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Kim Gavine: Conservation Ontario's cautious approach to Bill 108

During the consultations around the Ontario government’s Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, there was a push to modify the role of conservation authorities, including a further defining of what are their core services.

For Kim Gavine, General Manager of Conservation Ontario (a non-profit association that represents the province’s 36 conservation authorities), changes to the Conservation Authorities Act represent a new opportunity. However, in a conversation with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner at the 2019 Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference, she said there are several concerns to be addressed as well.

Delivering Essential Environmental Services

Gavine said Conservation Ontario looks forward to being part of conversations between the conservation authorities (CAs), the municipalities (the largest funding partner of CAs), and the province in establishing how to best deliver the on-the-ground environmental work.

However, there are potential pitfalls around establishing what constitutes core and non-core programming for CAs.

“We are at the point right now where we are waiting from the province for regulations which will define what those core and non-core activities are,” Gavine said. “I think one of the things that is most misunderstood about conservation authorities is that not every watershed is the same. The needs of one particular watershed, and those member municipalities, might be a little bit different.”

Most people, Gavine said, know about CAs for their flood management role. However, they also play other roles in things such as operation of conservation areas, conducting public education, and ensuring safe drinking water.

Once the core and non-core activities are established, Gavine said CAs can begin working with their municipal partners on identifying what responsibilities they want delivered on the ground and how they can ensure better efficiencies and streamlining of the processes that are currently in place.

Keeping People Safe While Ensuring Efficiency

Among the concerns she mentions in the video, however, is ensuring the changes do not infringe upon the key roles of CAs – keeping people and properties safe.

That, she explained, relates to everything from flood management programs, updated flood plain mapping, and the modeling and monitoring activities they undertake on a daily basis.

“I think probably the most important thing is for the conservation authorities to pretty explicitly explain to the municipalities why they are doing certain activities,” Gavine said. “Sometimes the activities, the work sounds complicated; but if we take the time to sit down with our municipal members and explain why they are so important, I think that will be the most important piece.”  MW

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in the Natasha Overduin and Laura Brandes article: Municipal Water Champions: How local governments are supporting the critical shift to watershed-scale decision making. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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