Ontario's conservation authorities to get better oversight

News Jun 12, 2017 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Kathryn McGarry says municipalities will be responsible to properly oversee the operations and board appointments of conservation authorities.

McGarry, who was in Burlington June 8 talking about updating the Niagara Escarpment Plan, told reporters the province will be reviewing how to make Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities more open and responsible to the public and to the municipalities.

“We will be looking at oversight and makeup of the board,” said McGarry. “It’s up to the board and members to establish and run their conservation authority.”

The province passed first reading of Bill 139, the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, an 81-page document, introduced May 30 by Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro, that McGarry and other provincial officials say will strengthen the oversight and accountability of conservation authorities, provide clarity for conservation authorities’ roles and responsibilities, encourage public engagement and modernize funding mechanisms.

Propose changes include identifying how members are appointed by municipalities; extending the terms of the board members from three to four years and clarifying how to replace a board member.

The ministry will be given power to establish bylaws that would force the authority to release information about their programs; require all conservation authorities to create advisory boards; approve policies for record retention, code of conduct and conflict of interest guidelines for members; and establish that authorities conduct audits of their operations.

The bill will also require conservation authorities to inform municipalities in writing the apportionment fee they must pay.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the City of Hamilton are currently locked in a dispute over whether there was an agreement for Hamilton to pay a reduced apportionment fee to the authority. Authority officials have been unable to find a written agreement that identifies the reduced fee.  A hearing before the Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner was completed this month, with a decision expected later this summer.

The bill will also give conservation authorities the ability to issue stop work orders on projects that change or divert watercourses. A maximum violation for an individual will be increased to $50,000 and for a corporation the fine will be $1 million.

The review of the Conservation Authorities Act, first created in 1946, began in 2015, prior to the controversies that have surrounded the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. The board is conducting a search for a new chief administrative officer after Carmen D’Angelo, a former Hamilton representative on the board, who then became the authority’s chief administrative officer, left in November 2016 to become the Niagara Region’s chief administrative officer.

The authority is also involved in legal action against St. Catharines resident Ed Smith over a document publicly released that related a number of alleged conflict of interest issues by the organization.

Welland MPP Cindy Forster has been a consistent critic of the authority and has called on the province to reform who sits on the board, and to make the authorities more transparent and with greater oversight by local governments.

She has demanded the Liberals change the composition of conservation authorities to reduce the number of politicians that sit on their boards and include individuals with a background in environmental work.

McGarry said she has received a lot of letters from the Niagara and Hamilton areas calling for reforming the conservation authorities.

She said the ministry has “no legislative authority to do the things they have been asking. It goes back to the makeup of the board is (by) the municipalities. The municipalities provide most of the funding. The ministry is there to look after flood control and erosion.”  

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Chair Sandy Annunziata stated in a news release praised the authority for adopting most of what the province is proposing to change.

The authority created its Citizens Liaison and Advisory Committee, and at its last board meeting appointed a representative of the Métis Nation to it. In March the board approved a records retention policy and a subcommittee has been created to examine the board’s code of conduct for members.

The board was prompted to review its code of conduct and conflict of interest policies after censuring one of its members, Bill Hodgson, Lincoln regional councillor, for allegedly interfering in the tendering process to hire an organization to audit the authority. It will be up to the Niagara Region to identify a replacement for Hodgson on the board.

The request for proposal process was halted and the board requested the Auditor General of Ontario conduct the audit of the authority’s operations.

The board is also, according to authority officials, the only organization to livestream its monthly meetings to the public.

McGarry said the province will begin public consultations on the bill, which will lead to second reading. Once second reading is completed, the bill will then go to a committee of MPPs for review.

“That will look at the broad makeup, look at the mandate (of the authorities), clarity and oversight,” she said. “There is room for consultations in the coming days.”


Ontario proposes stricter oversight of conservation authorities

News Jun 12, 2017 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Kathryn McGarry says municipalities will be responsible to properly oversee the operations and board appointments of conservation authorities.

McGarry, who was in Burlington June 8 talking about updating the Niagara Escarpment Plan, told reporters the province will be reviewing how to make Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities more open and responsible to the public and to the municipalities.

“We will be looking at oversight and makeup of the board,” said McGarry. “It’s up to the board and members to establish and run their conservation authority.”

The province passed first reading of Bill 139, the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, an 81-page document, introduced May 30 by Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro, that McGarry and other provincial officials say will strengthen the oversight and accountability of conservation authorities, provide clarity for conservation authorities’ roles and responsibilities, encourage public engagement and modernize funding mechanisms.

Propose changes include identifying how members are appointed by municipalities; extending the terms of the board members from three to four years and clarifying how to replace a board member.

The ministry will be given power to establish bylaws that would force the authority to release information about their programs; require all conservation authorities to create advisory boards; approve policies for record retention, code of conduct and conflict of interest guidelines for members; and establish that authorities conduct audits of their operations.

The bill will also require conservation authorities to inform municipalities in writing the apportionment fee they must pay.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the City of Hamilton are currently locked in a dispute over whether there was an agreement for Hamilton to pay a reduced apportionment fee to the authority. Authority officials have been unable to find a written agreement that identifies the reduced fee.  A hearing before the Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner was completed this month, with a decision expected later this summer.

The bill will also give conservation authorities the ability to issue stop work orders on projects that change or divert watercourses. A maximum violation for an individual will be increased to $50,000 and for a corporation the fine will be $1 million.

The review of the Conservation Authorities Act, first created in 1946, began in 2015, prior to the controversies that have surrounded the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. The board is conducting a search for a new chief administrative officer after Carmen D’Angelo, a former Hamilton representative on the board, who then became the authority’s chief administrative officer, left in November 2016 to become the Niagara Region’s chief administrative officer.

