Consultation needed if Conservation Authorities are to meet goals, protect communities

Stop us if you’ve read this one before.

In an effort to bring rapid and sweeping changes to a public body/service/program, Ontario, under the leadership of Premier Doug Ford, has eschewed deep diving consultation-either with the organization itself or the public stakeholders which these groups serve.

Friday’s ‘To whom it may concern’ letter to Ontario’s Conservation Authorities by Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek in which he calls on the regulatory bodies to “focus on core mandates” and “wind down activities” that fall outside of the main scope is concerning.

Conservation authorities offer a varied cross section of watershed management programs that serve to reduce or prevent costly and devastating damages of flooding, protect water resources, help reduce pollution from flowing into the Great Lakes and support healthy watersheds across Ontario. The shoreline erosion mitigation strategies developed between property owners and Quinte Conservation in the wake of the 2017 flooding event is just one recent piece of a body of evidence that indicates these bodies are serving the public good, and, hopefully, those shoreline owners further impacted by the 2019 flooding event will be able to collaborate on a relief initiatives in the coming months.

Conservation Ontario are claiming they were blindsided by Yurek’s letter and they had been “Acting in good faith” with the province in discussions surrounding their “More Homes, More Choices” legislation. Kim Gavine , General Manager of Conservation Ontario, the association which represents Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities, called Yurek’s letter “Confusing and extremely disappointing.”

In response to Yurek’s letter, Gavine said her group was attempting to make a “number of planning and development approvals streamlining changes to support their agenda to eliminate the deficit and implement the Housing Strategy.” According to Conservation Ontario, no consultation with that body or the 36 Conservation Authorities about the subject matter in Yurek’s letter before it was circulated.

Programming examinations, mandate reinforcement and efficiency mining is good top-down governance and new governments should endeavour to undertake this exercise in the early stages of their tenure.

But it stops being a benefical practice when there is little-to-no consultation and the parties involved are left with more questions than answers. Sadly, that’s been the modus operandi on too many public files for this provincial government so far.


In what is becoming an all too regular practice in recent weeks for this space and the heart of the person responsible for it, we must say goodbye to a young and brave cancer fighter from our community.The way Abigail Hefernan met her leukemia challenge head on and the manner which the community rallied around her, celebrated her remission, dreaded the news of her cancer returning and the communal devastation at her passing Saturday indicates strength.

Strength in the very public way she faced the disease, demonstrating a brave soul and strength in the way this community will always rally around those in time of ill health. Abby fought bravely to beat cancer, have a normal teenaged-life and grow into another quality person from Prince Edward County. In that last part, she was a complete success, teaching everyone she came in contact with what the term ‘community’ really means. Abby was a bright Prince Edward County light extinguished far too soon but her memory, the manner in which she approached her challenge and the way she brought our community together will last through the passage of time.