Clearview supports Bill 229
Clearview councillor Thom Paterson could not rally support from fellow members to call for the extraction of a piece of legislation from omnibus Bill 229 that would change the role of Conservation Authorities (CAs) in Ontario.
“These changes significantly limit the ability of conservation authorities to protect Ontario’s environment, ensure people and property are safe from natural hazards and to apply watershed-based decisions on development. Ultimately, these changes in many ways, remove much of conservation authorities’ ability to influence the overall health and protection of Ontario’s citizens and the environment,” wrote NVCA officials in a letter to all watershed municipalities asking for support.
As the NVCA rep for Clearview, Paterson championed the request at Monday’s meeting. He would like to see the changes taken out of the Bill and considered through a separate process, saying the municipalities are being left out of the conversation.
The NVCA says the Bill hinders the agency’s ability to protect against natural hazards; enforce regulations; puts the final decision for appeals directly with the minister; and allows municipalities to place their own interests above environmental health.
“My suspicion is that the responsibility for our community’s environmental health will still be ours and we won’t be able to rely on an agency like the NVCA. We will have to find other means, or other means will be developed,” said Paterson. “Doing nothing means we are going with the province, on very little information.”
He and Doug McKechnie were the only members to vote in support of the motion.
Deputy Mayor Barry Burton said he supports the NVCA as a commenting agency but not as an approval agency. That duty should go to the county.
Councillor Robert Walker said this may be a case of be careful what you wish for.
“We asked for this,” he said. “Have they overstepped? Maybe.”
Mayor Doug Measures said the whole thing has been really messy.
“It would be my hope that the government of Ontario would do a full review of the CAs and come back and refocus the CAs on their primary objective,” said Measures, adding that should be flood management, mitigation, protecting property and supporting agricultural interests. “Yet our CA has not been emphasizing that key focus and that key responsibility very well at all.”
NVCA chair Keith White told The Echo that locally, a lot of work has been done to review and streamline operations and permit approvals.
“The fallout is, in my opinion, that in municipalities across the province CAs will be handcuffed. The CA Act will still be there but really there’s not going to be any teeth for what we are mandated to do,” said White.
The motion is currently being circulated to municipalities in the watershed.