The authority is also involved in legal action against St. Catharines resident Ed Smith over a document publicly released that related a number of alleged conflict of interest issues by the organization.

Welland MPP Cindy Forster has been a consistent critic of the authority and has called on the province to reform who sits on the board, and to make the authorities more transparent and with greater oversight by local governments.

She has demanded the Liberals change the composition of conservation authorities to reduce the number of politicians that sit on their boards and include individuals with a background in environmental work.

McGarry said she has received a lot of letters from the Niagara and Hamilton areas calling for reforming the conservation authorities.

She said the ministry has “no legislative authority to do the things they have been asking. It goes back to the makeup of the board is (by) the municipalities. The municipalities provide most of the funding. The ministry is there to look after flood control and erosion.”  

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Chair Sandy Annunziata stated in a news release praised the authority for adopting most of what the province is proposing to change.

The authority created its Citizens Liaison and Advisory Committee, and at its last board meeting appointed a representative of the Métis Nation to it. In March the board approved a records retention policy and a subcommittee has been created to examine the board’s code of conduct for members.

The board was prompted to review its code of conduct and conflict of interest policies after censuring one of its members, Bill Hodgson, Lincoln regional councillor, for allegedly interfering in the tendering process to hire an organization to audit the authority. It will be up to the Niagara Region to identify a replacement for Hodgson on the board.

The request for proposal process was halted and the board requested the Auditor General of Ontario conduct the audit of the authority’s operations.

The board is also, according to authority officials, the only organization to livestream its monthly meetings to the public.

McGarry said the province will begin public consultations on the bill, which will lead to second reading. Once second reading is completed, the bill will then go to a committee of MPPs for review.

“That will look at the broad makeup, look at the mandate (of the authorities), clarity and oversight,” she said. “There is room for consultations in the coming days.”


Ontario proposes stricter oversight of conservation authorities

News Jun 12, 2017 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Kathryn McGarry says municipalities will be responsible to properly oversee the operations and board appointments of conservation authorities.

McGarry, who was in Burlington June 8 talking about updating the Niagara Escarpment Plan, told reporters the province will be reviewing how to make Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities more open and responsible to the public and to the municipalities.

“We will be looking at oversight and makeup of the board,” said McGarry. “It’s up to the board and members to establish and run their conservation authority.”

The province passed first reading of Bill 139, the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, an 81-page document, introduced May 30 by Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro, that McGarry and other provincial officials say will strengthen the oversight and accountability of conservation authorities, provide clarity for conservation authorities’ roles and responsibilities, encourage public engagement and modernize funding mechanisms.

Propose changes include identifying how members are appointed by municipalities; extending the terms of the board members from three to four years and clarifying how to replace a board member.

The ministry will be given power to establish bylaws that would force the authority to release information about their programs; require all conservation authorities to create advisory boards; approve policies for record retention, code of conduct and conflict of interest guidelines for members; and establish that authorities conduct audits of their operations.

The bill will also require conservation authorities to inform municipalities in writing the apportionment fee they must pay.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the City of Hamilton are currently locked in a dispute over whether there was an agreement for Hamilton to pay a reduced apportionment fee to the authority. Authority officials have been unable to find a written agreement that identifies the reduced fee.  A hearing before the Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner was completed this month, with a decision expected later this summer.

The bill will also give conservation authorities the ability to issue stop work orders on projects that change or divert watercourses. A maximum violation for an individual will be increased to $50,000 and for a corporation the fine will be $1 million.

The review of the Conservation Authorities Act, first created in 1946, began in 2015, prior to the controversies that have surrounded the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. The board is conducting a search for a new chief administrative officer after Carmen D’Angelo, a former Hamilton representative on the board, who then became the authority’s chief administrative officer, left in November 2016 to become the Niagara Region’s chief administrative officer.

The authority is also involved in legal action against St. Catharines resident Ed Smith over a document publicly released that related a number of alleged conflict of interest issues by the organization.

Welland MPP Cindy Forster has been a consistent critic of the authority and has called on the province to reform who sits on the board, and to make the authorities more transparent and with greater oversight by local governments.

She has demanded the Liberals change the composition of conservation authorities to reduce the number of politicians that sit on their boards and include individuals with a background in environmental work.

McGarry said she has received a lot of letters from the Niagara and Hamilton areas calling for reforming the conservation authorities.

She said the ministry has “no legislative authority to do the things they have been asking. It goes back to the makeup of the board is (by) the municipalities. The municipalities provide most of the funding. The ministry is there to look after flood control and erosion.”  

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Chair Sandy Annunziata stated in a news release praised the authority for adopting most of what the province is proposing to change.

The authority created its Citizens Liaison and Advisory Committee, and at its last board meeting appointed a representative of the Métis Nation to it. In March the board approved a records retention policy and a subcommittee has been created to examine the board’s code of conduct for members.

The board was prompted to review its code of conduct and conflict of interest policies after censuring one of its members, Bill Hodgson, Lincoln regional councillor, for allegedly interfering in the tendering process to hire an organization to audit the authority. It will be up to the Niagara Region to identify a replacement for Hodgson on the board.

The request for proposal process was halted and the board requested the Auditor General of Ontario conduct the audit of the authority’s operations.

The board is also, according to authority officials, the only organization to livestream its monthly meetings to the public.

McGarry said the province will begin public consultations on the bill, which will lead to second reading. Once second reading is completed, the bill will then go to a committee of MPPs for review.

“That will look at the broad makeup, look at the mandate (of the authorities), clarity and oversight,” she said. “There is room for consultations in the coming days.”