The South Nation Conservation Authority (SNC) has released a statement regarding Bill 23, a series of proposed legislative changes tabled by the Ontario government. The changes would greatly impact conservation authorities (CAs) across the province by imposing exemptions to permits, removing criteria from permit decisions, freezing fees, and requiring CAs to identify conservation land that is suitable for development. The policy changes would also prevent agreements that allow CAs to review planning applications on behalf of partner municipalities.
Without these agreements, each municipality currently partnered with a CA would need to employ its own hydrologist, biologist, and engineers to meet environmental requirements for development. In its statement, the SNC noted that conservation authorities already work with the government to balance the needs of the environment with sustainable development that expands the economy, and that consolidating those responsibilities within the SNC saves both time and money.
“Our Conservation Authority works as our municipality’s environmental partner,” said Mario Zanth, mayor of the City of Clarence-Rockland. “CA staff have rolled out the red carpet to help provide timely development approvals to projects in environmentally significant areas. After the Ottawa River floods of 2017 and 2019, people understand the value and impact of the services they provide.”
“We have a long-standing and positive working relationship with SNC and we appreciate their feedback and expertise in helping us make good planning decisions,” said Pierre Leroux, mayor of Russell Township. “The CA is a valued partner in providing valuable services to our community.”
Bill 23 would also result in the shrinkage of Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs), which minimize the risk of drought, reduce flooding, and help control erosion.
The SNC released another press release on November 18, providing a list of all the Conservation Authorities that have voiced opposition to Bill 23 and how it would hamstring their efforts to protect the environment.
“Municipalities should retain their choice of who they enter into agreement with to complete environmental reviews in a timely and cost-effective way,” said Alison McDonald, SNC managing director of development approvals.