Conservation authorities are governed by the Conservation Authorities Act which is administered by the Ministry of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).
The Conservation Authorities Act was originally enacted in 1946, as conservation authorities began to be established, and has undergone amendments since this time.
Bill 23 – More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022
Conservation Ontario’s Response to Bill 23
On October 25, 2022, the Ontario government unveiled Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster) legislation and regulations. Conservation authorities (CAs) want to do their part to help the Province meet its goal of building 1.5 million homes in Ontario over the next ten years. We understand how important the Province’s stated outcomes are, but we are concerned that the proposed legislative changes may have unintentional, negative consequences.
We are concerned that these changes will not meet the goals for increasing housing supplies and will instead increase risks to life and property for Ontario residents.
- Weaken the ability of conservation authorities to continue protecting people and property from natural hazards
- Place new responsibilities on municipalities related to natural hazards and natural resources that they are unprepared and under resourced to tackle
- Diminish the ability to protect critical natural infrastructure like wetlands that reduce flooding and protect water quality in lakes and rivers
The proposed changes to delegate conservation authority regulatory responsibility to individual municipalities are contrary to the core mandate of conservation authorities and may put additional people – and their homes – at more risk. The ability of conservation authorities to regulate development in hazardous areas is critical for successful emergency preparedness response in order to prevent the worst outcomes.
Municipalities have successfully relied on the benefits of a long-standing conservation authority partnership which has used local watershed science to guide decision-making.
- Allow municipalities to enter into agreements with conservation authorities for review and comment on development applications such as natural heritage and water resources plan review.
- Development subject to Planning Act authorizations should not be exempt from requiring a conservation authority permit and conservation authority regulations should not be delegated to municipalities.
- The Multi-stakeholder Conservation Authority Working Group needs to continue working with the Province to provide advice and solutions for successful implementation.
- Conservation authority development fees should not be frozen since they are based on cost recovery.
- Careful consideration is required when identifying conservation authority lands to support housing development.
- Conservation Ontario's Standing Committee Submission (November 9, 2022)
- Conservation Ontario's Reaction to Bill 23
- Conservation Ontario's Client Service and Streamlining Initiative 2020/2021
The CAA stipulates three categories for conservation authority programs and services:
Category 1: Mandatory programs and services (defined in regulation; where municipal levy could be used without any agreement)
Category 2: Municipal programs and services provided at the request of a municipality (with municipal funding through an MOU/agreement)
Category 3: Other programs and services an authority determines are advisable (use of municipal levy requires an MOU/agreement with participating municipalities)
Conservation Ontario is supporting conservation authorities in their work to implement changes to the CAA.
2021 - 2022 Regulatory Proposals Consultation
The Province conducted a two-phase consultation process on the proposed regulations to support the Conservation Authorities Act. The final Phase 1 regulations were released in October 2021. All conservation authorities submitted their Transition Plans to MECP and participating municipalities by December 31, 2021.
The final Phase 2 regulations were released April 22, 2022, including four regulations:
- Budget and Apportionment
- Determing Amounts Owed by Specified Municipalities
- Information Requirements
- Amending Regulation for the Transition Plans regulation re: fees in cost apportioning agreements (Category 3)
A Minister’s List of Classes of Programs and Services for which a CA may charge a fee was also included.
The “Phase 2” proposals are required to implement the legislative changes previously made to the CA Act, including those changes made through Bill 229 Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2021. The Phase 2 proposals are focused on regulatory and policy changes intended to provide direction to CAs as they transition to the new budget framework by January 1, 2024.
Multiple webinars and discussion sessions were hosted by Conservation Ontario (CO) and the MECP to provide an overview of the CA Act Phase 2 proposals and opportunities for discussion.
The Phase 2 regulations focus on ongoing consultation with municipalities on the inventory of programs and services prepared by CAs; negotiations with municipalities regarding municipal and other programs (Category 2 and 3); and, regular reporting to MECP via quarterly progress reports and a final report.
Conservation Ontario’s Submission
- CO ERO Response Letter June 22 – Phase 1 Regulatory Proposals under the Conservation Authorities Act
- Specific Comments on Mandatory Programs and Services Delivered by Conservation Authorities (June 22, 2021 Letter)
- Specific Comments on Community Advisory Boards (June 22, 2021 Letter)
- Specific Comments on Section 29 Minister’s Regulation (June 22, 2021)
- Letter to MECP Minister (June 22, 2021)
- Media Release - Conservation Ontario Suggests Solutions to Important Concerns Around Proposed Changes (June 23, 2021)
- Media Release - Phase 1 Regulations for the Conservation Authorities Act Are Finalized by the Province (October 8, 2021)
- Overview of Conservation Authorities Act Phase 1 Regulations