Speech Given at Minister Yurek’s Conservation February 7 stakeholders conference in Colborne by Jeff Bogaerts

Minister Yurek, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank-you Minister for the invitation to participate in this important consultation process.

My name is Jeff Bogaerts and I am the President of the Ontario Landowners Association.

Dialogue, debate and the exchange of ideas are essential in the creation of law in a country governed by the rule of law.

It is difficult to come to a consensus when there are multiple groups each with their own reasons for attending.

Otto von Bismarck, a politician of the 1800’s, made the comment;

“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best”.

As a Minister of the Crown, I do not envy your position and the challenges that you face to find a consensus that will balance the expectations of the groups here to-day, the policies of the Conservative Party and the people of Ontario.

The Ontario Landowners Association was created in 2003, because of laws and regulations that were not in the best interests of the people in rural Ontario.

Since 2003, the OLA has taken on challenges in other areas of property rights, the OSPCA Act as an example. This was a six-year project and $200,000.00 in legal costs. This challenge affected every person in Ontario who owned animals, whether they lived in a downtown Toronto condo or a log cabin north of Algonquin park.

We challenged the law because it was the right thing to do.

The OSPCA project has closed and now we move onto other projects.

The Conservation Authority Act is our next project.

There are difficulties surrounding this legislation. There are opposing views to make changes.

There are issues of private property rights, environment, building permits, designation of property without consultation, loss of property use without compensation, interference in agriculture and normal farm practice, shoreline erosion control standards, flooding and flood control, the list goes on.

Are these issues insurmountable? No, they are not. We put a man on the moon in 1969 with slide rules and room sized computers. There is more compute power in a smart phone today than what NASA had access to. If they could accomplish what they did then, we can find the solutions for change today.

I thank-you Minister for the invitation to attend these workshops. To exchange ideas, to find workable solutions, to find consensus.

This is an ongoing process and will never come to an end. We evolve as a society and therefore our laws will evolve.

This will take determination and focus and must include all of us.

On August 16, 2019, your office sent a letter to the Conservation Authorities.

This letter was received with much appreciation and positive anticipation for future changes to the current law and policies of Conservation Authorities across Ontario.

Property owners are upset when they are told they must receive a letter of authorization before proceeding to build and in some cases, conduct environmental, engineering, soil and hydrology studies, at their personal cost, before a Conservation Authority will allow a building permit to be issued.

These required studies do not automatically guarantee that a Conservation Authority will approve the issuance of a permit and will add thousands of dollars to the cost of home construction. Even a barn or garage may require studies.

There are many examples of property owners losing access to their property because their land was designated as wetland, provincially significant wetland, unevaluated wetland, environmentally protected land and so on.

Private Property owners are the best stewards of the land. No one has more personal interest and best intentions to protect their home and land.

Owning a home and property is one of largest investments a person will make and every opportunity to improve upon its value is foremost in their mind, why would it not be. Whether it is a 50 x 80-foot lot, or a 500-acre farm, the reasons are the same.

It is a personal investment that has far reaching implications to the economics of the family.

Not only is the protection of personal property a priority, the OLA also promotes the ancient common law of “do no harm to your neighbour”.

Every Private Landowner has a responsibility to the good stewardship of their personal land and the land of their neighbour as well.

The OLA is not in agreement with the duplication of services taken on by Conservation Authorities to maintain parks, when there are Provincial, Federal and Private parks available, ski hills, golf courses and other endeavors that are not directly related to the protection of people and property from flooding.

Every day and every dollar spent in other activities by Conservation Authorities is time and money taken from their core mandate.

Many OLA members and non-members have sent stories of their interaction with Conservation Authorities to your office.

These stories carry a similar theme of frustration, irritation, anger and disappointment.

Private Property owners feel unimportant, as their lands are being taken by regulation with no consideration and no compensation. They are unable to permanently protect their homes from flooding and property values have depreciated.

A disturbing new trend is occurring. It is the direct interference in farming by Conservation Authorities.

Multi-generational farms should never be interfered with. The Ministry of Agriculture is the only authorized government body to communicate with the farming community.

Farmers rely on their farms to pay their bills and live their lives.

Interference by Conservation Authorities takes money from their pocket, food from their table and directly affects their families. This interference in farming practice must stop.

The Ontario Landowners Association believes that an equal balance can exist between the needs of the people and the needs of the environment. Since 2003, successive Liberal governments have weighted legislation in favour of the environment to the detriment of private property owners and their families.

What continues to be misunderstood, is private property owners will do what is necessary to protect their land, home and investment, which by default, protects the environment as well.

We all face challenges as property owners and these challenges must be met and solutions found.

An example of such a solution is the acceptance of international engineering standards for Coastal Erosion and Control. People on large bodies and small bodies of water are experiencing shoreline erosion, loss of land and damage to home and property.

We need to implement standards of shoreline erosion and control. Holland is a world leader and the success of the US Army Corp of Engineers who re-built the levees and dikes in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

Why would we not duplicate their success.

Minister Yurek, the OLA is not here today to demand changes. The OLA is here today to be part of the changes. To offer our collective knowledge and experience. We are here today to be part of the solution.

Today, the OLA is offering to you and your Ministry what resources we have that will assist in finding a consensus to balance the needs of the people and the environment that we all must live in.

The Ontario Landowners Association looks forward to work with you and your staff to find the solutions that will serve the best interests of the people of Ontario.

We will all work together to make Ontario a Place to Stand and A Place to Grow.