November 15, 2022
The Honourable Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, ON, M7A 1A1
The Honourable Steve Clark
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
College Park 17th Floor, 777 Bay St,
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3
The Honourable Graydon Smith
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
Whitney Block, 99 Wellesley St W,
Toronto, ON M7A 1W3
The Honourable David Piccini
Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
College Park 5th Floor, 777 Bay St,
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3
Re:Loss of Local Decision-Making: Bill 23 Does Not Work for Eastern Ontario
Dear Premier Ford, Minister Clark, Minister Smith, and Minister Piccini,
With housing affordability affecting much of Ontario, we understand your government’s target to
build 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years.
Conservation Authorities (CAs) have always supported long-term sustainable growth. In fact,
our role is to ensure land-use decisions made today do not impede future growth tomorrow.
We accomplish this by ensuring development has minimal impacts on flooding, erosion, slope
stability and water quality by guiding development away from natural hazards and protecting
the function of natural features. This can only be accomplished when evaluating growth and
its cumulative impacts across a watershed, which is the value and service CAs provide to
municipalities. Water flows across municipal boundaries and so do the impacts of development.
In Eastern Ontario, CAs have been working closely with municipalities to reduce barriers to
development and streamline processes to provide the best service possible to municipalities,
communities, homeowners, and developers. For many, this includes modernizing policies and
procedures, streamlining approvals, reducing timelines, meeting and reporting on service
standards, and promoting pre-consultation with applicants. CAs are not a barrier to growth,
but an assurance that growth is safe and sustainable, and we have been a source of
cost-effective expertise for municipalities and developers for decades.
We are committed to doing our part to help increase Ontario’s housing supply, but it needs tobe accomplished through smart, sustainable growth that will not have detrimental impacts
down the road.
We are concerned that some changes proposed in theMore Homes Built Faster Act will:
•Weaken the ability of conservation authorities to continue protecting people and property from
natural hazards such as floods;
•Diminish our ability to protect critical natural infrastructure like wetlands which reduce flooding,
droughts and improve water quality in lakes and rivers; and,
•Place new downloaded responsibilities on municipalities related to natural hazards and natural
resources that they are unprepared and under resourced to tackle.
We are calling on your government to press pause on the proposed changes highlighted below
and to reconvene the multi-stakeholderConservation Authorities Working Groupthat your
government created. This group can help identify alternative solutions that will increase
Ontario’s housing supply without jeopardizing public safety or downloading additional
responsibilities to municipalities. At a time when climate change is causing more frequent and
intense storm events, the role and watershed mandate of CAs has never been more critical.
Proposed Changes of Concern and Their Potential Impact:
1.If conservation authorities are no longer allowed to provide planning comments to municipalities
beyond natural hazards:
•Municipalities have indicated that they will need to contract this work out to the private
sector, where there is already a limited labour market, as most do not have the expertise
or capacity to take on this expanded role.
•Municipalities anticipate higher costs, and possible delays, that will be passed on to
applicants and developers. The current model enables municipalities to use existing
expertise within the CAs (such as biologists, water resource engineers, ecologists,
hydrogeologists) to fulfill responsibilities under the Provincial Policy Statement pertaining
to natural heritage and water, while saving time and money for applicants.
•Municipalities have shared conflict of interest concerns due to the limited availability of
consultants in Eastern Ontario and shared concerns about the lack of local knowledge
should they need to secure consultants from other regions.
•Municipalities are also concerned with the loss of the watershed perspective in making
planning decisions, which will result in a narrow review of the impacts to natural hazards
and natural heritage. Municipalities formed CAs to address this very issue.
2.If development that is subject to a planning approval is exempt from requiring a permit from the conservation authority:
•Municipalities will assume greater responsibility and liability for the impact of
development on flooding, erosion, slope stability and water quality within municipal
boundaries and in upstream and downstream communities.
•Municipalities and CAs will require more detailed studies and designs at the planning
stage which are normally not required until the permitting stage. This would make
planning applications more onerous and costly for developers and slow down approvals.
•Municipalities will also have limited mechanisms to ensure compliance outside of the
permitting process if development is not constructed properly.
3.If certain types of development are deemed “low risk” and exempted from requiring a
conservation authority permit:
•Public safety and property damage risks may not be adequately addressed as a single
list of exempted activities across the province will not capture local conditions and
constraints. Some activities which may be low risk in one watershed, such as fencing or
auxiliary buildings, may be a significant risk in others that have retrogressive landslide
areas or ravines.
•It should also be acknowledged that CAs already have the ability to exempt or streamline
review processes for activities that are low risk in their watershed and this practice is
already in use by most CAs.
