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ISBN: 978-1-4868-8012-6

To provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment, and to ensure only such development occurs as is compatible with that natural environment.

Annual Business Plan 2024 – 2027

Contents

  1. The Niagara Escarpment
    • Overview
    • Context
  2. The Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC)
    • Mandate
  3. Resources to Deliver
    • Budget
    • NEC Organization
  4. Priorities for 2023-2026
    1. Operational Focus
    2. Business & Organizational Effectiveness
    3. Communicate, Collaborate, Consult completed
    4. Modernized & Streamlined Legislation / Regulations/Plan
  5. Performance Measures and Targets
  6. Risk Assessment & Mitigation Strategies

Appendix 1 – Municipalities within the NEP Area

Appendix 2 – Informed Judgement Matrix for Compliance

1.   The Niagara Escarpment

1.1   Overview

Spanning 725 kilometres from the tip of the Niagara Region to the top of the

Bruce Peninsula, the Niagara Escarpment is one of the world’s most magnificent natural landforms. It comprises over a quarter of Ontario’s Greenbelt and is home to Canada’s longest footpath, the Bruce Trail. Over 450 million years old, the Niagara Escarpment is the source of many of the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s major river systems. It is also one of the last remaining bands of continuous forest cover and natural heritage linkages in southern Ontario. It is a major source of close-to-market prime agricultural land.

In 1973, the Ontario Government passed the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA) to manage development on the Escarpment. Through the NEPDA, a land-use planning process was put in place and the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) was established. Subsequently, in 1985, the Ontario Government also created the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) to clarify land-use designations, development criteria, and other permitted uses. The NEP area covers 195,000 hectares in portions of 22 local municipalities within seven regions and counties, as well as the City of Hamilton. It also provides the framework for a string of more than 160 parks and open spaces linked by the Bruce Trail.

The role of the NEP in preserving the open-landscape character of the Niagara Escarpment and supporting agriculture is good for business in Ontario. Rural and agricultural communities on the Niagara Escarpment support thousands of jobs and produce food consumed locally and all over the world, contributing millions of dollars annually to the region’s economy. In addition, the Niagara Escarpment is a destination for travelers and residents looking for recreational opportunities, which provides a major annual boost to local and regional economies.

In 1990, the Niagara Escarpment earned global recognition as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Biosphere Reserve – one of only 18 across Canada. This prestigious designation recognizes the Niagara Escarpment as an internationally significant natural feature that promotes sustainable development.

With the Niagara Escarpment traversing the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), one of the fastest growing regions in North America and projecting a population of more than 14 million by 2051, striking the right balance between development and preservation of this majestic feature has never been more important.

1.2   Context

The Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) is an agency of the Ontario Government. Like other provincial agencies and boards, it functions under the Agencies and Appointments Directive, which sets out reporting relationships, business processes, and accountability requirements. The Directive requires that a business plan be prepared annually for a minimum three-year period and submitted by the Chair of the NEC to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). Provincial agencies are accountable to the government through the responsible minister. They must use public resources efficiently and effectively to carry out their mandates, as established by their respective constituting instruments.

The following are the requirements for business plans:

  • Detailed description of the mandate;
  • Proposed budget for a three-year period;
  • Number of employees, expressed as full-time equivalents, who are assigned as staff at the beginning of the three-year period;
  • Performance measures to be used to evaluate effectiveness and efficiency;
  • Annual performance targets for the three-year period; and
  • Any other legislatively required content.

This business plan covers a three-year period from 2024 to 2027. The NEC has and will continue embracing innovative opportunities that support new ways of doing business, to continue to simplify processes and make services more accessible, transparent, and efficient for NEC clients and the general populace.

Of note, the NEC will finish building and implement its new Information Management system. The new system will support a customer service focused platform for the agency’s many approvals. Further, the NEC will continue to support MNRF toward possible legislative and regulatory changes intended to allow the NEC to focus on planning and development proposals of greatest risk to the objectives of the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

The three years encompassed by this business plan continue the focus on opportunities to modernize, digitize and streamline program delivery to enhance the client experience and reduce efforts of staff. Working closely with MNRF, there will also be a focus on legislative and regulatory enhancements as well as participating in the upcoming Coordinated Plan Review.

