Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act is Under Review

As Ontario evolves, sound management of natural resources is critical to our health and prosperity

Ontario is blessed with diverse natural resources that contribute immeasurably to the quality of life in the Province. In the Toronto region, natural places weave through our cities and towns providing invaluable “services” to people living here – absorbing pollutants, slowing down storm and flood waters, tempering the noise of the city, and providing wonderful green places to relax and play. In the face of climate change, increasing urbanization, budget restrictions and many competing priorities, we need to get better at protecting, restoring and managing these resources for now and for our future.

Conservation Authorities are uniquely positioned to contribute to the effective management of natural resources

The concept of a Conservation Authority (CA), first conceived of in 1946, was a model ahead of its time. Being watershed-based and partnership driven, Ontario’s Conservation Authorities are able to take a broad, holistic view of an increasingly diverse set of stakeholders and a widening range of activities that impact community building and our environment. As a conservation authority, TRCA teams up with municipalities in the Toronto region, community and cultural groups, businesses and individuals from every neighbourhood to protect and manage nature, from the Lake Ontario shoreline, through urban river valleys in the communities of Toronto, Peel, York and Durham, up to the more rural and natural areas of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Visit Conservation Ontario’s webpage: Conservation Matters »

Ontarians have a rare opportunity to help shape and strengthen the contribution of Conservation Authorities in addressing our natural resource management challenges.

The Ontario Government is undertaking a review of the Conservation Authorities Act to ensure that it meets the needs of Ontarians in a modern context. Last May, following an initial consultation, it released the document: Conserving Our Future: Proposed Priorities for Renewal in which it proposes five priority areas for updating the Act. Now it is seeking feedback from stakeholders and the public on the contents of the document.

TRCA will be submitting its feedback comments, which include what it deems to be priority areas and recommendations for addressing them through changes to the Act and its administration. We encourage everyone who shares our conviction that we need to get better at balancing growth and the environment to read what TRCA has to say, share it with others, and submit your comments to the Ontario government.

TRCA Recommended Priorities

TRCA recommends that the following six priorities form the foundation of the renewal of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act:

Visit Conservation Ontario’s webpage: Conservation Authorities Act Review is Underway »

Maintain the broad mandate of Conservation Authorities as outlined in the Act

The broad objects and powers of Conservation Authorities in the Act allow them to respond to natural resource management needs and challenges, even when they change, evolve and intensify – as they have since the Act was created. We anticipate that needs and challenges will continue to change over time, so the objects and powers should remain broad to continue to facilitate adaptation.

Recognize, validate and strengthen the role Conservation Authorities play in helping to achieve provincial and municipal objectives

Owing to their unique position, Conservation Authorities play a critical role in achieving a number of provincial and municipal goals and objectives related to natural resource management, sustainability and climate change. The lack of provincial validation can create confusion about Conservation Authority roles and responsibilities, and may limit Authorities’ ability to support provincial objectives as needed in the future. Greater recognition of, and support for, the roles of Conservation Authorities will result in more effective natural resource management, ultimately leading to improved well-being of Ontarians.

Maintain the current collaborative approach of Conservation Authorities to recognize the important partnerships we have with municipalities and numerous provincial ministries

The relationships between Conservation Authorities and municipalities, as well as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, have evolved into strong partnerships for the implementation of provincial and regional objectives, as well as meeting local needs. Municipalities are under pressure to meet growth targets and environmental standards set by the Province. Conservation Authorities provide invaluable support to municipalities in implementing these targets and standards.

Also, TRCA and other Conservation Authorities work with a number of Provincial Ministries including MNRF, MMAH and MOECC to deliver programs, projects, services and advice related to provincial natural resource management and environmental goals.

Maintaining the collaborative, partnership-driven approach of Conservation Authorities, through a Provincial policy directive or memorandum of understanding, would enable opportunities to further grow the contributions of Conservation Authorities in achieving shared goals for building sustainable communities. The Crombie Panel report on the Provincial 4-Plan Review itself calls for “sustained focus, investment and coordination across provincial ministries and with other levels of government to ensure that the potential of this great region is realized.”

Establish a sustainable and equitable funding model

The current funding model does not recognize the resources needed to sustain a broad suite of Conservation Authority programs that help build and support sustainable communities, while realizing provincial objectives and priorities in natural heritage planning and long term management; watershed protection, restoration and monitoring; hazard management and remediation/ mitigation; cultural heritage and outdoor education; land acquisition and regional greenspace; community connections, stewardship and recreation; and climate change planning and adaptation. Also, although each watershed and municipality has unique challenges and needs, the reliance on municipal funding makes it challenging for Conservation Authorities with low populations to provide basic levels of service.

Ensure the Act and its administration allow Conservation Authorities to support emerging natural resource management issues including the directions of the Provincial Plans currently being updated

Conservation Authorities, due to their expertise and ability to work collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and within an array of legislative processes, are well positioned to assist and support the Province on a number of emerging priorities.

As local implementers, Conservation Authorities can leverage successful partnerships and help fulfill the new directions emerging from the four Provincial Plans currently being updated, assess potential watershed impacts, and support sustainability and community transformation initiatives.

Facilitate Conservation Authority Service Excellence

Many of the suggested modifications outlined in “Conserving our Future – Proposed Priorities for Renewal” speak to applying modern and best practices to both the governance of Conservation Authorities and the administration of its Regulation. Conservation Authorities are dedicated to improving service standards and operations and have undertaken a number of initiatives to avoid conflict, duplication and delay in environmental review and approval processes TRCA agrees that this is a priority for the review of the Conservation Authorities Act and supports the province in continuing to improve the service delivery of Conservation Authorities.

You can help

If you share TRCA’s conviction that we need to get better at balancing growth and the environment, please submit your comments to the Government of Ontario in support of TRCA’s priorities for the Conservation Authorities Act Review. You can access the commenting form here: