The trend towards "modernization of approvals"
(otherwise known as "permit by rule" for what are
supposed to be routine, lower risk, routinely-permitted activities)
continues to spread across the Ontario government. Now it's the
turn of the Ministry of Natural Resources' Public Lands
Act. On January 1, 2014, regulation changes affecting the following
approvals will come into effect: 1. Work permits will no longer
be required, if rules are followed, for the following
- Maintenance dredging; - Relocation of rocks and/or boulders
for boating and swimming access; - Mechanical removal of native
aquatic vegetation for swimming or boating access in southern
Ontario; and - Mechanically removing invasive (i.e. non-native)
Dredging, removing rocks and vegetation to "improve"
cottage waterfronts has long been a notable cause of deterioration
in habitat for aquatic species. 2. Work permits will no longer be
required, if rules are followed with mandatory notification to the
Ministry, for the following activities:
Construction of buildings for mineral exploration and
Restoring, repairing or replacing an existing erosion control
See: Modernization of Approvals – Proposed Regulatory
Amendments to Work Permits issued under the Public Lands Act,
EBR Registry Number 011-7669
Commissioner Gord Miller has grave concerns about the
"Modernization" approach, and the cost-cutting that it is
enabling in the Ministry of Natural Resources. Miller says
budget cuts and regulatory changes like these have reduced
MNR's effectiveness, not made it more efficient:
"MNR's Risk-Based Approach Could Be Risky
A recurring theme in MNR's transformation initiatives is the
use of a risk-based approach to decision making. In particular,
this approach is cited as a key tool in the modernization of MNR
approvals, in the shift to a landscape approach to natural resource
management, and in its operational delivery transformation. While
employing a risk-based approach is reasonable, the ECO is concerned
that MNR has not explained how it will assess and weigh the various
risks associated with any of these transformation initiatives.
The outcome of a risk-based approach depends on the
weight accorded each of the different factors
Without more details, it is uncertain whether MNR will
consistently prioritize avoiding risks to natural resources over
MNR's desire for a more "sustainable fiscal
path" or other considerations. In the context of approvals
modernization, the fact that MNR has stated that it will
assess, among other things, the risk to government, public and
private finances and the economy, as well as public expectations of
government, and that it will consider additional factors, such
as "the need to balance public and private interests in
the use of a public resource," reinforces this
concern." (see p. 52)
It also remains to be seen if MNR will actually enforce the
"rules" in its new "permit by rule" system.
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