Doug Ford is plowing forward with his developer-friendly agenda to dismantle useful programs, regulations and government bodies that protect our watersheds and communities.
His latest attack is jammed into the provincial budget bill, under the guise of helping the province recover from the pandemic — by undermining the powers and responsibilities of our Conservation Authorities.
Although Conservation Authorities were first established 75 years ago, they were given wider responsibilities in response to the disastrous loss of life due to flooding caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954. We learned a terrible lesson when people living on vulnerable flood plains were swept away by walls of water. In the decades since, we have gained greater understanding of storm water runoff, the critical role of wetlands and the importance of restricting development in certain areas — and our Conservation Authorities have become the front line of protection.
Conservation Authorities help protect watersheds from short-sighted development projects. They consider the impacts of development beyond municipal boundaries and can intercede in land use planning decisions to protect communities downstream. They also provide programs and services to advance conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in their respective watersheds.
Conservation Authorities are not as strong or as independent as they should be, but Premier Ford still wants to narrow their scope and strip them of the powers they have used to protect our communities for decades. Ford also wants to give developers the power to force fast-tracking of development approvals and greater power to appeal in the rare case where they might not be granted approval. This is the same provincial government that made a 50 per cent cut to its flood prevention funding of Conservation Authorities last year.
Seven members of the Ontario Greenbelt Council have resigned because of Ford’s gutting of Conservation Authorities, including the Chair, David Crombie (a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister) who wrote in his resignation letter on December 5, 2020 that Schedule 6 “...cuts out the heart of watershed planning and management; severely cripples the Conservation Authorities in their historic stewardship of environmental issues, and now with the grossly expanded use of Ministerial Zoning Orders, and other procedural revisions, essential public discussion or debate will be stifled or shut down. This is not policy and institutional reform. This is a high-level bombing that needs to be resisted.”
Increased flooding and droughts due to the climate crisis are certain to have tremendous impact in our near future. Gutting Ontario’s Conservation Authorities is short-sighted and irresponsible. Wealthy developers already have too much power and influence, this is not the time to give them free reign.
There is no time to lose! The Ford government has limited debate on Bill 229 and it could be passed any day now.