The Ontario government has released Phase 1 regulations designed to implement amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act. Many of Conservation Ontario’s key concerns and challenges identified during the consultations have been addressed, including extended implementation timelines and inclusion of passive recreation activities as a mandatory program and service.
“We are appreciative of the Minister and his officials’ willingness to listen and respond to Conservation Ontario’s and other stakeholder suggestions,” stated Andy Mitchell, chair of Conservation Ontario. Conservation Ontario represents Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities.
Mitchell pointed out that the extended timelines are very necessary for conservation authorities and their member municipalities to establish funding agreements properly. He also noted the general public will benefit from the additional support conservation areas’ passive activities can receive as part of a mandatory program.
The regulations will now give conservation authorities until January 1, 2024 to complete the transition to a new budgetary framework with their municipalities. According to Conservation Ontario, these extended timelines will provide sufficient time for conservation authorities to prepare a transition plan, finalize an inventory of programs and services, and enter into Memorandums of Understanding and/or Agreements with their participating municipalities.
The regulations were finalized with assistance from the provincially appointed multi-stakeholder Conservation Authorities Working Group that was established in December 2020. The group includes Conservation Ontario and a number of conservation authorities (CAs) as well as representatives from the municipal, agricultural, and development sectors. The Working Group has been meeting regularly with the Province since early this year to identify ways to effectively implement the proposed regulations.
“This was an opportunity for us to tackle the issues at hand through a multi-perspective lens and I wish to thank all members for their hard work and commitment to finding solutions,” said Mitchell.
The Phase 1 consultations focused on details of the programs and services conservation authorities will implement and how they will be funded. The Province will now consult on a second phase of the proposed regulations including details on municipal levies as well as standards for the delivery of other types of programs and services.