Ontario Community Environment Fund application guide
The application guide provides stakeholders detailed information to help complete their Ontario Community Environment Fund (OCEF) 2023 application form.
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The Ontario Community Environment Fund
Thank you for your interest in the Ontario Community Environment Fund (OCEF).
The purpose of this application guide is to provide an overview of the OCEF program, including the program objectives and eligible organizations, projects, costs and regions.
The Ontario Community Environment Fund directs funds from environmental penalties to important, community-based activities like shoreline cleanups, habitat restoration and tree planting.
In 2023, we are making over $1.5 million available for local projects that aim to restore the environment.
By directing these funds to local projects in communities impacted by environmental violations, we are supporting healthy communities and protecting and preserving our land, air and water.
Eligible projects will support provincial objectives, including projects that focus on:
- environmental restoration and remediation activities that repair environmental harm
- resilient communities and local solutions to environmental issues
OCEF directs money collected through administrative penalties for environmental violations into environmental projects located in the region(s) in which the violation(s) occurred. There are five compliance and enforcement regions:
- West Central
Use the region locator to find your region.
Once you review this application guide, you can submit applications online through Transfer Payment Ontario.
Applying for OCEF funding
This application guide provides details on OCEF, including project and funding eligibility criteria which are described below.
The application form and the application form instructions are on Transfer Payment Ontario. They provide clear step-by-step instructions for applicants to follow.
Registration on Transfer Payment Ontario may take up to 5 business days. We suggest you give yourself plenty of time to register before starting the application process.
Applicants must submit all required documentation listed in the application checklist through Transfer Payment Ontario by 5:00 p.m. EST on May 30, 2023.
This application guide also outlines the application review process, including our evaluation criteria and next steps for successful applicants. Successful applicants are required to sign a Transfer Payment Agreement before funding can be provided.
The Transfer Payment Agreement specifies the terms and conditions for funding, project activities and timelines, and reporting and payment schedules as negotiated between the recipient and the ministry.
Projects must be based in an eligible region
Eligible regions are the geographical areas where violation(s) occurred and where penalty payment(s) have been collected. The boundaries of eligible regions are defined by the ministry’s environmental compliance and enforcement regions. Penalty amounts collected in each region will be available for eligible organizations to apply for during this funding round.
Find maps of the regional boundaries which identify eligible regions and available funding this year.
Funding is available for environmental projects in the following two categories:
- Environmental restoration and remediation activities, that repair environmental harm. Examples include:
- planting trees, shrubs or plants to help mitigate and adapt to climate change
- rebuilding fish habitat and creating fish spawning beds
- stabilizing stream banks and creating buffer strips to reduce nutrient run-off
- restoring streams to improve habitat and water quality
- Resilient communities and local solutions to environmental issues. Examples include:
- improving the resilience of natural ecosystems by restoring wetlands and preserving areas of significant environmental and ecological importance
- installing rain gardens to reduce the risk of flooding and help communities adapt to climate change
- environmental monitoring that provides data to understand and support the protection and conservation of the natural environment.
All applications will be evaluated on the community and environmental benefit and technical merit of the project as described in the project evaluation criteria.
The lists under eligible project costs provide examples of expenses and activities that may be funded under OCEF. This is not a comprehensive list. Please contact the ministry if you are uncertain whether your project and expenses meet the eligibility criteria.
Projects that are not eligible for funding under OCEF include:
- projects with a funding request of less than $5,000
- projects located outside of an eligible region
- infrastructure or large-scale capital improvement projects
- land acquisitions
- projects that provide a direct benefit to the ministry or that are located on ministry property (such as provincial parks) or include ministry involvement
- projects requiring an individual or class environmental assessment (EA) unless already completed or a class EA category A project
- activities required under statutes or regulations, or that are the mandated responsibility of an organization or government agency
- projects that provide grants to other recipients
Please note that the above list is not comprehensive. Please contact the ministry if you have questions about the eligibility of projects and proposed activities.
Maximum project length
Multi-year projects (i.e., projects in which the activities are distributed over more than one year) are eligible for funding under OCEF. However, projects cannot exceed 2 years in length. Please note that the amount of OCEF funding awarded for a project is fixed and will be based on the value approved in the given application year. The Transfer Payment Agreement will specify the reporting requirements, and schedule of payments based on project timelines and activities.
Only legal entities in good standing with environmental, labour and tax laws, undertaking work within eligible regions, may apply for OCEF funding.
