Corp Comm Connects

'Tsunami' of complaints to Lake Simcoe conservation authority sparks shift to online reporting system

Complaints have more than doubled in the past two years since pandemic began
May 4, 2022
Heidi Riedner

Complaints to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority have more than doubled in the past two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, from 145 complaints in 2019 to almost 400 complaints in 2021.

As a result, the agency is switching to an online reporting system for members of the public that it hopes will streamline the process and weed out complaints that don’t fall under its jurisdiction.

“We’re struggling to keep up with the volume,” said Ashlea Brown, director of environmental regulations at the Conservation Authority.

“We had to think outside the box and find a way to ensure we review every complaint and prioritize the most serious issues,” she added.

A new online form that requires complainants to submit detailed information, including submitting photos of alleged violations or areas of concern, will help LSRCA staff to better assess the magnitude of an issue.

It supports a "hit the ground running" approach by providing the information needed without a lot of back and forth, said Brown.

Members of the public can also determine whether their complaint falls under LSRCA jurisdiction in the web page introduction to the online form. Directing complaints to the appropriate agency leaves more resources to address serious environmental issues, such as wetland destruction and building in floodplains.

For example, animals-in-distress calls should be directed to local animal control or the province's animal welfare line.

Cutting of trees is a local municipal bylaw issue.

Environmental spills are the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment through the Spills Hotline.

LSRCA officials said many people are still submitting complaints that are not within the Conservation Authority’s area of responsibility.

They hope the additional upfront instructions, and a move away from phone complaints, will help.

The online complaints form is available on the conservation authority’s website.