Doug Ford government defends conservation authority changes in wake of mass Greenbelt Council resignations


The province announced Monday’s plan for a $ 30 million investment in Wetland Restoration, after a weekend that saw the collective resignation of Greenbelt Council members over the government’s plans to limit the mandate of conservation officials to protect the environment saw.

Following a quick announcement, City Minister and Housing Minister Steve Clarke responded to growing criticism surrounding the resignation of seven government-appointed Greenbelt advisory bodies, including the chair, former federal cabinet minister and Toronto Mayor David Crombie.

Clarke thanked council members for their service, but said he was “disappointed in recent months” with a lack of progress “for expanding the quality and quantity of greenbelt”.

“Time and again, the council failed to propose a strategy to help us achieve this,” he said.

“I am very clear with the council that I wanted a plan that would elevate the Greenbelt, but no progress has been made in this regard,” Clarke said. “I’m going to turn the page and work with existing members, and new members.”

Clarke also defended the minister’s own use of the Zoning Order, or MZO, which gives him the right to designate land use without the possibility of an appeal. He also defended an amendment to the omnibus budget bill that would force Ontario’s 36 conservation officials to allow development in environmentally sensitive lands.

Clarke also defended his use of MZO: “The MZOs we are building on non-provincial land have been done at the request of local municipalities,” Clarke said. “MZOs are playing an important role in the economic recovery of our province, they are accelerating priority projects.”

He said conservation authorities would still be “obliged” to issue these permits for development, adding “we would require that proponents should enter into agreements with conservation authorities to enhance the natural environment.”

However, the proposed amendments provide developers with an appeal process for any restrictions, including appealing directly to the Minister of the Environment, or a Local Planning Appellate Tribunal.

Clarke’s media conference came just days after Crombie’s resignation, citing his concerns about proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act that he planned for environmental protection and water conservation, and “limiting public discussion Do. ”

A day later, six other members of the Greenbelt Council resigned, among them planners, and the former chair of the Building Industry and Land Development Association, the housing lobby group.

Credit Valley Conservation’s Chief Administrative Officer, Council Member Deborah Martin-Downs, said in her letter that the government “plays a role in the public safety and environmental quality of security officers.”

Clarke reiterated that none of the proposed legislation changes would affect Greenbelt. “Time and time again it is clear to me that we will protect the greenbelt for generations to come,” he said.

Environmental advocates say the changes to the Conservation Authorities Act will eventually impact all of the province’s land, including the Greenbelt.

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In an interview on Sunday, Crombie said the government “still has the opportunity” to withdraw Schedule 6 from the budget bill, expected to be presented this week.

“If they don’t, we’re committed … to join many others across the province who are concerned,” Crombie said. “From our point of view, the fight continues.”

Noor Javed is a Toronto-based reporter covering current affairs in the York area for Star. Follow her on Twitter: @njaved

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