Eligible organizations that may apply for funding include:
- First Nation and Métis communities and organizations
- academic institutions (such as schools, colleges and universities)
- conservation foundations
- incorporated non-profit organizations
- incorporated community-based groups
Project applicants with multiple partners should submit only one application and clearly indicate the lead legal entity representative who is authorized to enter into the Transfer Payment Agreement.
If the application is successful, the ministry will only enter into a Transfer Payment Agreement with the lead legal entity who would be responsible for the delivery of the project.
- provincial or federal government departments, agencies, boards and commissions
- for-profit organizations
Elements of an eligible project may be contracted to another organization. As stated in the Transfer Payment Agreement, if contractors are to be used in a project, a Recipient will be required to obtain the services of that contractor through a process that promotes the best value for money. The successful applicant will be required to provide the ministry with a report on that process and to confirm that good value for money is being received.
The need for a contractor must be identified in the Application Form (under “project partners”). The Recipient will be responsible for all aspects of the project, even where some of the work is performed by a contractor.
The amount of OCEF funding available is equal to the revenue collected through penalties, in addition to any unallocated funds from previous funding rounds. The funding available in 2023 was collected in 2020 and 2021.
Penalty payments are tracked for each eligible region where a violation occurred. This money is set aside to fund projects in the eligible region. If there are no successful applications from an eligible region in the first funding round, the funds will be made available to that same eligible region in the following funding round (i.e., funding round 2). If there are no successful applications in an eligible region in the first or second funding round, the money can be used to support projects in other eligible regions.
Please see Appendix A of this Application Guide or visit the ministry’s website for OCEF funding available in the current funding round. There is no maximum amount of funding that an organization can apply for, as long as it is less than or equal to the amount of funding available in a region. Please also complete the portion of the application form that asks how your proposed project could change if your organization receives either 25%, 50% or 75% of the requested funding.
The minimum funding request is $5,000.
Projects may also be funded by other sources (see Disclosure of other funding sources below for more information).
Approved funding from OCEF will be delivered in instalments, as specified in the Transfer Payment Agreement. Please note that the ministry reserves the right to fund only selected activities within an application; that is, not all parts of a project may be funded through OCEF.
Eligible project costs
OCEF will only support expenses directly related to the delivery of eligible projects. Examples of eligible costs are outlined below. These may include:
- costs associated with hiring professional or technical expertise required to directly support the project
- materials and supplies, such as trees, shovels, garbage bags, and personal protective equipment that are necessary to undertake the project
- costs for activities to facilitate project implementation (e.g., to plant trees, enhance wetlands, manage storm water and control erosion)
- marketing costs to promote the project (e.g., publications, newsletters, brochures, social media)
- staff/labour costs to directly administer the project
- up to 10% of the cost of staff training and attendance at conferences and workshops related to the project
- expenses to hold workshops or conferences in the eligible region that are directly related to the eligible project categories
- equipment rental (e.g., backhoe, communications technology, scientific equipment, vehicles). Please contact the ministry if renting equipment does not constitute the best value for money or isn’t available in your area
Ineligible project costs
Expenses not directly related to the delivery of the project are ineligible for OCEF funding. These may include:
- expenses related to ongoing overhead and core administrative activities of the applicant and/or your project partners (e.g., rent, telephone, internet, utilities)
- expenses incurred prior to receiving OCEF funding commitment
- activities that are strictly for beautification purposes (e.g., planting trees, shrubs and plants that are not native to the project planting area.)
- capital expenses (e.g., vehicles, office furniture, computers, cell phones, building renovations, toilets, water filling stations, greenhouses, interpretative structures)
- signage that does not provide information relevant to the project
- appreciation gifts (e.g., gift certificates for volunteers)
- honoraria (except for honoraria for Indigenous Elders or community knowledge holders for their participation, which are eligible costs)
- hospitality or entertainment expenses (e.g., food, beverages)
- refundable Harmonized Sales Tax or other refundable expenses
- insurance (commercial general liability or other)
- legal costs including but not limited to litigation
Please note that the examples above do not constitute a complete list. Please contact the ministry if you have questions about eligible project expenses.
Disclosure of other funding sources
If your OCEF project involves other funding sources, you must disclose the amount of the other funding and the particular project components that the other source(s) are funding. It is important to note that the parts of the project funded by the OCEF must be clearly defined and are to be separate from the project components funded by other funding sources. In the application package, applicants are to describe (i) the parts of the project funded by the OCEF as well as (ii) the other parts of the project funded by other funding sources. The details will be reflected in the Transfer Payment Agreement.
