By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
With the legislation that governs how they operate under review, Ontario’s conservation authorities are calling on the province to ensure proper roles, mandates and responsibilities are put in place to allow them to address growing and ongoing environmental concerns in the future.
Initiated in November 2014, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) began looking into a review of the Conservation Authorities Act for areas of improvement. Based on review of more than 2,700 comments from stakeholders on a working paper posted online in July 2015, the province released an updated version of their plans in May 2016.
According to Chris Darling, the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority’s executive director, they have a bit more work to do.
Working with Conservation Ontario, Darling says CLOCA was a part of a recent submission to the province asking for further clarification on the future role of conservations authorities.
“There seems to be somewhat of a misunderstanding of conservation authorities’ mandate and roles and responsibilities,” he says.
“The goal of that (submission) is simply, to again, clarify the mandate.”
That clarity is a single theme in a five-part submission to the province, which also includes requests for a better relationship between conservation authorities and provincial ministries. Historically, conservation authorities mainly dealt with MNRF, but in recent years have began dealing with Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
“A lot of what we do, a lot of our programs and services support some of the goals and objectives of those other ministries,” Darling says.
“I think they’re suggesting that there is a need for an enhanced relationship with the province and I think they recognize the value that conservation authorities provide.”
The submission also calls for a funding model that is more sustainable.
Having stronger legislation may only be words in a document, but Darling says having a clearer mandate provides CLOCA the room to work and deal with the challenges that will be coming in the future as our climate continues to change.
“The ongoing environmental challenges that we see within our community and our watershed, I think this reinforces the need to look at conservation authorities and make sure that we have an effective legislative framework to be able to respond to these up and coming environmental challenges,” he says.
Conservation authorities have until Sept. 9 to submit comments to the province.