Changes to provincial legislation worry Hamilton area conservation authorities

The Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) fears its ability to protect the natural environment and local watershed is under threat.

The HCA has penned a letter to the province asking it to withdraw Bill 229, which includes a series of proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.

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The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) and Conservation Halton (CH) have also sent letters to the provincial government calling on it to scrap the plans because of similar concerns.

The amendments to the act would allow for a process through which developers and others can go around conservation authorities to have permits approved by the province, directly.

HCA Chair Lloyd Ferguson notes that requests would go to the local planning appeals tribunal which “certainly have been signalling to me that they’re very developer-friendly.”

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“It all comes down to money,” Ferguson suggests, adding that in his view the province is “pandering” to the development community.

Ferguson says the HCA would also lose “valuable insight and input” on its board, since the province’s series of proposed changes would remove citizen representatives from conservation authority boards.

“I like having a lawyer on the board, I like having a person who spent their career in communications on our board,” adds Ferguson, “it’s very helpful.”

Ferguson also argues that the legislative changes are an “excessive intervention in local matters in an area where the province makes little financial contribution.”

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In the case of HCA, he notes that the province contributes just 2 per cent of revenues to their operating budget. The lion’s share comes from municipal levies and self-generated revenues.

The province has stated that it is amending the Conservation Authorities Act to “improve transparency and consistency” within operations.

It also argues that the changes will “strengthen municipal oversight and streamline conservation authority roles in permitting and land use planning.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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