Kitchener-Waterloo

GRCA to hold special meeting to discuss province's proposed changes to Conservation Authorities Act

The Grand River Conservation Authority will hold a special meeting Monday morning to discuss the province's Bill 229, which would make changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.

Legislation could remove or hinder GRCA's role to manage its watershed, board chair says

The GRCA board will hold a special meeting to discuss proposed changes by the province to the Conservation Authorities Act. (GRCA/Twitter)

There will be a special meeting of the Grand River Conservation Area board Monday morning to address proposed changes by the province to the Conservation Authorities Act.

The changes are in the provincial government's Bill 229: Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act.

GRCA chair and regional councillor Helen Jowett says the legislation could remove or significantly hinder the GRCA's role to manage its watershed.

"Our watershed municipalities value and rely on the natural habitats and water resources for the health and well-being of residents, and we depend on the work of the GRCA to mitigate the impacts of flooding and ensure safe drinking water," Jowett said in a news release about the meeting.

Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner says the bill would allow the minister to make decisions on permit appeals, and issue permits, without watershed data and expertise from the conservation authorities.

"When you pave over wetlands and greenspace, stormwater has nowhere to go but our streets and basements. I wish the Ford government would understand this," Schreiner said.

Ian Wilcox, the general manager of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, told CBC London they were never consulted on the bill.

"There's a reason we're concerned. [The changes] seem to bypass or negate our fundamental role, which is watershed management," he said. "We were not informed conservation authorities would be part of this bill, so it was a bit of a shock. In our opinion, it really has nothing to do with the stated purpose of that omnibus bill."

The special GRCA board meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be live streamed on the GRCA's website.

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