NPCA CAO calls proposed changes 'an unprecedented environmental problem'

CHANDRA_SHARMA

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority CAO says proposed amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act would send us back seven decades.

Conservation authorities across Ontario are speaking out against amendments tucked into a provincial budget bill that would change how they operate.

If the changes get approval, permit applicants will be able to directly appeal authority decisions to the minister, municipalities would no longer be able to appoint citizen representatives to boards, and authorities say it would fundamentally impact their ability to regulate development.

NPCA CAO Chandra Sharma says the move is a huge disappointment.

"None of us, the 36 CA's (conservation authorities) and Conservation Ontario are really clear what problem we are trying to solve with these extreme measures, such as changing the sole purpose and mandate of a watershed based entity that is looked upon as an example - by the entire would I should say. We are certainly going backwards, and we're going back seven decades."

She believes if the changes are approved they will be an 'unprecedented environmental problem' for Ontario and undo decades of grassroots natural resources management.

"So the unintended consequences of this will be watering down the watershed science in watershed decisions in land use decisions, delays, confusion, and more red tape in the permitting and planning applications. And appeals as bad actors take advantage of this loophole and appeal directly to the minister."

She says the NPCA was very surprised by the proposed changes.

"All conservation authorities have tried so hard to keep people away from floodplain, protect our communities, the hazards and safety - this is what we do! And we should be allowed to stand up and protect those natural spaces, hazards, and protect people from natural hazards."

Sharma says community members and politicians have been very vocal in voicing their opposition to the proposed changes. "This time we need you!"

Click here to listen to Sharma's full interview with Matt Holmes.