Modernizing Natural Resource Management
Through its transformation plan, the Ministry of Natural Resources will modernize its services, focus on its core mandate of natural resource management and operate on a more cost-efficient basis.
Streamlining and Automating Processes
The ministry currently administers 46 pieces of legislation and more than 140 different kinds of approvals. Many approval processes take too long, are outdated and may no longer be needed to effectively manage and protect Ontario's natural resources.
With the passage of the 2012 budget, progress has been made on streamlining and modernizing processes. Amendments have been made to seven pieces of legislation to provide greater flexibility in how authorizations are handled. Detailed regulations for these changes will be posted on the Environmental Registry for public consultation later this year. A discussion paper with a proposed policy framework for modernizing approvals has also been posted, and comments on the paper will be accepted until November 13, 2012.
Changing the Designation at 10 Ontario Parks
Some provincial parks have very low visitation levels, so their revenues are low and they do not recover their operating cost. For example, The Shoals Provincial Park near Chapleau had fewer than 5,000 visits last year, and Ontario Parks recovered only 30 cents on each dollar it invested in the park.
As a result, Ontario Parks will no longer maintain facilities at the following 10 provincial parks with low visitation rates: Caliper Lake, Fushimi Lake, Greenwater, Ivanhoe Lake, Mississagi, Obatanga, René Brunelle, Springwater, The Shoals and Tidewater. Of the 9.5 million visits to Ontario Parks annually, only about one per cent were to these 10 parks.
The parks will remain protected areas, and hikers, canoeists and anglers can continue to enjoy the parks for day use free of charge.
Ontario Parks will focus on investing and maintaining its most popular 104 provincial parks and will continue to protect its full system of 334 parks across the province.
These and internal administrative changes will save about $1.6 million a year. Ontario Parks will avoid another $4.4 million in upcoming capital repairs that would be needed to maintain quality facilities in these parks.
Ontario Parks continues to invest in upgrades to maintain and enhance its world-class park system. Examples of recent upgrades include:
- A new welcome centre at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.
- A new drinking water system, new comfort stations, visitor centre upgrades, road rehabilitation, sewage system upgrades and trail upgrades in Algonquin Provincial Park.
- New comfort stations and sewage systems, visitor centre upgrades, trail work, road rehabilitation, and drinking water system replacements at various parks across the province.
Moving to Day-Based Youth Employment Programs
The Ministry of Natural Resources is the top youth employer in the Ontario Public Service, offering about half the total opportunities province-wide.
The new Stewardship Youth Ranger Program will replace the overnight Ontario Ranger Program and create more local, day-only youth employment positions. These youth rangers will work with a wide variety of community partners and will also have the opportunity to earn high school co-op credits. Communities affected by the closure of Ontario Ranger camps will be approached first with Stewardship Youth Ranger team partnership opportunities.
This past summer, the ministry piloted an employment program for youth who are in the care of the provincial government, providing opportunities for these young people to work on Stewardship Ranger teams. The ministry will expand this program for 2013.
The ministry remains committed to youth employment and training, and expects to offer more than 1,900 youth employment opportunities in 2013 — the same number as in 2012.
Moving to day-based programs will save about $1.8 million a year after a reinvestment of more than $800,000 back into youth employment. The ministry is also avoiding a capital investment of about $7.9 million that would be needed to renovate or replace aging facilities used by the overnight Ranger program.
Modernizing Outdoors Card Renewals
The ministry will stop mailing out reminder notices to anglers and hunters for Outdoors Cards, which are required to obtain a hunting or fishing licence, and will instead issue reminders through other channels, such as social media, magazine ads, and in-person at ServiceOntario centres. The ministry is also exploring providing email reminders. These changes will save about $500,000 in printing and postage costs each year.
New Model for Supporting Stewardship
The ministry is modernizing the way it supports community-based stewardship activities to take advantage of the growth in community stewardship groups over the past several years. Instead of focusing much of its assistance through stewardship councils, new district partnership specialists will support a wider range of community groups. This added flexibility will allow the ministry to focus more clearly on work that supports its core mandate.
The ministry remains committed to environmental stewardship and will continue to support community-based stewardship activities through targeted grants, property tax incentives and youth employment programs.
Changing the ministry's stewardship support model will save up to $2.5 million annually.
New Organizational Structure
As the ministry modernizes its processes and programs, it will also need to reorganize its structure.
Science functions, such as wildlife research, will be integrated into operational divisions to further entrench science-based decision-making throughout the organization. The ministry has always relied on science to inform its work, and will continue to do so.
More planning and decision-making will be carried out at the regional level. The ministry will continue to have a field presence across the province, and districts will still be the local face of the ministry, responsible for delivering many of its programs.
The ministry will put this new organizational structure in place over the next two-and-a-half years.
Standardizing Enforcement Training and Other Changes
The ministry will deliver training in a more standardized and efficient way. It will also look for opportunities to further partnerships with organizations that already provide enforcement training to conservation officers, such as the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ontario Police College.
These changes will allow the ministry to reduce the number of training positions in its Enforcement Branch. They will not affect the number of front-line conservation officers in Ontario.
These enforcement changes and some efficiencies in other areas at the ministry's head office will result in savings of $700,000 a year.