There is a time-honoured tradition in Canada of loading up omnibus budget bills with all kinds of legislation the government of the day wants to quietly sneak through. The Ford government here in Ontario included proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act in their recent budget bill to limit the role of conservation authorities in the development approval process.
Recently it came to light that the provincial government was using ministerial zoning orders to fast-track development. Now we find out they are reducing the power of conservation authorities. For a detailed account of this, check out the article in this morning’s Toronto Star by Noor Javed.
The Star article quotes the Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority: “Unexpectedly, the proposed amendments authorize the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to assume jurisdiction for certain permit applications in place of the conservation authority.” This is troubling. You can’t lobby a conservation authority, but you can lobby a politician. Having science-based protections and guidelines on development assures safe development that doesn’t compromise our watersheds, sensitive wetlands, ravines, the Greenbelt and so on.
Should we be concerned? Just look south to Houston, the so-called “city with no limits” and the tremendous flood damage related to Hurricane Harvey. In that city, the land of unfettered sprawling development, 7,000 residential units were built on land designated by the federal government as a flood plane.
Conservation authorities will continue to have an advisory role, but the legislation removes the teeth. I’m concerned.