Thunder Bay

'Development at any cost' is how Lakehead Region Conservation Authority describes changes to provincial act

A plan by the provincial government to alter the Conservation Authorities Act doesn't sit well with the CAO of the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority.
The Lakehead Region Conservation Authority has concerns over the province's changes to the Conservation Authorities Act, and its powers for development in natural hazard areas. (Lakehead Region Conservation Authority / Facebook)

A plan by the provincial government to alter the Conservation Authorities Act doesn't sit well with the CAO of the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority.

Schedule six, part of the province's 2020 budget, would alter how conservation authorities do their work, specifically when it comes to approving developments.

Currently, development proposals are overseen by conservation authorities, which will comment on those slated for areas of natural hazard, such as a floodplain.

"The result of those changes will really limit the conservation authorities role in planning and regulatory processes," said Tammy Cook, the CAO of the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority. 

"Basically they can override the whole process and take control of the whole development process at the end of the day, and develop in any natural hazard that they so deem desirable, without any concern for the environment or the downstream impacts."

"It really is development at any cost." 

Cook said the concern is a development could get built where it really shouldn't be - which could damage the environment, as well as surrounding property owners.

She said while development in wetlands is a major issue, particularly in southern Ontario, she said in Thunder Bay, it could lead to buildings being built too close to the McIntyre River, or McVicar Creek.

Those areas are ecologically important, she said.

"Conservation authorities make their decisions based on science, [like] where is the floodplain, and really, aren't influenced from political pressures."

"Where now, if a big development is proposed and the conservation authority is going to say no, the minister himself can prevent the conservation authority from issuing the permit, and issue the permit himself without any knowledge of the science behind maybe why something shouldn't be developed in a natural hazard."

Cook said other proposed changes include the composition of the board, and the length of term the chair can serve.

She said the changes announced in 2020 come a year after the province halved its funding contributions to conservation authorities across the province.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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