2.   The Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC)

The Niagara Escarpment Commission (hereafter referred to as ‘NEC’ or ‘Commission’) was established in June 1973. It is a regulatory agency that operates at arm’s length from the provincial government, in accordance with the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA), and the Ontario Government’s Agencies and Appointments Directive (AAD). The Commission is a non-board governed agency under the AAD and is fully supported by MNRF staff.

The NEPDA established the planning framework for the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP), which the NEC administers so that development on the Niagara Escarpment meets the purpose and objectives of the NEP. The Commission also makes recommendations to the provincial government on NEP policies and amendments. The Commission reports to the Ontario Legislature through the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The NEC conducts itself according to the standards of the Ontario Government, including the principles of ethical behaviour, excellence in management, diversity, anti- racism and inclusion, careful and prudent administration of public funds, and a professional public service that is transparent, responsive, fair, and respectful.

The NEPDA also identifies the composition of the Commission as consisting of 17 Commission members that are appointed by Order-in-Council. Nine members, including the Chair, represent the public at-large, and eight municipally sponsored members represent the counties, cities, and regions within the NEP area. For a current listing of Commission members, please visit NEC’s website (escarpment.org). A listing of municipalities found within the NEP area is contained in Appendix 1.

The Commission meets regularly to consider certain development permit applications, land-use proposals, policy items, and NEP amendments. Commission meetings are open to the public. They are held in a hybrid format consisting of video conferencing (via Microsoft Teams) and in person boardroom attendance at the NEC’s main office in Georgetown, Ontario.

2.1   Mandate

It is the duty of the Ontario Government to develop and establish the policies of the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP). In turn, the NEC has a legislated mandate to interpret and apply NEP policies. The Commission’s decisions are made independently and impartially.

The Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA) and the NEP set out the Commission’s responsibilities and mandate as a Crown Agency. The purpose of the NEPDA and the NEP are:

“To provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment and land in its vicinity substantially as a continuous natural environment, and to ensure only such development occurs as is compatible with that natural environment.”

The objectives of the NEP are as follows:

  • To protect unique ecological and historical areas;
  • To maintain and enhance the quality and character of natural streams and water supplies;
  • To provide adequate opportunities for outdoor recreation;
  • To maintain and enhance the open landscape character of the

Niagara Escarpment in so far as possible, by such means as compatible farming or forestry and by preserving the natural scenery;

  • To ensure that all new development is compatible with the purpose of the NEP;
  • To provide adequate public access to the Niagara Escarpment; and
  • To support municipalities within the NEP Area in the exercise of the planning functions conferred upon them by the Ontario Planning Act.

The NEP is a living document which is periodically reviewed, amended, and renewed. The current NEP came into effect on June 1, 2017. The most recent review was coordinated with the review of three other provincial land-use plans that manage development in Southern Ontario: The Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Figure 1 – History of land use planning on the Niagara Escarpment

A diagram showing the history of land use planning on the Niagara Escarpment.  The history is as follows: 1967 – Province commissioned the Niagara Escarpment study by Len Gertler (University of Waterloo) 1973 –  Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA) receives Royal Assent and the  Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) is created as the regulatory agency of the Province 1975 –  NEC delegated authority to implement Development Control 1979 –  Proposed Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) released by the NEC for public comment after 26  months of public hearings 1985 –  First NEP approved by Cabinet for implementation by NEC on behalf of the province 1994 – First review of the NEP completed 2005 –  Second NEP review completed;  NEP incorporated into the Greenbelt Area and NEP reviews must now be coordinated with the Greenbelt Plan 2015 – Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review - Four plans: Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, NEP, Growth Plan 2017 – new NEP is approved and comes into effect

Furthermore, all agencies of the Ontario Government are subject to a mandate review every six years, led by Treasury Board Secretariat. A review of the NEC was completed in 2018 and it concluded that the mandate was being implemented appropriately.

It is expected that a mandate review will be carried out in 24/25 which may influence future business plans.