Applying for funding
Please see Appendix A for funding available by region. The application deadline is May 30, 2023, at 5PM EST.
Please note that updates may be periodically posted to the ministry’s website. The ministry is targeting to notify applicants and award funding in fall 2023. The earliest estimated project start date recommended for planning purposes is October 1, 2023.
Applying through Transfer Payment Ontario
All applications must be submitted electronically through Transfer Payment Ontario (TPON) at ontario.ca/GetFunding.
Applicants must have a TPON account in order to apply. If you do not have a TPON account, you must first create a ONe-key account and then register for TPON.
- Visit ontario.ca/GetFunding to learn how to create a One-key account, register for TPON, and get a TPON account.
- Registration may take up to 5 business days so give yourself plenty of time to register before starting the application process.
- Once you are registered and have access, the next step is to complete an application through TPON.
If you have any questions or difficulties with your registration, contact the TPON Customer Service Line:
416-325-6691or toll-free at 1-855-216-3090from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- email at TPONCC@ontario.ca
What to include in the application package
Application form instructions to support completing the application form are included online in TPON. Please include the following items in your application package (incomplete applications will not be considered):
- Completed application form through TPON (mandatory).
- Your detailed project budget, using the OCEF budget template provided within TPON (mandatory).
- Signed letters from partner organizations or individuals, other than your organization and its members, confirming their role in the delivery of the project.
- Signed letters from other funding sources, if applicable, confirming the amount of funding they will provide to support the project.
- Copies of permits, approvals, or permit applications needed for your project, if applicable.
- Your detailed project budget, using the OCEF budget template provided within TPON.
- Your organization’s purchasing policy, if applicable.
- A letter from First Nation community’s Chief and Council or Band Administrator/Manager.
- A map or sketch (such as a digital snapshot of an online map or handwritten sketches are acceptable) of the project location, which could include the current layout and location of the project and the changes that will be made.
- If the project involves working on property not owned by the applicant, a signed letter from the landowner, stating that the landowner agrees to allow access to their property for the project activities, including monitoring and maintenance. A long-term agreement to maintain the work is recommended.
Applicants should note that the ministry may publicly release the following information, whether in hard copy or in electronic form, on the internet or otherwise: applicant / recipient (the entity that signs the Transfer Payment Agreement) name, recipient name, recipient contact information, recipient address or general location, amount of maximum funds and/or funds, other project funders, project summary / description, project objectives/goals, project location, project results reported by the recipient and budget and any analysis, audit or evaluation reports relating to the project or the agreement performed by either party.
The review process
OCEF applications will be evaluated in two steps: (1) an administrative review to determine if the applicant and the application meet the eligibility criteria and submission requirements and (2) an application review to evaluate the technical merit and feasibility of the project.
1: Administrative review
Ministry staff will conduct an initial review to ensure that applicants and applications meet the eligibility criteria for OCEF funding. Only those applicants and applications that meet these mandatory requirements will be considered for funding. The administrative review will assess:
- eligibility of project
- eligibility of applicant
- eligibility of project costs
- completeness of the application package
Submissions will be checked for conformity with the application checklist ensuring that all pertinent information is included. Submissions lacking required information may not be considered for funding and are unlikely to score well during the Application Review.
2: Application review
An application review team composed of Government of Ontario members will evaluate applications for their benefit to the environment and community and their technical merit. Application review team members will review individual applications and will then convene as a team to discuss their evaluations and arrive at a final recommendation.
In its evaluation, the ministry may also consider the number of grants per organization, and types of organizations applying in order to support the program objectives and a variety of projects and recipients across the eligible regions.
Each application will be evaluated on its strengths in relation to the factors outlined below.
Environmental need & project purpose
The project demonstrates a significant need to restore the environment. Objectives are clearly defined, and sufficient background provided. A clear rationale for undertaking the project is provided.
Environmental benefits and challenges
Project demonstrates how the environment and/or community will directly benefit from the activities.
Project identifies potential challenges and appropriate mitigation measures.
Project includes clear indicators and performance measures to demonstrate results and measure success, including medium and long-term outcomes.
Ideally, project outcomes should last for more than 10 years.
Community collaboration and leverage
Community support and involvement
Project develops partnerships and/or engages the local community (e.g. volunteers, community events, in-kind support).
