Conservation Authorities – Redundant or Lost in the Wilderness by Jeff Bogaerts, OLA President

Published May 1, 2019

For those who know about the Ontario Landowners Association you are aware of the 6-year Judicial Question before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The OLA brought the Judicial Question before the courts on issues found within the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The OSPCA Act.

On January 02, 2019, the Court released their decision on the OLA Judicial Question. Of the three questions asked by the OLA, we won 1. However, the one question that was won was the most powerful and influential of the three questions. For more information and details of the case go to www.fixthelaw.ca.

Tom Black, past President of the OLA, has agreed to Chair an OLA Committee to review and make recommendations for changes to the OSPCA Act. The first change is the name of the Act itself. The new name is the Animal Care Act.

Tom and his committee will use what resources are necessary to follow the court ruling of January 02. The court has given the Government of Ontario 1-year to make the appropriate changes to the Act. The OLA will hold the Government to account for the changes. At the same time, the OLA will make submissions to the Government for changes.

This brings us to the Conservation Authority Act. The Conservation Authorities across Ontario have for decades been moving away from their intended mandate as established by Queens Park.

The original mandate of CA’s was to protect property from flooding. The biggest single event was the flooding in the Grand River watershed. The GRCA became the first CA in Ontario.

Before I go any further, let me be clear on the OLA position regarding the Conservation Authorities. What they were and are supposed to do for the people of Ontario is Protection from Flooding, build and maintain dams, build storm ponds, ensure Municipal drains are maintained by Municipalities and kept free of debris, keep waterways clear of debris, siltation, removal of beaver dams that cause woodland damage and put property at risk, stop erosion, mapping of watersheds, wetlands and flood zones.

What we do not want them to do is take over septic system approvals, building permit approvals, stop property owners from protecting their land from flooding or erosion, restrict land use on property not owned by the CA’s or where land contracts are not in place. Place setbacks onto property not owned by the CA’s with restrictions as to what a property owner can and can not do with their land.

For example, if a wetland has been identified and a120 metre setback placed around the wetland, part of the setback may extend onto your property. This would be a No. The extent of the wetland boundary should stop at your property line. This would be the same with any land designation.

However, that is not the case today. CA’s have placed restrictions on land they do not own and threaten property owners with fines and or prison time for violations without a permit issued by the CA. The new Act has the following penalties.

30.5 (1) Every person is guilty of an offence if he or she contravenes, …..

(2) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable on conviction,

(a) in the case of an individual,

(i) to a fine of not more than $50,000 or to a term of imprisonment of not more than three months, or to both, and

(ii) to an additional fine of not more than $10,000 for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues; and

(b) in the case of a corporation,

(i) to a fine of not more than $1,000,000, and

(ii) to an additional fine of not more than $200,000 for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues. 2017, c. 23, Sched. 4, s. 29.

These penalties also apply to failing to follow a Stop Work Order issued by the CA. Simply not following the SWO you will be fined plus whatever charges may be laid. You would think these penalties would be enough, but you would be wrong. Under the new act, there is a “monetary benefit” penalty that is in addition to the fines above.

Monetary benefit

(3) Despite the maximum fines set out in clauses (2) (a) and (b), a court that convicts a person of an offence under clause (1) (a) or (b) may increase the fine it imposes on the person by an amount equal to the amount of the monetary benefit that was acquired by the person, or that accrued to the person, as a result of the commission of the offence. 2017, c. 23, Sched. 4, s. 29.

Putting a truck load of topsoil on your property for grass seeding, grading or the vegetable garden is all subject to the CA Act and / or a local by-law that is tied into the CA Act.

Farmers are now coming under the control of CA’s and what is a normal farm practice. CA’s can veto manure spreading, land leveling, building permits and Engineered stamped drawings for construction. There are some CA’s that do not use Engineering reviews to reject stamped drawings, they simply do not approve.

Property values can drop or not be saleable at all with land designation applied by a CA. However, your property taxes are not affected, you still pay them.

These are some of the issues about Conservation Authorities.

The OLA is establishing a Committee to review the CA Act and the questionable practices by way of “Policies” of local CA’s. The OLA will submit their recommendations to the Minister and Premier Ford.

As with the OSPCA Act, the CA Act must be changed. The OLA takes the position of trying to make appropriate changes without resorting to the Courts, however, if the Ford Government is not prepared to listen to the needs and wants of the people, then we will resort to the courts for relief.

Please send in your comments to the following web site.

https://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2019/04/improving-ontarios-conservation-authorities.html

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