Hansard excerpt (3): TRCA presentation at Oct. 17, 2017 OMB Reform hearing

This post features an excerpt from the Hansard transcript of the Oct. 17, 2017 hearing at Queen’s Park regarding Bill 139.

My notes of the above-noted hearing are featured at a previous post entitled:

Oakville mayor, Mississauga deputy city solicitor, and former Toronto chief planner speak out at Oct. 17, 2017 OMB Review hearing

In the text below, I begin with my own notes, after which I conclude with the Hansard transcript, of the presentation from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

Please note: I have posted the text in adherence to the Copyright provisions regarding Hansard texts.

A previous post features the following overview of the TRCA presentation

The next speaker was Brian Denney, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, who is retiring at the end of 2017. He spoke at 3:40 p.m.

Denney remarks that enforcement matters. Encourages government to proceed with passage of the Bill. Many Ministries are involved. Broad consultation has occurred. Refers to updating of language, to include some of the current problems related to climate change.

Although “we live in one of the most blessed parts of our Planet,” there are still challenges in the steps leading to the “low-carbon future that we need.” [These may be word-for-word direct quotations, but one would need to check against the Hansard transcript (below)].

Display at 426 University Ave. Jaan Pill photo

Display at 426 University Ave. Jaan Pill photo

Notes Conservation Authorities are challenged to maintain strong community connections. There is a need to address mitigation and adaptation in relation to climate change.

Refers to abuses of natural resources: Abuses can be prevented or addressed through good reinforcement capabilities.

Refers to wisdom of Indigenous peoples.

Refers to Lake Ontario as a a source of drinking waters, flood-control efforts related to the waterfront, and the construction of an innovative, six-storey wood-framed structure. Says government warrants thanks for the proposed changes to the OMB some 70 years after the founding Act that brought the Board into existence.

Please note: The Q & As at this post are paraphrases of what people said; please refer to Hansard for the word-by-word, direct quotations

Q: With regard to resource management today: Is it only publicly owned land that you oversee?

A:  Some Regulatory Authority extends to private lands.

Q: What’s the ratio between private lands / public lands, in this regard?

A: Consider the cottage-type residents next to a stream or lake: The Conservation Authority is the overriding Authority, even in such a case involving private property.

Adds, in further discussion: It depends on what is in place, for a given Conservation Authority. There are cases where private lands are subject to the Authority of Conservation Authorities.

Q: Do you favour the proposed legislation?

The body language of an observer at the Oct. 17, 2017 hearing - in particular, the sense of repose - caught my eye giving rise to a sketch. Jaan Pill drawing

The body language of an observer at the Oct. 17, 2017 hearing – in particular, the sense of repose – caught my eye giving rise to a sketch. Jaan Pill drawing

A: Yes.

Q: Is there enough access, with regard to permits, and consequences?

A: In rare cases in the past, when some activity on private lands has been hidden from view, Conservation Authorities have advocated for improved access.

Q: I assume TRCA is involved with many things – including timber-building construction?

A: One of TRCA’s first areas of focus was the energy performance of buildings, over the past 25 years of dealing with climate change. Refers to timber-construction building at new TRCA headquarters.

Q: What role does TRCA play with regard to commenting on proposed development projects?

A: TRCA comments with regard to issues related to natural hazard and natural heritage.

Q:  Question is asked regarding cases of Conservation Authorities who are acting with regard to wetlands, in a manner that suggests they are working in alignment with developer interests.

A: Says he is not on top of that.

Q: Question is asked regarding the expertise of appointed Conservation Authority board members. A question regarding expertise in certain areas. Will this matter have an impact on the tax rate? Can there be a conflict with regard to a funding authority?

[As with other Q & As, I recommend that readers refer to the Hansard transcript for an accurate and full account of  the wording of the question above, and of the answer that follows below. The notes you are now reading capture only highlights.]

A: The Municipality should appoint the members of the board. The expertise should come from the staff.

Q:  Are board members elected?

A: Nine of 14 from Toronto are elected; five are appointed by an interview process.

Q: Question refers to areas not covered by Conservation Authorities.