4.If the scope of conservation authority permits is narrowed to only address natural hazard issues (removal of “pollution” and “conservation of land” considerations, restrictions on conditions that can be required as part of a permit):
•CAs may not be able to require development setbacks from water, protect naturalized
shorelines or require sediment control during construction.
•CAs would no longer be able to address water quality concerns, which are required
under federally and provincially approved “Remedial Action Plans” for designated
“Areas of Concern”.
•CAs use pollution and conservation of land considerations and conditions to limit sediment
and nutrient runoff into lakes and rivers that contribute to poor water quality, excessive
weed growth and algae blooms. Municipalities would become responsible to address
these types of concerns.
•Water quality in lakes and rivers is an important economic driver in Eastern Ontario as it
impacts property values, tourism, recreation, and commercial fisheries, and it is the source
of drinking water for many permanent and seasonal residences.
•CAs and municipalities would welcome a consistent definition of “conservation of land” in
the new regulations, pertaining to the protection, management, and restoration of lands
to maintain or enhance hydrological and ecological functions.
5.If the protection of wetlands is diminished (changes to wetland evaluation criteria, elimination of wetland complexing, reduction in the area around wetlands that is regulated, introduction of
offsetting measures to compensate for wetland loss and the withdrawal of MNRF as the body
responsible for wetland mapping and evaluations):
•Municipalities are concerned that the withdrawal of MNRF from administering the
Ontario Wetland Evaluation System and maintaining wetland mapping will be
downloaded to municipalities to manage reevaluation reports from consultants andmaintain up-to-date wetland mapping that is needed for development review.
•Municipalities and CAs are concerned that there will be a loss of wetlands that will have
immediate and long-term impacts. Removing wetlands is like removing dams and
reservoirs. Wetlands act as infrastructure that absorb and retain a significant volume of
snow melt and rain which reduces flood levels during spring runoff and storm events.
They also release this water slowly throughout the rest of the year, helping augment
water levels in lakes and rivers during low flow periods which reduces drought conditions.
Wetlands also filter nutrients and sediment from runoff which improves water quality.
•These benefits are particularly important where lakes and rivers are supporting
agriculture, recreation, tourism, and fisheries and acting as a source of drinking water.
Municipalities and CAs could never afford to build the infrastructure it would take to
replace wetland functions which is estimated to be billions.
6.If the Minister freezes conservation authority fees:
•Taxpayers, not developers, would absorb increasing costs for development review.
In this scenario, growth would not be paying for growth.
•Legislative amendments made earlier this year directed conservation authorities to
demonstrate that self-generated revenue such as fees for service are considered where
possible to reduce pressure on the municipal levy. This includes plan review and
permitting fees that are collected to offset program costs, but not exceed them.
1.Municipalities should retain the choice to enter into agreements with conservation authorities
for natural heritage and water-related plan review services.
oRecent legislative amendments by this government now require agreements to
include defined terms, timelines, and performance measures, and CAs have
demonstrated that they can provide these comments to municipalities in
a cost-effective and timely manner. CAs are also already prevented by these earlier
amendments from commenting beyond natural hazards if they do not have an
agreement with a municipality.
2.Development that is subject to plan approval should not be exempt from requiring a
conservation authority permit.
oThe planning process is not sufficient to ensure natural hazard concerns are
addressed through appropriate design and construction. This change would also
place additional responsibility and liability on municipalities.
3.Conservation authorities should determine which types of developments are deemed
“low risk” through their regulations policies.
oCAs are already able to create exemptions and streamline review processes that are
appropriate locally, given watersheds have unique conditions.
4.Maintain “pollution” and “conservation of land” as considerations when conservation
authorities are reviewing permit applications but provide a clear definition of each to ensure
a consistent approach on how it is applied.
oStreamlining these definitions will allow CAs to provide consistency to municipalities
and developers and meet obligations under other pieces of legislation that require
water quality-related comments from CAs.
5.Continue to protect wetlands to reduce flooding, provide flow augmentation.
oWetlands are critical pieces of natural infrastructure and municipalities cannot afford
to build the infrastructure it would take to replicate wetland function to protect
upstream and downstream communities from flooding and drought.
6.Do not freeze fees to ensure growth pays for growth.
oRecent legislative amendments by this government now require CAs to demonstrate
through their budget process that development review fees are offsetting, but not
exceeding, program costs.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns and recommendations with you.
Our goal is to support you in creating more housing in Ontario while ensuring changes to Ontario’s land use planning and permitting system do not have unintended and irreversible consequences on the protection of people, property, and natural resources.
We sincerely hope that you will remove the amendments we have highlighted from Bill 23 before it is passed, and that you will reconvene your government’sConservation Authorities Working Group to work with your Ministry to propose alternative improvements and refinements to conservation authority development review processes.