The Halton Mayors and Regional Chair with Conservation Halton (CH) have issued a response to the amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act contained in Omnibus Budget Bill 229 that passed on Dec. 8.
The government bill, which removes any authority by local environmental regulators, has already received some backlash since it was passed.
Mayors Marianne Meed Ward, Rob Burton and Gordon Krantz all sit on the CH board as part of a community-based environmental agency that protects, restores and manages the natural resources in its watershed.
The organization’s staff includes ecologists, land-use planners, engineers, foresters and educators, along with a network of volunteers, who are guided by a Board of Directors comprised of municipally elected and appointed citizens.
“While we acknowledge and thank the government for hearing many of our concerns and making a number of positive changes to the proposed legislation, we are united in our opposition to the last-minute addition of the Ministers Zoning Order (MZO) to override the authority of Conservation Authorities on development proposals,” read the mayors’ statement.
“We are hopeful that the Minister’s assurances about the operation of the new MZO Section with the ability of CAs to attach conditions to permits, will not significantly weaken the ability of Conservation Authorities to make science-based decisions to protect public health and safety.”
Back in November, CH sent a letter to the provincial government in response to the proposed amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act (CA Act), contained in Schedule 6, Bill 229.
“CH has played a collaborative role in the previous consultations regarding the modernization of the CA Act. While it was unexpected to see further proposed changes to the Act in Bill 229, we are encouraged that the purpose of the Act to provide for the organization and delivery of programs and services that further conservation, restoration, development, and management of natural resources in Ontario watersheds remains the same.”
“It is our view that several of the proposed amendments will increase the risk to life and property from natural hazards and the degradation of the environment,” read the letter.
The Dec. 8 statement from Halton’s mayors concluded by saying that the mayors will continue to invite the government to consult with CAs, including theirs, in the next stages of formulating regulations to implement the legislation.
“As the negative consequences of today’s bill are realized, we ask that the government commit to fixing them as quickly as this legislation was introduced.”