“As a local MPP, I appreciate the work of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and believe Bill 229 will help strengthen and further define the core mandate of local conservation authorities.” – Niagara West MPP and Ford Government representative Sam Oosterhoff
Posted November 20th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
A Brief Foreword Note from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –
A week after Ontario’s Ford government tabled a 2020 Budget on November 5th with a clause embedded in it that – if it received final passage in the days ahead – will radically diminish the role our Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and other Conservation Authorities across the province play when it comes to protecting and preserving our natural heritage, I reached out to Niagara’s only Ford government MPP, Sam Oosterhoff, to ask him for his take on this controversial action.
Without any further commentary from me, I want to share with our Niagara At Large readers, for the record, my note to Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff earlier this month, and his response.
First, here are my questions to the MPP –
Why is your government moving to diminish and in some cases eliminate the role that Conservation Authorities play in flood management, commenting on development proposals inside watersheds, etc., and why is your government moving to strip citizen members from seats on Conservation Authority boards?
When you were in opposition, you joined then Liberal MPP Jim Bradley, and then NDP MPP Cindy Forster in writing letters to the Liberal government of the day, defending the role of Conservation Authorities and expressing concern about the NPCA board and management at that time making moves that compromised that Conservation Authority’s long-time role in watershed protection.
Do you approve of the Ford government’s move now to strip citizen voices from Conservation Authority boards and diminish Conservation Authorities’ role in science based efforts in areas of flood management, planning approvals, etc. or do you not?
If you cannot provide a yes or no answer to that last question, please at least outline any concerns you may have, one way or another?
Thank You for any insight you might provide on your position.
Regards, Doug Draper, journalist, Niagara At Large
Now I wish to share, in full, MPP Sam Oosterhoff’s reply –
Thank you for connecting with our office regarding amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act in Schedule 6 of Bill 229, Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act.
The province is moving forward with a proposal to further define the core mandate of conservation authorities. These changes would improve the governance, oversight and accountability of conservation authorities, while respecting taxpayer dollars by giving municipalities more say over the conservation authority services they pay for.
Streamlining conservation authority’s permitting and land use planning reviews will increase accountability, consistency and transparency, which in turn will support growth, competitiveness, and job creation as communities plan for future population growth.
We know that many conservation authorities provide valuable recreational and educational programs and services that are important to the local community, such as camping and outdoor education. These programs would continue, so long as they are funded through self-generated revenue or have support from the local municipality that funds them.
Improving the governance of conservation authorities and ensuring they are focused on their core mandate are also key actions in Protecting People and Property: Ontario’s Flooding Strategy, Ontario’s first comprehensive plan to strengthening flood preparedness, response and recovery.
These proposed changes will not weaken environmental protections but ensuring that conservation authorities are able to focus not only on protecting people and property against the impacts of natural hazards, such as flooding, but also on conserving and managing conservation lands. As landowners, conservation authorities would continue to conserve and manage their own lands, which include natural heritage features as defined under the Provincial Policy Statement.
Conservation Authorities are also mandated to conserve and protect provincially significant conservation lands as defined under the Conservation Land Act and in provincial policy for conservation authorities as provincially significant wetlands, areas of scientific and natural interest (ANSIs), Niagara Escarpment lands, habitat of endangered species, etc. This role includes management policies for conservation authority owned land such as invasive species control.
A conservation authority also would be able to provide non-mandatory programs and services that they determine are advisable or of value for its jurisdiction, including for purposes of environmental protection and rehabilitation such as private land stewardship programs remediating erosion of stream banks, water quality improvements, etc.
As a local MPP, I appreciate the work of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and believe Bill 229 will help strengthen and further define the core mandate of local conservation authorities.
In the coming weeks, the government will be consulting further on regulatory proposals, including mandatory programs and services conservation authorities must provide and the regulation outlining the agreements between municipalities and conservation authorities as well as the transition period.
In your service, Sam Oosterhoff, MPP Niagara West
To read a recent CBC report on this issue, click on – – ttps://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/ontario-thames-conservation-authority-1.5807081 .
For more on this and related issues, visit Niagara At Large at www.niagaraatlarge.com .
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