Transition to the New Funding and Framework under the Conservation Authorities Act
Protecting Ontario’s natural resources and biodiversity helps to preserve the economic development, recreation, and wellness opportunities provided by the natural environment. One way that municipal governments protect the natural environment is through conservation initiatives. Municipalities are key funders of the 36 Conservation Authorities (CAs) across Ontario, but not all municipalities are covered by a CA.
Over the past three years the province has made amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act, including those introduced through Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019). These changes give municipal governments greater authority over CAs.
In December 2020, Bill 229 (Protect Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act) made further changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act. To implement these changes, the province created a working group, of which AMO was a member.
Since then, the province has passed a series of regulations to the Conservation Authorities Act, divided into two phases. The first phase (passed October 2021), deals with mandatory programs and services, transition plans and agreements, and rules of conduct for CAs. The second phase of regulations (passed April 2022), support the transition of existing CA funding mechanisms and budget processes to the new legislative funding framework. It also imposes requirements on CAs to improve transparency of CA operations.
The new municipal – CA funding framework will take effect for the CA 2024 budgets. As a key funder, municipal governments have a vested interest in ensuring this transition is successful. Municipalities are strongly encouraged to work closely with their area CA(s) to ensure the program and services being offered and are agreed to meet their needs and are funded appropriately.
There are 36 conservation authorities in Ontario. They are local watershed management agencies, mandated to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats through programs that balance human, environmental, and economic needs. They were created by the provincial government through the Conservation Authorities Act.
While CAs cover vast amounts of watershed, not all municipal governments are covered by a CA.