Status of Legislative Reviews
By Don Kerr, Member of WAG and Watershed Trust Board of Directors
(At time of writing, the Ontario government has announced revisions to the OMB, Land Use and Places to Grow. The implications are yet uncertain. We are hoping many of our suggestions will have been incorporated.
Conservation Authorities Act
We submitted our requests for changes in the CA Act in September
2015 and June 2016. A consultant was engaged by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to conduct the process and seems to be prolonging it unduly. One of our key recommendations was to increase provincial funding. We are waiting for the response.
Ontario Municipal Board Review
We submitted comments on ways to improve the OMB process in November 2016. One recommendation was to create a status of Special Participant between the current status as Party or Participant or, in other words, between excessive cost and powerlessness.
Land Use Planning Reviews:
The Crombie report, issued in 2015, had some good recommendations but could have gone further to protect the Greenbelt and the Niagara Escarpment Plan. Our submissions were made in November 2016. Unfortunately, the
proposed expansions to the NEP in Grey County were withdrawn, due to objections by Grey County Council and by some municipalities for what we believe are invalid reasons.
Places to Grow legislation
This was part of the Land Use Planning reviews. One of our key
recommendations was to modify Section 6.3 to disallow an OMB review of a residential application when the municipality already has enough zoned land for 10 years into the future, thus saving unnecessary costs to the Town and other Parties.
A Wetland Strategy for Ontario
Our submission of November 2016 contained several proposals for better conservation of wetlands. Release of the strategy is expected soon. We described specific shortcomings of current land use legislation, which, if revised, would help to preserve wetlands. We noted that the proposal places insufficient emphasis on maintaining the biodiversity of wetlands, given its historic decline. There is also no comment on the ethics of preventing its decline. Our final comment expressed our skepticism that the proposed Strategic
Plan will reduce the loss of wetland habitat. The Strategic Direction elements of Awareness, Knowledge and Partnership are not enough. The Policy direction has much merit but needs to be more specific to give us confidence that the objective of full conservation of wetlands will happen. To make real change, we need a Strategic Plan that has teeth, goes beyond vague ideas of intent and which creates effective policies and legislation.