MVCA seeks public support opposed to Bill 229, Schedule 6

MISSISSIPPI VALLEY WATERSHED – The Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA) is seeking public support to remove Schedule 6 overseeing Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities.

“Municipalities and county councils have joined the call to have proposed changes to conservation authorities removed from the provincial budget bill – and now we need members of the public like you to add your voice to the growing list of groups and organizations speaking up,” MVCA community relations coordinator Shannon Gutoskie released in a statement today (Nov. 26).

More than just a budget, Bill 229 proposes legislative changes that will undermine the collaborative nature of conservation authorities and weaken their ability to protect people, property and the environment.

The MVCA believes such changes do not belong in a budget bill, which is exempt from consultation on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. That’s why municipalities such as the County of Lanark and City of Ottawa are calling for Schedule 6 to be withdrawn from the budget bill and for the province to engage in meaningful consultation on the proposed changes.

“Several of the changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act are entirely new and will add red tape and unintended consequences that are contrary to what we are all attempting to achieve by modernizing the Act,” MVCA general manager Sally McIntyre said. “We remain hopeful that by removing this from the budget bill, municipalities and conservation authorities will be able to work with the Ministry to address concerns and develop regulations to implement changes made to the act last year under Bill 108. Everyone has been caught off-guard by reopening of the act without any opportunity for discussion.”

Conservation authorities have identified several major concerns with the proposed changes, which will directly affect municipalities, residents and watersheds. These include changes to board governance, including who a municipality can appoint to represent them; new powers enabling the minister to override a conservation authority and issue a development permit in a watershed without a hearing and with no appeal; the removal of enforcement tools and a conservation authority’s ability to appeal planning decisions; possible provincial interference in local budgets and fees; and limitations on programs with a decreased focus on environmental monitoring, stewardship and outdoor education.

“In short, these are not small changes,” the MVCA said. “They will bring increased administrative costs and burden for municipalities and conservation authorities, an erosion of local decision-making, patchwork program delivery across watersheds, decreased resources for capital renewal, and an undermining of the integrity, transparency and effectiveness of our planning and permitting processes.”

The MVCA asks residents, groups and associations who are concerned about these changes need to make their voices heard this week before the bill goes to Standing committee.

The MVCA encourages you to:

  • Contact your local MPP and Ontario’s Minister of Finance (Hon. Rod Phillips)
  • You can also contact Ontario’s Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks (Hon. Jeff Yurek), Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Hon. Steve Clark) and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (Hon. John Yakabuski).
  • Written comments can also be submitted to Ontario’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.