A: [I did not write down a note regarding the answer.]

Below is the Hansard transcript of the same presentation

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): We’ll move on now to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority: Brian Denney, CEO. If you’d state your name, please, for the record, and you’ll have up to 10 minutes.

Mr. Brian Denney: Thank you very much, Madam Chair and members. My name is Brian Denney, and I am the CEO of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The TRCA has made several submissions throughout the process of the review of the Conservation Authorities Act. I will not reiterate previous comments today. We do have some suggested improvements with respect to the enforcement and offences provisions that are included in the submissions from Conservation Ontario. I know you will be hearing from Kim Gavine, the general manager of Conservation Ontario, later this afternoon. TRCA did provide input and supports the proposed amendments as submitted by Conservation Ontario.

I am appearing today to encourage you to proceed with the passage of this bill. TRCA appreciates all of the time and effort expended by several ministers, other members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as well as staff of MNRF and numerous other ministries in the review of the CA Act. The consultation process was broad and inclusive. A wide spectrum of groups and individuals made submissions. It is encouraging for TRCA that the review concluded that the mandate for CAs in the management of natural resources should remain broad and that the language should be updated to include some of the current challenges of climate change.

When the CA Act was first adopted over 70 years ago, it addressed the resource management pressures at that time. Many of those pressures continue today and are made more complicated by extreme weather. The proposed amendments to the CA Act will both enable and challenge CAs to continue to provide relevant services to the communities we serve. Equally importantly, the proposed amendments will inspire CAs to work aggressively to protect, restore and conserve the vital natural resources of our province for future generations.

I have been fortunate to enjoy a long career at TRCA. During that time, I have had the privilege of working with many different governments. All of those governments faced different challenges and set different priorities. However, over those decades we have accomplished many resource management objectives and established a rich legacy of parks, open space systems and resilient water resource systems. All of those governments realized that natural resource conservation was important and found ways to advance some aspects of the work of TRCA.

Although we live in one of the most blessed parts of our planet, we still face many challenges to ensure that our communities are safe from natural hazards, that our rivers and lakes are healthy and that we can still experience the rich biodiversity that is unique to this part of the world. Our communities are slowly becoming more sustainable but we have a long journey ahead to a low-carbon future that meets everyone’s needs.

The wisdom embedded in the original Conservation Authorities Act contained several essential elements. It stressed that resource management decisions needed to be made and evaluated within a watershed context. It challenged CAs to maintain strong community connections of all types. It highlighted that progress at significant scale and pace could only be achieved by investments through partnerships.

The proposed amendments to the act build on and contribute to that original wisdom. They acknowledge that to succeed in resource management today, we also need to be addressing the current and anticipated challenges of climate change, both on the mitigation and adaptation sides. They acknowledge that organizations that are empowered to do natural resource management need to be strategic and administered professionally, with transparency and accountability. The amendments also recognize that the protection of natural resources includes mechanisms to ensure that abuses of natural resources can be stopped quickly or, better yet, prevented by the reality of serious consequences. Our municipal partners expect that their CAs will have enforcement tools that complement municipal powers and processes.

TRCA’s programs and projects involve a wide array of activities.

We begin with efforts to understand and celebrate the wisdom of indigenous peoples.

We seek to protect and restore the health of our nine river systems as part of broader efforts with our municipalities and neighbouring CAs to conserve Lake Ontario as one of the best sources of drinking water in the world.

We are building a green space system that now exceeds 18,000 hectares and hosts over one million visitors per year.

We host Greening Health Care, which has helped 43 hospitals in Ontario to achieve $4 million per year in energy savings.

We have installed 132 EV charging stations through our Pearson eco-industrial zone, where member companies have also avoided over 100,000 tonnes per year of CO2 production and saved 900 million litres of water annually.

We have provided our technical expertise in the review of over 1,200 planning applications of various types and issued 1,300 construction permits in 2016 in support of growth management and economic development within our member municipalities.

Construction is about to start, through Waterfront Toronto, on the flood control components of the Portlands development project.

