The recent moves to strip local Conservation Authorities of their traditional powers, resulted in widespread criticism, not only from the CA’s themselves but from the municipalities in which the CA’s exist. While the bill mandating the changes has been proclaimed into law, there still is the task of formulating the regulations that determine what the changes will look like. To that end, Environment Minister Jeff Yurek has appointed a working group to “help implement changes.” The working group will be headed by Hassaan Basit, President and CEO of Conservation Halton as chair of the group. Basit’s conservation authority was one of the first to condemn the changes when they announced last month.
Basit will form a committee of approximately seven members drawn from Conservation Authorities across the province, and says the process of providing advice could be finished in three or four months. “There is still an opportunity for dialogue,” he told the Bay Observer. “I do appreciate the Minister providing this opportunity to inform the content of the regulations.”
“As we move forward together, we want to build stronger relationships with conservation authorities so we can work together to ensure consistent best practices, good governance and appropriate accountability to best serve the people of Ontario,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “I’d like to thank Hassaan Basit for the discussions over the last few weeks which helped inform some recent amendments to the legislative changes to ensure conservation authorities have the tools they need to protect their communities. I look forward to continuing our positive and constructive dialogue towards our shared goals.”
On November 12, Basit reacted to the proposed legislative changes in no uncertain terms, “We do not want to see any decisions made that increase the risks from natural hazards, especially as we continue to work to mitigate climate change and conserve our watershed to allow for responsible growth today, without sacrificing the right of future generations to do the same.”
The Bill reduced the ability of Conservation Authorities to appeal planning decisions, and allowed for Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to override CA’s decisions. At the time it was introduced it was suggested CA’s mandates, outside of strict watershed management and flood control would be limited.
The new working group will include representatives from conservation authorities and other experts. Representatives of the working group will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Partnerships and collaboration are critical to ensure that conservation authorities can continue making watershed-based resource management decisions in the interest of the environment, health, and safety,” said Basit. “Alongside conservation authorities across Ontario, Conservation Halton is looking forward to working with the province, offering scientific expertise and leadership, in the development of regulations pertaining to recent amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act contained in Bill 229.”
Providing input into the regulations that will actually shape the future activity of CA’s “Is where the rubber hits the road,” said Basit, “I am glad to be at the table.”