In 2022, the Ontario Auditor General’s Office (OAGO) undertook a Value for Money Audit entitled ‘Conserving the Niagara Escarpment’, to which the NEC was a participant. The final report, released in late November 2022, highlighted key areas of improvement for the NEC and the MNRF, to which both the NEC and MNRF provided responses.

3.   Resources to Deliver

3.1   Budget

The Niagara Escarpment Commission is committed to achieving operational excellence through effective and efficient use of public resources to carry out its mandate.

The NEC does not operate on a cost recovery model and Commissioner per diems, staff salaries, wages and benefits and all operational costs are fully funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The forecast in Table 1 reflects current rate of inflation increases.

Commissioner per diems are paid as per Schedule B of the Agencies and Appointments Directive. The Commission meets on a monthly basis using a hybrid format, which enables Commissioners and applicants to attend in person or virtually. The NEC provides quarterly reporting on Commissioner and Chair travel expenses through it’s website.

Recommendations contained within the 2022 Ontario Auditor General’s Report identified that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry should evaluate the financial and staffing resources needed to implement the NEPDA and NEP effectively and efficiently. The ministry will continue to evaluate resource requirements over the coming three-year period and will seek to make adjustments where required.

Table 1 – Forecasting for 2024 – 2027

Standard Account2024-20252025-20262026-2027
Salary and Wages (1)$2,042,600$2,063,000$2,083,600
Employee Benefits$325,200$330,100$333,400
Salary/Benefits Total$2,367,800$2,393,100$2,417,000
Transportation and Communications$43,000$44,400$45,600
Services (2)$110,200$113,500$117,000
Supplies and Equipment$31,000$32,000$33,000
ODOE Total$184,200$189,900$195,600
GRAND TOTAL$2,552,000$2,583,000$2,612,600

3.1.1  NEC – Other Funds

With the approval of the NEP in 1985, the Niagara Escarpment Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program (NELASP) was created. The Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT) was assigned the responsibility of administering the program, which was to accept contributions from donors for the purpose of land acquisition and stewardship activities.

While the program was terminated in 1998, the financial administration and assistance provided by the OHT to the NEC continues through a series of OHT Board

approved “Component B Trust Accounts”, which are directly managed by the NEC. The OHT receives and flows funds for NEC projects based on NEC-approved revenues and expenditures.

The NEC’s reliance on these accounts continues to diminish. The NEC will continue to operate in a fiscally responsible manner in the use of any of the funds over the next three fiscal years.

Table 2 – shows the current OHT accounts, their purpose, and the corresponding account balance as of December 31, 2023, for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Account NamePurposeBalance
Leading EdgeFund outreach, education, and conferences to promote work of the NEC and the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve$1,514.43
ONE Monitoring ProgramFund NEC’s ONE monitoring program & historically special projects related to the biosphere reserve.$22,550.47
PublicationsFund marketing and promotional materials$12,483.05
Joint Agency Review Team (JART)Dufferin Aggregates provided a letter of credit for $25,000. The funds can be used by the NEC to retain a third-party consultant to undertake an expert peer review of any reports provided by Dufferin or other agencies in connection with the Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) for the Acton Quarry. The funds cannot be used for any other quarry. An additional $30,000 was deposited in 2023 prior to the commencement of below water table extraction in Phase 4 of the Dufferin Acton quarry operation as per the Agreement with Dufferin.            $55,000.00

1: Does not include costs associated with salary awards and merit increases but does include salary increases of one percent/year based on current collective agreements. These figures are based on the current proposed allocation for 2024-25 and are subject to change.

2: Does not include licencing and service fees for new IT system. Costs will be added once confirmed and identified within future reports.

3.2   NEC Organization

3.2.1   NEC Organizational Structure

The NEC’s maximum staffing complement is 24 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) positions. As of December 31, 2023, the NEC has 24 FTE employees, 19 assigned to the Georgetown work location and 5 to the Owen Sound work location. In addition, the Georgetown office has three seasonal Planning positions and one seasonal Compliance position (which are not considered FTE positions).

