Ontario bill proposed giving conservation authorities more control over floods

Published: September 11, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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A new bill under consideration in Ontario would give conservation authorities a greater role in protecting property from flooding.

If passed into law, the legislation would increase the roles of provincial conservation authorities to include flood and erosion control, drought and low-water programs, ice management, flood forecasting, and warning systems. The proposal was discussed by Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Kathryn McGarry told the legislature Sept. 11.

Bill 139 was tabled on Monday for a second reading by Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro. The core proposals of the omnibus legislation would be to enact the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act and to make changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.

“We have all witnessed the impact of climate change and major flooding, as close as the community of Windsor,” Peggy Sattler, New Democratic Party MPP for London West, said Monday at Queen’s Park in Toronto. “We know that updating flood maps is a major expense and it is a major undertaking. Significant funding will be required in order to do that to protect communities—not even communities that are located in flood plains, but communities across this province—from climate change and excessive flooding.”

By changing the existing law, regulatory capabilities of conservation authorities would be “substantively amended” and more jurisdiction would be granted. One example given regarded Section 28, which “currently gives authorities certain regulation-making powers, including the power to regulate the straightening, changing and diverting of watercourses and development in their areas of jurisdiction and to prohibit or require the permission of the authority for such activities.”

Under bill 138, Section 28 would be amended to give conservation authorities the ability to “attach conditions to a permit or refuse to issue a permit” if, in the opinion of the authority, the “activity is likely to affect the control of flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches or pollution or the conservation of land.”

“The proposed legislation would reduce the number of appeals that are heard by limiting what could be brought before the new tribunal,” Mauro said. “In many jurisdictions, when the province or the senior level of government approves major planning documents such as official plans, these decisions are not appealable.”