Project demonstrates broad community support.
Community collaboration and leverage
Project activities and outputs will be communicated to the public/target audience to further engage the community, partners and stakeholders.
The project will increase the engagement of the community over the medium and long term.
Effective project design
Suitable project team identified.
Adequate staff to complete the project.
Project team has the knowledge and experience to complete the project.
Effective project design
Project activities and workplan
Scope of project is defined by clear goals and activities. Project does not duplicate efforts of other projects.
Work tasks and project activities are clearly defined and are appropriate and achievable in the specified timelines.
Effective project design
Methods to be used are appropriate and technically feasible.
Sufficient level of detail is provided.
Applicant has addressed whether permits or approvals are required to complete the project.
Effective project design
Budget & value for money
Project provides sufficient budgetary detail, leverages additional support (e.g. in-kind and financial) and demonstrates good value for money.
The ministry is targeting to notify applicants and award funding in fall 2023. The earliest estimated project start date recommended for planning is October 1, 2023. It is recommended that you plan to start your project in late-2023.
Successful applicants will be provided with a Transfer Payment Agreement and will work with the ministry to tailor the Agreement so that it describes the project and outlines the terms and conditions of the funding.
Transfer payment agreement
Successful applicants will be required to sign a Transfer Payment Agreement.
The Transfer Payment Agreement will outline the general terms and conditions for the funding, specify project activities and timelines, and set out the payment schedule and reporting requirements. Approved OCEF funding will be delivered in instalments, as specified in the Transfer Payment Agreement. The number of payments will vary depending on the scope and length of the project.
By signing the Transfer Payment Agreement and submitting it to the ministry, the applicant is agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of the Agreement. OCEF funds will not be released until the successful applicant and the ministry have signed the Transfer Payment Agreement.
The ministry will monitor approved projects to ensure that project activities are progressing, and conditions specified in the Transfer Payment Agreement are met through specific reporting requirements. At a minimum, recipients will be required to prepare a report on a yearly basis that summarizes how the project has been successful in achieving its objectives and how it benefited the environment and/or local community. The ministry may also follow up with a site visit. Reports outlining details on project expenditures will also be required.
All funding applications submitted to the ministry are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). FIPPA provides every person with a right of access to information in the custody or under the control of the ministry, subject to a limited set of exemptions. One such exemption is Section 17(1). This exemption applies to information that reveals a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information supplied in confidence to the Ontario government by a third party, where the disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in certain harms.
If an applicant believes that any information contained in its funding application or submitted to the ministry through OCEF falls under this FIPPA exemption, and the applicant (or another party to whom the information relates) wishes to protect its confidentiality, it should be clearly marked as confidential. If the ministry receives a request for access to this information, it will notify the applicant so that the applicant may make representations concerning its disclosure. If information is not marked as confidential at the time of application, the ministry may release the information to the public without further notice to the applicant.
Information describing the names and addresses of Recipients, the amount of funding awarded, and the purpose for which funds are awarded is routinely made public by the ministry.
Researchers will retain title to intellectual property resulting directly from research and educational activities funded through OCEF.
The Transfer Payment Agreement will require the Recipient to indemnify the ministry for any of the ministry’s liability, loss or costs arising out of or in connection with the project or otherwise in connection with the Transfer Payment Agreement.
Prior to entering into the Transfer Payment Agreement, the Recipient will be required to provide the ministry with a certificate of commercial or comprehensive general liability insurance on an occurrence basis for third party bodily injury, personal injury and property damage, to an inclusive limit of not less than two million dollars ($2,000,000) per occurrence.
Appendix A: Information on 2023 Funding
A total of $1,536,030.23will be available between 3 eligible regions during the 2022 application period.
|Region||2023 funding amount|
|Eastern||no funding available|
|Central||no funding available|
See the region locator to confirm the proposed project is located within an eligible region and the funds do not exceed the funding available.
When can we apply?
May 30, 2023 - 5:00 p.m. EST.
Appendix B: Permits and other requirements
The following are permits and other requirements that may be required for projects under the OCEF. There may be additional permits/approvals needed depending on your project. This appendix is designed to help develop your application as completely as possible. Note that permits do not have to be in place in order to submit your application. However, an approved permit, if required, will enable your project to start on time. If permits and approvals are not yet in place, the Province may take this into account in evaluating the feasibility of the project.
