We are sharing the below from our partners at Conservation Halton / Glen Eden to make sure that all of our members are aware of this issue.
To our Conservation Halton friends:
I hope you and your family are keeping well. I am writing to you today to ask for your support.
This year has been challenging for us all, but it has also given us an opportunity to take a step back and focus on the important things in life. If there has been any silver lining to our experience living through this pandemic, we have to say that it has been the spirit of community and renewed appreciation for nature that we have seen through the watershed over this past year.
On November 5, 2020, the provincial government tabled Bill 229 Protect, Support, and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures), 2020. This piece of legislation encompasses more than just a budget in response to COVID-19 as its name might suggest. There have been several proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act within this Bill that we are concerned about. It is not a well-thought-out piece of legislation. We are hoping you can use your voice to support us in expressing these concerns to the Province. Since the Province has picked a fast-track process to pass this Bill, timing is of the essence. We need our allies, customers, and supporters to act today by emailing the Premier and your local MPP and by getting loud on social media.
Our concerns with proposed CA Act amendments:
1) Ability for Developers to bypass CAs: Conservation Halton has a legislated responsibility to ensure development does not occur in flood hazard areas and that our creeks, valleys and wetlands are not adversely impacted. We work hard to ensure new development is balanced and that our communities are safe and livable, with ample greenspace. The amendments proposed by the Provincial government outline a process whereby developers and others can go around Conservation Authorities to have permits approved by the Province directly.
2) Ability of CH to continue to offer Parks: We are proud to provide opportunities in recreation and education on our conservation lands to members of our community—especially during the pandemic when the need for safe and accessible greenspace is at an all-time high—and we are even more proud that we are able to fund these opportunities 100% self-sufficiently. Our responsible monetization of assets and generation of revenue creates value for the community as well as employment opportunities. At the same time, we have expanded access to our parks by 35% this season, giving Ontario families a safe place to visit during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are concerned that should the Ministry set fees or other limits on non-mandatory programs and services—particularly those that we already successfully run without the support of tax dollars—our ability to provide important recreational, educational, and employment opportunities that allow our community to interact with conservation will be significantly diminished.
3) Ability for CH to remain above politics and special interests: The proposed changes to the composition of CA boards negatively disrupts what is currently a relatively apolitical structure. Our Board of Directors carry out their fiduciary responsibilities, guide strategy, approve policies in support of our Provincial and municipal responsibilities and track performance. They ensure CH makes decisions with integrity, based solely on our core responsibilities and remains apolitical, yet innovative and solution oriented. It is our view that changing the composition to reflect elected officials that represent the interests of their respective municipalities creates a setting ripe for conflict of interest.
4) Ability to monitor, restore and grow our natural areas: Conservation Halton’s mission is to help protect the natural environment, from lake to escarpment, for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. Protecting and maintaining our natural heritage in turn benefits human, ecological, and economic health. We inherited our natural spaces from the generations before us and will pass them on to our children and future generations. Our duty as stewards is what continues to inspire us to use science to study and inform us about climate change impacts to our communities and mitigation strategies. Should the new amendments pass, our ability to make independent science-based decisions in the interest of the community will be significantly limited, our wetlands, valleys, and water will be at risk, and our ability to remedy violations that put our environment and communities in danger will be minimal.
How You Can Help
Please raise your voice with ours! We’ve sent a letter to the Premier, members of Cabinet and our local MPPs and need you to do the same. Click the green button to send your local MPP, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, The Minister of the Environment Conservation and Parks, and the Minister of Finance a letter asking them to hold off on making unilateral changes without public consultation. Be sure to follow us on social media where we plan to keep the conversation going!
Thank you again for your continued support of our environment and community.
Yours in conservation,
President and CEO