Highlands East council joined the chorus of voices calling for the province to halt its plans to significantly change conservation authorities.
Council passed a resolution Dec. 1 asking the province to repeal the section in the upcoming Budget Measures Act (Bill 229) which governs the changes. If passed, it would allow the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks to make permitting and appeals decisions and add more layers to the appeals process.
The Highlands East resolution – which the Crowe Valley Conservation Authority (CVCA) is providing to all its member municipalities – said the changes hinder the Conservation Authority’s role in regulating development and creating more “red tape” and costs for authorities.
“It allows the province to go against recommendations that the conservation authority makes regarding development,” said Coun. Suzanne Partridge, who serves on the CVCA board on behalf of the municipality. “Could have serious implications on our wetlands and increase flooding potential throughout the province.”
The Highlander reached the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks for comment but did not receive a response before press time.
The changes are receiving criticism from conservation authorities across the province.
CVCA general manager, Tim Pidduck, said authorities are already willing to work with developers. He added since 2017 when the CVCA started keeping track, they have only had eight board hearings and one denial amongst 917 processed permits.
“We’re not here to get in the way of development, but we just want to make sure it’s the right development in the right location,” he said.
Pidduck said the changes also complicate the process by adding more and different avenues of appeal, versus the more linear process that exists now.
The province consulted with authorities and the public for the past year and a half about changes. Pidduck said it was a good opportunity to address concerns – such as the inherent funding inequities with rural residents paying more per person for their authorities.
But he added it feels as though the province ignored a lot of the consultation, based on the changes.
“It’s almost like we never participated, or the province and ministry staff weren’t particularly listening,” Pidduck said.
Highlands East’s resolution asks the province to continue to work with authorities to find “workable solutions to reduce red tape and create conditions for growth.”
“Come to a good compromise or conclusion on how to proceed,” Partridge said. “It’s just the one section that has really, serious long-term implications to all our municipalities.”