Envisioning Win-Wins: Changes to the Conservation Authorities Act

June 7, 2019 | Brenda Dyack

Envisioning Win-Wins: Changes to the Conservation Authorities Act

Amidst much public concern, changes to the Conservation Authority (CA) Act have just received royal assent in the Legislature, as part of the much larger Bill 108: More Homes, More Choice Act. While the CA proposals seem to respond to many changes CFFO has repeatedly pressed for over many years, CFFO’s letter to several ministries regarding these changes clarified our specific recommendations but also raised concerns.

CFFO urges government to establish tighter rules pursuant to the Act to ensure all CAs strike a lawful and fair balance when requiring farmers to provide public goods and services, including the following:

  • Limit CA authority to mapped areas with clearly defined perimeters and specific development actions.
  • Exempt from CA review man-made features that were built for agricultural purposes, like municipal drains and irrigation ponds.
  • Improve communication, especially when changes to mapped features on private lands are anticipated, and allow for no-cost appeals.
  • Streamline development applications, especially for studies required by both CAs and municipalities, to avoid duplication.
  • Set fees and permits to reflect “cost of service,” and reduce timelines.

CFFO applauds government’s intention to clarify CA responsibilities. However, the changes to the Act that shift CA-mandated priorities to water flow (i.e., water quantity), especially flood protection, are at odds with recent government cuts to flood control funding. Furthermore, because land management is critical for runoff control to prevent floods, protection of source water and pollution control, we need reassurances that changes to CA responsibilities and funding do not put at risk the protection of people, their property, and their health from flooding and water contamination. Hence, CFFO recommends a comprehensive review of provincial water governance to ensure water quality and quantity protections continue to be sufficient.

CFFO stands for responsible stewardship, and continues to urge government to achieve economic development targets that do not come at the expense of farmland preservation, environmental quality and social wellbeing. In support of these goals CFFO has offered to contribute ideas for win-win watershed actions and recommended that all CA boards include farm organization representatives.

Decades of CA experience working with farmers in caring for the land must be recognized and a path forged for the future where we move on collaboratively, build on strengths and by all means, avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Brenda Dyack is Executive Director/Director of Research & Policy for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham. It is also archived on the CFFO website, CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.