The 24 FTEs include one Director, two Managers and 21 bargaining represented positions. The Director reports to the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The Managers, three Senior Strategic Advisors and the Executive Services Administrator all report directly to the Director. The Planning Manager leads a team of nine FTEs and three seasonal positions comprised of Planning staff. The Manager of Program Services leads a team of eight FTEs and one seasonal position comprised of various functions including business and finance, GIS/IM/IT, landscape architecture and communications and marketing. This team also

carries out the compliance function as legislated under the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act.

Beyond the formal structure, the NEC continues to rely on a team-based service delivery model. Through the model, multi-functional teams are assigned to geographically based client groups to deliver the full range of NEC services. There are three teams – one for each of the southern, central, and northern portions of the Niagara Escarpment Plan area. The original driver for the team-based approach was to improve customer service by increasing collaboration, sharing workload through efficient and consistent triaging, and providing a forum to facilitate knowledge transfer and collaboration amongst NEC staff and with regulatory partners.

Regular team meetings are carried out to ensure staff have a network of support, as well as a process to highlight issues and obtain assistance from colleagues. In addition, these highly functioning teams support the onboarding of new staff and provide mentorship in a manner that may not otherwise have been possible. Beyond specific geographical team meetings, quarterly cross team meetings are held to further enable consistency in approach, knowledge transfer and collaboration and general support.

3.2.1   NEC Compliance Program

The NEC’s Compliance Program is a core function of the agency’s legislative and regulatory responsibilities. It is designed to ensure that:

  • The purpose and objectives of the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA) are upheld;
    • Development occurs in a manner consistent with conditions of a Development Permit; and,
    • Appropriate action is taken to address and remediate development occurring without a permit, particularly where there are public safety and/or environmental risks.

The NEC takes a risk-based approach to compliance with the NEPDA, meaning it makes strategic, risk-informed decisions about compliance priorities and responses (See Appendix 2). The NEC, in consultation with the MNRF Enforcement Branch, uses this approach to determine the most appropriate response to compliance issues from a suite of options in the compliance continuum.

The NEC has observed an increase in compliance occurrences since occurrence tracking was initiated in 2014 (2014-15 (142), 2022-23 (204)). This trend is expected to continue. The NEC has developed strategies to effectively triage occurrences, educate the public on permit requirements, encourage voluntary compliance, and determine those that need to be escalated to the MNRF Enforcement Branch. The NEC has also obtained additional expertise through on-call support of a former OPS enforcement professional. The individual was able to take on the more complex compliance cases, provided mentoring of staff, and will be supporting development of the compliance program through enhanced protocols, strategies for education and outreach, and identification of enhanced compliance approaches including potential legislative and regulatory changes. Enhancements to the Compliance Program will be a priority in 2024-25.

4.   Priorities for 2024-2027

4.1   Operational Focus

The NEC’s first Operational Strategy was released in 2017 and it provided a foundation for organizational renewal and focus following the Coordinated Review. Through review in the winter of 2023, it was determined that the core elements and pillars remain valid:

1) Business and Organizational Effectiveness; 2) Communicate, Consult, Collaborate and 3) Modernized and Streamlined Legislation/ Regulations. It was also determined that additional focus on workplace culture was needed and alignment to broader OPS

initiatives as part of the Business and Organization Effectiveness pillar. More details are provided below.

4.1.1   Business & Organizational Effectiveness

The OPS has also established a blueprint to address the fundamentals of attracting, developing, and retaining the talent needed to serve Ontarians with inclusion, integrity, and excellence.

Inclusion: Respecting the dignity and human rights of every person so they feel welcomed, valued, and like they belong

Integrity: Demonstrating trust, honesty, accountability, and impartiality

Excellence: Delivering high quality and timely public services and programs

The NEC supports the OPS plan and is striving to meet the goals of the plan with a focus on workplace culture, modern work, and staff growth and development, building on achievements to date and enhancing over the next few years.