We will start construction of a six-storey timber office building in 2019 as part of the province’s plan to advance this form of construction.

These are just a few examples of important projects.

These projects and activities are enabled by the Conservation Authorities Act and supported largely by our member municipalities. We also receive support from many provincial ministries. That is why we are encouraged by the recommendations associated with the review of the CA Act that will see a renewed effort to coordinate the involvement of many ministries to ensure that CAs are the best possible partners for a wide array of provincial priority efforts.

In conclusion, on behalf of TRCA, I thank the province of Ontario for 70 years of support through the Conservation Authorities Act and respectfully request that you proceed to approve the amendments to the act through the adoption of Bill 139. We look forward to ongoing dialogue about funding opportunities as well as the anticipated new regulations. Future Ontarians deserve our best possible collective efforts to conserve our natural resources.

Thank you for this opportunity.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you, Mr. Denney. We’ll start with the government members. Mr. Dickson?

Mr. Joe Dickson: Just a couple of quick questions for Mr. Denney. By the way, Mr. Denney, congratulations on a career that has very proudly served the people of Ontario, as you ride into the sunset, I might say. I just have a couple of quick questions, and then I’ll pass to two eloquent mayors at the other end of this table with me.

In reference to resource management today, do authorities consider all of the climate change mitigation and adaptations that are going on in the world today—is this publicly owned land only that you oversee?

Mr. Brian Denney: The TRCA does own a large amount of land. Some of the regulatory capabilities that are afforded to conservation authorities extend onto private lands, and we provide comments to our municipal partners on all sorts of planning applications that are on private lands.

1550

Mr. Joe Dickson: What’s the public-to-private ratio, Mr. Denney?

Mr. Brian Denney: I’m sorry, sir. I don’t have that number on the top of my head.

Mr. Joe Dickson: Okay, sir. I’ll catch you in your retirement.

Mr. Denney, I just want to ask one little question about a hypothetical example, really. Does a cottage-type residence, for lack of a better term, have the authority, if they’re anywhere adjacent to a ditch, a stream or a lake, to have conservation authority, and would that be the overriding authority to have residential improvements made to the residence on that property?

Mr. Brian Denney: You’re asking specifically—

Mr. Joe Dickson: That is private property. I’m just using that as a general term.

Mr. Brian Denney: It all depends on the limits of the regulation administered by the authority. There are maps that define the areas that are regulated. Beyond that, in areas where there is not actually a regulation line mapped, there is still a permit required for an alteration to a waterway.

In some more rural parts of the province—my career took me away from that 40-some years ago, so I’m not sure of the details in some of the smaller authorities, but I know that in the case of TRCA.

Mr. Joe Dickson: The last part of that question, through you, Madam Chair, to Mr. Denney: Is that particularly public and/or private that we’re referencing? Just because of your answer.

Mr. Brian Denney: There are lots of instances of private lands that are subject to regulation by conservation authorities, yes.

Mr. Joe Dickson: Do you have any authority at any municipal level to override a municipality?

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): I’m sorry; your time is up at this point.

Mr. Joe Dickson: Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): I will move on to the official opposition: Mr. Miller.

Mr. Norm Miller: Thank you, Mr. Denney, for your presentation. So you’re basically in favour of the amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act?

Mr. Brian Denney: Yes, we are, sir.

Mr. Norm Miller: Okay. I have a question with regard to entry onto private property. Do you feel the existing legislation gives your officers enough access to properties to inspect for permits and contraventions?

Mr. Brian Denney: Probably in most situations, it does. But there are rare circumstances where there may be some activity going on that people would prefer to be kept from view and that may be endangering very significant natural resource features.

Our conservation authority, along with others, has advocated for some improved powers of access for some time to deal with the rare circumstances where there are serious problems potentially occurring.

Mr. Norm Miller: That was my second question, which you pretty much answered. So you did advocate for a change to warrantless entry. Were there situations where there has been environmental damage because you haven’t been able to get access to private property?

Mr. Brian Denney: Yes, there have been some, often involving the loss of wetlands.

