Local Conservation Authorities, including the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) and Hamilton Conservation Authority, and many citizen organizations are fighting Ford government legislation gutting Conservation Authorities.
A News Release from CATCH, the Hamilton-based group Citizens At City Hall
Posted November 23rd, 2020 on Niagara At Large
There is massive opposition to the Ford government’s legislation that slashes the powers of conservation authorities and makes life easier for developers. It would also convert the Hamilton Conservation Authority into a sub-committee of city council.
All local conservation authorities and dozens of citizen organizations are demanding withdrawal of the changes, including a local climate group that is holding a public on-line webinar (https://hamiltoncatch.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8ffda5515733a1dd97a7b21fa&id=534b78f4d8&e=a31ab29d46) and “phone zap” on Tuesday afternoon (November 24th at 1 p.m.).
Conservation Halton, which oversees several watersheds in Hamilton, says the Ford government move is a “cause for alarm” while Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) says it “would reduce [its] ability to protect the natural environment and our watersheds.”
Resolutions have also been adopted by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Grand River Conservation Authority.
City staff are recommending that Hamilton council take the same position by endorsing a resolution of the St Catharines council.
Buried within an omnibus provincial budget bill, the changes would allow developers and other corporate interests to get a provincial cabinet minister to overrule conservation authority decisions. This is in line with other Ford government moves to centralize control over development approvals through ministerial zoning orders that overrule municipal planning decision.
If passed by the Ford government, the legislation would remove citizen members and only allow municipal councillors on the boards of conservation authorities.
On the current HCA board, five members are citizen volunteers, five are Hamilton councillors and one additional citizen represents Puslinch Township. This legislative change would effectively make the HCA board into a subcommittee of Hamilton city council.
That’s different than many other conservation authority boards whose jurisdiction overlaps numerous municipalities. The Halton board, for example, has representatives from Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills as well as Peel region, Hamilton and Puslinch.
“The proposed amendments would also require municipally appointed councillors to make decisions in the best interest of the municipality and not the conservation authority and its watershed,” states a media release from the Hamilton Conservation Authority which notes it manages over “11,000 acres of forests, 145 km of trails, fields, streams, wildlife and plant life” and has done so for “over 60 years.”
The CEO of Conservation Halton contends (https://hamiltoncatch.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8ffda5515733a1dd97a7b21fa&id=629941f690&e=a31ab29d46) the changes will undermine science-based watershed management and threaten public health and safety.
“Living through the pandemic, we have seen first-hand just how important our environment and wetlands are to our residents,” Hassaan Basit.
“We do not want to see any decisions made that increase the risks from natural hazards, especially as we continue to work to mitigate climate change and conserve our watershed to allow for responsible growth today, without sacrificing the right of future generations to do the same.”
Environmental Defence describes conservation authorities as “a vital line of defence for the natural spaces that mitigate flood risk, provide precious land for hiking, fishing and escape into nature and provide essential habitat for the many species of wildlife, including endangered species that call Ontario home.”
Tuesday’s 1 pm local webinar (https://hamiltoncatch.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8ffda5515733a1dd97a7b21fa&id=4fc7c864e8&e=a31ab29d46) is intended to mobilize individual pressure for withdrawal of the changes.
Environmental Defence is also offering direct assistance for people to call cabinet ministers and their MPP.
Find this article on the CATCH website here (https://hamiltoncatch.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8ffda5515733a1dd97a7b21fa&id=fce1f2960c&e=a31ab29d46) , along with the full archive of CATCH articles.
For more information on this issue and others that CATCH is reporting on, click on the following links –
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