead, could add up to 200 days.

Current Section 28 Process Flow Chart

Proposed Section 28 Process Flow Chart

Actions You Can Take

Support Conservation Authorities and Our Environment

Conservation Ontario is encouraging residents and watershed partners to reach out to the following individuals to request them to:

Quicklinks