DISCLAIMER: Applicants must note that the following is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind from the ministry on how an applicant must comply with any requirements of law. Applicants must not rely on the following information as being a comprehensive list of permits or other requirements that may be required for their project and should consult with their own legal counsel in this regard.
Permit to take water (PTTW) or water taking Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR)
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks projects that involve water taking may require a permission from the ministry. The permission may be a permit to take water (PTTW) or a water taking EASR.
Example of OCEF Project:
- Construction dewatering in order to build a bridge over a sensitive natural feature (e.g. dunes, wetlands, stream, etc.)
If you have questions, you can contact the Client Services and Permissions Branch:
Work permit under the Public Lands Act
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
In Ontario, the use of Crown land and shore lands is regulated under the Public Lands Act. There are some exceptions, including provincial parks and conservation reserves.
By law, you must get a work permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for certain activities on Crown land and shore lands before any work can take place. It is an offence to work on Crown land and/or shore lands without a work permit when one is needed.
Examples of OCEF projects:
- Filling shore lands, creating a beach, constructing shoreline protection works, such as shoreline stabilization
- Removing rocks/boulders from shore lands or a lake, river or stream bed
- Constructing trails on Crown land
- Constructing water crossings, (e.g., a bridge, culvert or causeway) on Crown land
- Removing native or invasive aquatic vegetation
Learn when you do not need a work permit.
Contact the lands technical specialist at your local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry ( MNRF) office for additional guidance on work permits.
Note that a work permit can take from 6 to 8 weeks to process and is required before projects requiring a permit can start.
Other provincial, municipal and federal authorizations may be required. For example, alterations to the channel, water level and/or flow of a lake or river may need MNRF approval under the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act. Fish stocking requires a license under MNRFF’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997.
Letter of opinion for the use of pesticides
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
- The use of pesticides is regulated under the Pesticides Act and Ontario Regulation 63/09. A Letter of Opinion may be required from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for natural resource management projects that involve the application of unlisted pesticides.
Examples of OCEF projects:
- Projects that involve the application of unlisted pesticides to: control/eradicate invasive species (e.g., Phragmites control on dry land); benefit a species that is native to Ontario (e.g., controlling terrestrial vegetation to enhance habitat where a species at risk may occur); or, protect or restore the components of a rare ecosystem (e.g., control existing vegetation to restore tall grass prairie)
For more information on exceptions for the use of unlisted pesticides for natural resource management purposes and Letter of Opinion requirements, contact your local MNRF office or your local Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks office
- Invasive Phragmites - Best Management Practices
- Provincial Pesticides Act and Ontario Regulation 63/09
Protection or recovery regulatory provision or permit under the Endangered Species Act, 2007
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
- Authorizes an activity that could impact an endangered or threatened plant or animal or its habitat
- The main purpose of the activity must be to assist in the protection or recovery of the subject species
Examples of OCEF projects:
- Enhancing a wetland where at-risk plant and turtle species are likely to occur
- Conducting stream inventory work where at-risk fish species are known to occur
- In-water works such as expanding sediment traps where at-risk mussels may occur
- Species at Risk in Ontario
- Endangered Species Act, 2007
- Contact the Species at Risk Program - Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
- Read more about Ontario Regulation 242/08 under the Endangered Species Act, 2007
Development and interference regulation permits under the Conservation Authorities Act
- Permits may be required for projects located within the watershed boundaries of a Conservation Authority for work in or adjacent to river or stream valleys, Great Lakes and inland lake shorelines, watercourses, hazardous lands and wetlands.
- Hazardous lands means land that could be unsafe for development because of naturally occurring processes associated with flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches or unstable soil or bedrock.
Examples of OCEF projects:
- Bridge replacement or creation
- Shoreline protection
- Pond maintenance
- Changing or interfering with the existing channel of a river, creek, stream or watercourse
- Changing or interfering with a wetland
Find more information on how to locate a Conservation Authority.
Work permit / letter
- Prior written permission from Parks Canada is required for in-water and shoreline works on properties adjacent to the Trent-Severn Waterway and Rideau Canal
- In-water and shoreline works means all work taking place and all structures built on or over these waterways and those at the shoreline
Examples of OCEF projects:
- In-water and shoreline works
- Shoreline stabilization or rehabilitation
- In-water and shoreline works in wetlands
Find more information on the In-Water and Shoreline Work Permit Application and Policies, as well as a list of specific water bodies that are part of the Trent-Severn Waterway and Rideau Canal.