Mr. Norm Miller: Okay. In terms of expertise for board members, that’s something that changes in the bill. I note that you’re a professional engineer and you’ve been 44 years with the Toronto conservation authority. What sort of expertise would you see required by this change?

Mr. Brian Denney: We have a long history of very successful operation, I think, of a conservation authority, where we rely on the members that municipalities want to appoint to our board. That has worked very effectively for us.

Mr. Norm Miller: So you’re not saying that—

Mr. Brian Denney: It’s not something that my board has chosen to comment on.

Mr. Norm Miller: Okay. Thank you for that. I would think that probably the Toronto conservation authority is one of the more sophisticated ones in the province in terms of the number of people involved. You’re probably involved in more things, including, I see, timber office buildings. What is your involvement with timber office buildings—which I happen to think is a very positive thing, I should add.

Mr. Brian Denney: As part of TRCA’s involvement in climate change, which goes back now 25 years, one of the first things we got involved in was the energy performance of buildings. That got us into green building, and green building rating systems. With the province’s support, we were able to host the World Green Building Council.

Mr. Norm Miller: Is that the George Brown building that you’re speaking of, this timber-frame building?

Mr. Brian Denney: That is another one that’s in the market and moving forward. But this would be the head-office building of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

Mr. Norm Miller: Okay. I know I have limited time. What do you think the role of conservation authorities is to comment on development projects? I believe you mentioned that in your submission as well, that you—

Mr. Brian Denney: Our commenting on development projects usually deals with issues of natural hazard and natural heritage, and we provide comments to municipalities to guide them on development limits, appropriate stormwater management provisions and things of that type.

Mr. Norm Miller: Is that—

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you. We’ll move on to Mr. Hatfield.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Thank you for coming in, sir. I take it that the member from Ajax is rushing you out the door into your retirement, but how much longer do you have?

Mr. Brian Denney: The member from Ajax has been working on that for some time. I’ve worked with him for 40-plus years. I think that campaign started early on in that period, but I am at TRCA until the end of this year, sir.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Of the 36 conservation authorities in Ontario, I would like to believe that they’re all on the same page when it comes to protecting our wetlands, and keeping development off our wetlands and natural areas. Do you share that opinion or are you aware of some, if you will, rogue conservation authorities that seem to be now more in line with development ahead of wetlands?

Mr. Brian Denney: I’m not familiar enough with that situation to provide any helpful comment. I have my hands full with what we deal with in the TRCA area of jurisdiction, sir.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: A question arose about the expertise of appointed board members. When I served my seven years on the Essex Region Conservation Authority, all the members were appointed by the municipalities, the funding partners. I’m struggling with trying to understand a bill that says, “We’re going to start appointing members to the board who hold expertise in certain areas: biodiversity, water planning”—whatever it is. But if those people are making decisions that are going to impact a tax rate or a tax increase at a local municipality, do you think there’s not going to be conflict between the municipal funding partner and the conservation authority?

Mr. Brian Denney: In my experience, and I believe it’s also the position of my board members—they feel that the municipality should be appointing the board members and that the technical expertise that those board members would rely on would come from the staff of that organization.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: From the staff, but not from the board members?

Mr. Brian Denney: We have other opportunities to engage advisory boards, if we feel they’re necessary or if the board feels they’re necessary. My board has chosen not to get into the issue of the qualifications of board members.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Right. So are all of your board members appointed? Are they all elected representatives?

Mr. Brian Denney: We have a 28-member board; 14 of those are from the city of Toronto. Of those 14, nine are elected officials and five are citizen appointees selected by the interview process that the city administers.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: Oh. So you already have the mechanism in your municipality, in your conservation authority.

Mr. Brian Denney: Yes.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: I was surprised to hear the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke recently say that he has no conservation authority in his riding. I didn’t realize. I thought all of Ontario would have had conservation authorities.

Mr. Brian Denney: No, there are large areas of the province that are not covered by conservation authorities.

The Acting Chair (Ms. Cindy Forster): Thank you for your presentation.

Mr. Brian Denney: A pleasure. Thank you, Madam Chair.

[End]

 

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