At the provincial level, consideration should be given not only to changing some aspects of the PPS Natural Heritage policies, but also to our current method of delivering greenlands protection in Ontario. At present, the Province is responsible for setting policy and municipalities are responsible for its implementation. Because the ministries of Natural Resources and Environment no longer participate in plan review, in the Central Ontario Zone (and elsewhere) the role of providing environmental expertise to municipalities has primarily been taken over by conservation authorities.
Conservation authorities within the Central Ontario Zone have adopted different approaches to delivering greenlands protection. Depending on their location and the population base of their watersheds, some conservation authorities have considerable financial and personnel resources, while others are underfunded and understaffed. Furthermore, because the conservation authorities are managed by boards made up of elected officials, they can become political and their decisions may be influenced by individual agendas rather than purely technical grounds. These differences have led to a lack of consistency in applying greenlands policy when land development proposals are being reviewed. As a result, the process is neither fully transparent nor sufficiently accountable.
For example, large, powerful conservation authorities like the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority are able to limit development from occurring in areas that are arguably low-quality greenlands (which shifts pressure onto higher-quality areas), while outside the Greater Toronto Area, smaller, less powerful conservation authorities are unable to exert much influence on where and how development occurs.
As part of a provincial Smart Growth Initiative, some consideration should be given to reforming the current method of greenlands policy delivery in Ontario. Some suggestions as to the kinds of changes that could be brought about in this regard are elaborated in the Recommendations section of this paper.