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Ian Arthur, MPP Kingston and the Islands

Government of Ontario

Question Period: Conservation Authorities

Published on November 19, 2020

Mr. Ian Arthur: Speaker, through you, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. Changes in Bill 229 rewrite the rules for conservation agencies that protect Ontario’s watersheds and allow developers to skip checks and balances, undermining conservation authorities and recklessly endangering communities. The scope and powers of conservation authorities will be limited to the point that no meaningful integrated watershed management will be possible.

Schedule 6 is clouded with uncertainty, as is much of the detail, particularly in relation to setting out the scope of programs and services. Standards and requirements and other important matters will be left up to future regulatory development.

The opposition to this lobby-driven schedule is coming from every corner of Ontario. Among many others, the mayors of Halton joined together in a letter that asked the government to stand the schedule down. Can the minister explain how this government’s approach to locally driven cost-effective conservation efforts is not a failure in protecting our parks, our wetlands and our communities?

Hon. Jeff Yurek: Thanks very much for that question. I’m glad it was asked, because I can dispel some of the myths that the member opposite was spreading in this Legislature. There are no checks or balances that will be overlooked during the changes of the legislation—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask the minister to withdraw the unparliamentary comment—

Hon. Jeff Yurek: Okay. I’ll withdraw. Thank you, Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): —and conclude his answer.

Hon. Jeff Yurek: Listen, the legislation does not change any sorts of checks and balances that are in the system. In fact, it’s strengthening the role of the conservation authorities, to ensure that they’re able to focus in on their core mandate services while including accountability and transparency to the municipalities.

We put in a provision of an appeal. I don’t know if the members opposite don’t believe in an appeal process in this province, but we are going to go to the LPAT to ensure that decisions may be appealed, like every other government agency in this province has.

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Again, Mr. Speaker, this will ensure that transparency and accountability. I’m not sure what the member opposite has against having accountability and transparency between municipalities and conservation authorities.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.

Mr. Ian Arthur: It’s actually municipalities themselves that are most opposed to this. As I stated in the first question, they have been voicing their displeasure with this schedule for weeks now. But I’m really not surprised by the answer from the minister, because, frankly, this schedule speaks to a pattern of dislike for local governance—a pattern that dismisses environmental protections and the well-being of future generations.

But don’t take my word for it. Yesterday the Auditor General released a scathing report detailing the government’s environmental failures. Note that the AG provides value-for-money reports, and it still was damning, pointing to systematic non-compliance by ministries. The government’s poor view of the environment and Ontario’s bill of rights is on every single page. Ministries haven’t collected the data needed to track progress. The government will miss its own weakened GHG targets.

My question is quite simple, Speaker: How is this minister going to explain to the next generation his role in the development of legislation that undermined their safety and damaged the world that they’re going to inherit?


Hon. Jeff Yurek: There was a lot in that question, but I’m going to address another issue the member mentioned, about local autonomy and respect. This government is probably the strongest government to return local autonomy to municipalities throughout this province. The former Liberal Party, supported by the NDP, took away the rights of municipalities in siting green energy projects. We returned that, Mr. Speaker. We’re giving municipalities the right to deny landfills built in their locations if they do see it, Mr. Speaker. We’ve given the rights to municipalities to turn down permits to take water going forward.

Again, the NDP were against each and every single movement we’ve done to give autonomy to municipalities, so don’t lecture me on the local economies of municipalities. This government is working with municipalities and giving them the autonomy they do deserve in order to run their—

Interjections.