The efficiency and effectiveness of the existing approval processes and associated policies and technical requirements could be limited by Ontario’s overall fiscal reality and capacity issues facing provincial ministries, municipalities, and conservation authorities.

8.1 Ontario’s deficit

Ontario’s deficit was estimated to be as high as $15 billion in 2018 leading to the government committing to taking necessary steps towards restoring Ontario's fiscal health. Ontario’s deficit places pressure on the Province to further reduce costs and promote economic growth to help balance the budget and sustainably fund essential public services for current and future generations.

8.2 The Ministry of Natural Resources and forestry capacity

Some stakeholders and other groups have raised concerns regarding the capacity of the MNRF to support approval processes and associated policies and technical requirements.

The MNRF has not assessed internal capacity needs required to support provincial natural hazard management policies and programs or assessed how such programs are resourced in other jurisdictions. The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has also raised concerns that reductions in budgets, staffing and in-house expertise has hampered the effectiveness of the MNRF.

8.3 Conservation Authority capacity

Many MNRF policies and programs associated with protecting Ontarians from flooding and other natural hazards are delivered by conservation authorities. Reliance on conservation authorities to administer permit applications and decisions, and to comment on municipal planning policies reduces costs for the MNRF but increases costs for conservation authorities and the municipalities that fund them.

Capacity levels among conservation authorities are very diverse with annual budgets ranging from less than $1 million to more than $100 million. This divergence in capacity affects the extent to which any given conservation authority can support hazard management policy objectives. Increases to conservation authority roles and responsibilities disproportionately impact smaller conservation authorities with limited tax bases within their jurisdictions to support program and service delivery. Conservation Ontario and municipalities have repeatedly requested increases to provincial funding levels to conservation authorities, which have not been increased in over 20 years, and this year they have requested that the 2018 funding level be reinstated.

8.4 Municipal capacity

The MNRF relies on municipalities to implement natural hazard policies contained within the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS).

As with conservation authorities, capacity levels among municipalities are also quite diverse. Small, rural municipalities typically have a much smaller tax base than larger urban municipalities, and may be less able to support the effective management of flooding and other natural hazards.

Some municipalities rely on conservation authorities to support the management of flooding and other natural hazards, and would not have the resources to take on these responsibilities.