Hamilton Conservation authority is asking Hamilton City Council and concerned citizens to contact the Ontario government, both Ministries and local MPPs to protest some sweeping changes that the government tucked into the omnibus bill that also contained the latest provincial budget. Last week Conservation Halton sent a letter with its concerns to the Ministry of the Environment.
Included in the legislation is wording that would essentially strip conservation authorities of their power to block development applications and even to participate in LPAT hearings. In a letter to Hamilton City Council, HCA writes: “The Province also proposes an amendment to the Planning Act, which if passed, would not allow conservation authorities to appeal a municipal planning decision to the LPAT to represent our interests, unless requested through an agreement with the municipality or the Province. To date, this has not been an issue with the Hamilton Conservation Authority but is an important tool to have. This could also impact our right to appeal planning decisions as a landowner. This is a concern as our conservation lands, made up of 11,000 acres of forests, 145 km of trails, fields, streams, wildlife and plant life, are under HCA’s care and protection, as they have been for over 60 years
Conservation authorities have long requested for the ability to issue stop work orders to protect environmentally sensitive areas. The updated Act removes un-proclaimed provisions for this enhanced enforcement and only retains the current tools such as fines and possible prosecution and these existing tools do not provide the ability to effectively stop any significant threats and impacts.”
Another clause would remove citizen members from Conservation Authority boards. In the case of the HCA it has six citizen members and five members of Hamilton Council including HCA Chair Lloyd Ferguson. HCA writes: “If passed, HCA would lose citizen representatives on its board who currently make up half the board of directors. These members provide expertise in varied fields and provide input on HCA programs and services from a citizen’s point of view. The proposed amendments would also require municipally appointed councillors to make decisions in the best interest of the municipality and not the conservation authority and its watershed. This is contrary to proper board governance.”