Yesterday, Mayor Shaun Collier and Regional Councillor (Ward 3) Joanne Dies presented to the Standing Committee of Finance and Economic Affairs regarding the need to remove Schedule 6 (Conservation Authorities Act changes) from Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020.

The Town of Ajax (TOA) has built its reputation on being environmentally minded, and is proud to be a prominent voice in support our Conservation Authorities (CA) including the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA), who we rely on for timely expertise on build projects, as partners in program and service delivery, as managers of public spaces, and more.

Schedule 6 changes came as a surprise to stakeholders, who were awaiting regulatory changes following Bill 108 last year. Changes outlined in Schedule 6 will decrease a CA’s autonomy in decision-making, impact their ability to enforce violations, and decrease efficiency overall, as permit decisions would be appealable to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), which is known to be a developer-friendly, arduous and expensive processes. Changes would also have a significant impact on Board of Directors’ roles and responsibilities.

The vital role of CAs in mitigating flood risks and hazards, and protecting life and property was highlighted in Ontario’s Flooding Strategy and the Independent Report from Ontario’s Special Advisor on Flooding, so changes must not be taken lightly.

In addition to the Town of Ajax, CAs, and not-for-profits including Conservation Ontario, Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence, there are several other notable individuals and groups that have also voiced their concern with these changes and their inclusion in the budget bill.

For example:

  • Ontario Big City Mayors, representing approximately 70% of Ontario’s population;
  • The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, representing 444 Ontario municipalities;
  • More than 20 local and single-tier municipalities individually;
  • At least 4 Regional governments;
  • David Crombie, Chair of the Greenbelt Council;
  • David Lindsay, Vice Chair of Ontario Parks;
  • 96 environmentally-focused not-for-profit groups;
  • Indigenous leaders;
  • At least 15 independent CAs;
  • Over 150 media hits in support of CAs;
  • Academic researchers and professors from across the province;

have all recommended that schedule 6 be removed or reconsidered, and the list continues to grow. In addition, there have been an excess of 20,000 emails sent to the Province of Ontario.

Locally, there is an example of a Provincially Significant Wetland within the Lower Duffins Creek Watershed Complex that is being threatened by development, should these changes go through.

Quotes

“I want to thank Premier Ford, Hon. Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, and the Standing Committee members for their commitment to stakeholder engagement on this Bill, and welcoming this important conversation. There must be a balance struck between our economic development ambitions and need for environmental protections for long-term benefit. At the end of the day, it simply does not make sense to reduce CA autonomy and enforcement ability to lengthen processes and increase uncertainty around valid, science-based local decision-making, leaving the door open to broad appeals and political interference. It is imperative that Schedule 6 be removed from Bill 229 and that any changes to the Conservation Authorities Act be given a full public consultation process.”

– Mayor Shaun Collier, TOA

“When everything is running smoothly, it means that the CA is effective. They do impactful work in the background to avoid and mitigate risk to life and property, including work to prevent flooding and erosion. This work is increasingly important as the impacts of climate change are felt across the province. As a member of the TRCA’s Board of Directors, I was surprised by the changes outlined in Schedule 6. In addition to the opposition to Schedule 6 from dozens of municipalities, CAs, environmental leaders and not-for-profits, personally, I have received more than 7,000 emails from concerned residents, and I know that means the government has received even more. This is an issue that residents across the province care deeply about, and I am proud to be a part of successive Councils who stand up for our natural environment.”
– Joanne Dies, Regional Councillor Ward 3

Quick Facts

  • Changes to the Conservation Authorities Act were contained in the annual Budget, Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020 (Schedule 6)
  • Changes included in Schedule 6 came as a surprise to Conservation Authorities and their stakeholders (like municipalities), and would functionally decrease autonomy and enforcement ability of local Conservation Authorities
  • TOA is a proud supporter of our Conservation Authority partners, protectors of our natural environment
  • The TOA response aligns with the position taken by municipal associations including the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and Ontario Big City Mayor (OBCM)
  • For a list of support for Conservation Authorities, including media coverage, visit https://conservationontario.ca/policy-priorities/conservation-authorities-act/support-for-conservation-authorities

More Information

  • For more information about Bill 229, the Standing Committee process, and Hansard records, please visit ola.org
  • For additional background and the TOA response, visit ajax.ca/MZO