Waterloo Region — The province has added more changes to the Conservation Authorities Act in schedule six of Bill 229, the Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act.
While some of the changes proposed address the concerns of Conservation Ontario and others, environmental advocates are still calling for a halt to schedule six entirely.
Groups including Environmental Defence, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ontario Nature say the government’s proposals include two new significant changes — to force a Conservation Authority to allow a development if: the province issues a minister’s zoning order, the development is not in the Greenbelt area and meets any other to be determined regulations.
A minister’s zoning order bypasses public input and forces a zone change by the province. In this case, the Conservation Authority must allow the development, but can include conditions. The conditions can be appealed by the permission holder.
Environmental groups are also raising alarms that when a development is granted in this way, the Conservation Authority and the permission holder must enter into an agreement and establish “actions or requirements that the holder of the permission must complete or satisfy in order to compensate for ecological impacts.” Development cannot begin until this agreement is in place.
According to the Canadian Environmental Law Association, some previous concerns of environmental groups were addressed, including:
No longer requiring all board members to be municipal officials, but 70 per cent.
Returning the duties of conservation authority board members to furthering the objects of the authority rather than their individual municipalities
Allowing conservation authorities to issue stop work orders, once that legislation is proclaimed
Environmental Defence says these new changes were introduced by the government late yesterday.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs is authorized to meet until midnight to discuss the proposed changes to the bill.
The bill must be reported to the government house leader by Monday. The government house leader or another minister will then decide if the bill receives its third reading.
Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record