June 22, 2017 – Proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act announced recently are welcome news say Kawartha Conservation CAO Mark Majchrowski and Board Chair Ted Smith.
“Conservation Authorities play a significant role in flood forecasting and monitoring, updating outdated flood plain mapping, reviewing development applications, working to address the impacts of climate change and so much more,” explained Mr. Majchrowski. “Unfortunately, since the Act was created in the 1940s, it has not kept up with a lot of current challenges and realities faced by municipalities and conservation authorities.”
For the past two years, Ministry staff have been in talks with Conservation Ontario and other stakeholders to overhaul and modernize the act with a goal of improving the legislation, regulatory and policy framework governing the conservation authorities and their operations.
A Ministry of Municipal Affairs statement said the proposed legislation would strengthen oversight and accountability, provide clarity for conservation authority roles and responsibilities, encourage public engagement and modernize funding mechanisms; That would include updating the appointment processes and requirements for board members, going from a three-year to four-year term.
If approved, the bill would also make clear expectations for provincial programs and services. The new legislation will also provide clarity on the scope of activities requiring conservation authority approval; clarify the scope of the authorities’ review; and update their compliance mechanisms and enforcement tools.
“The changes proposed by the Province touch on a number of points raised by conservation authorities during the past two years,” said Mr. Smith. “This is a great step by the Province in clarifying the very important role of conservation authorities and the science-based management of land and water within watersheds across the Province.”
“The proposed changes are a clear demonstration of the Province’s view that conservation authorities are essential watershed-based natural resources stewards and managers,” said Mr. Majchrowski. “As we continue to monitor watershed and climate conditions and while we develop critical implementation strategies and deliverables, once passed the new amended legislation will give conservation authorities a clear path forward with a renewed focus.”