  • Workplace Culture (Inclusion and Integrity)

Since the winter of 2023, a small team of NEC staff have led an initiative to determine those cultural values of greatest importance to NEC staff. This initiative is designed to be inward facing to define those values to which NEC staff will hold themselves to account as individuals and as a collective. Once defined, those values will be integrated into onboarding documents, and other mechanisms to keep them prominent. Beyond the values, the next step is to develop an action plan tied to those values to identify when and how the values will be implemented.

4.1.3   Modern Work (Excellence)

As with many other organizations, the NEC is experiencing a turnover of staff on a fairly frequent basis. It is therefore important that staff are provided a solid foundation of support through capacity building, mentoring, coaching and learning and development opportunities to ensure their success in meeting the requirements of their roles and the provision of excellence in customer service. Each staff person works with their manager to develop a learning plan and where learning needs appear to cross a number of individuals, a collective approach to training has been provided. This will continue over the next 3 years. An emphasis continues to be placed on cross team discussions as a forum to bring forward issues and problem solving as well as to ensure consistency in approach to implementation of the Plan and Act. The NEC has also instituted monthly staff meetings as a means of providing broader awareness of the functions of the Ministry, work of partners and other agencies and broader OPS initiatives. Individual learning and development including succession planning will also continue finding

opportunities through MNRF programs (for example, the Diversity Career Champions Program; the Leadership Development Program), broader OPS programs, job shadowing, opportunities through stakeholders and partners.

The NEC continues to examine the business process maps developed over the last few years to find efficiencies. In 23-24, an emphasis was placed on review of how exemptions are handled as well as further opportunities to streamline applications for those proposals that are smaller in scale and with minimal impacts to the NEP plan objectives. This examination will continue to seek additional opportunities to remove the burden on staff and clients for those low-risk activities so more emphasis can be placed on those applications of higher risk and ensuring that clients receive a decision on their application in a timely way.

A focus toward more high risk is especially relevant as related to compliance program efforts. Over the next 3 years, NEC staff will review the Inspection, Investigation and Enforcement Protocol (2015), in partnership with MNRF Enforcement Branch staff, to determine whether updates or revisions are required to reflect structural and procedural changes that have been made within both MNRF and NEC since the Protocol was approved in 2015.

Further, NEC staff will review and conduct a review of the Compliance Program Framework, Enforcement Officer Handbook, Compliance Policies and Procedures, to determine whether updates or revisions are required, in keeping with enforcement best practices.

The NEC compliance program will continue to build positive, cooperative relationships with municipal and agency partners, through working groups, outreach opportunities and other means of building efficient and effective processes to address compliance issues of mutual interest.

Finally, NEC staff will continue to implement and maintain a Proactive Inspection Plan, set appropriate targets for performance measuring and identify opportunities for improvement of Conditions of Approval, which support the purpose and objectives of the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the NEPDA and its associated regulations.

It is recognized that process efficiencies will also come through the implementation of the new Information Management System currently in the development stage. It is expected that use of the system will commence in 24-25. Through this system, applicants will be able to apply online and staff will be better able to track applications in support of meeting process milestones. The system will also provide better metrics to be able to report on application activities and ultimately to determine trends toward opportunities for continued improvement.

4.2   Communicate, Collaborate, Consult

Over the next three years, the NEC will continue to implement key activities outlined in its communications strategy. The strategy continues to inform how the NEC relates with clients, ministry stakeholders, members of the public, and Indigenous communities along the Niagara Escarpment.

In line with this strategy, the NEC continues to make improvements to its external and internal websites.

In the past year, the NEC launched a redesigned external website with a focus on enhancing customer service and the public’s ability to access information. In the next three years, the NEC will work to implement an internal website (intranet) that can be expected to streamline internal communications, enhance staff engagement, and allow for continuous training and development.

In addition to continuing to improve its external website to provide more information to the public, the NEC also hopes to work with MNRF to establish a social media presence. Establishing social media channels akin to those of other provincial agencies will help the NEC to increase outreach, communication and marketing activities involving the general public. The NEC will work with MNRF to ensure that any social media accounts and campaigns are in accordance with its overall mandate.

Access to social media will aid the NEC in:

  • raising the profile of the Niagara Escarpment, and the Niagara Escarpment Commission;
  • fostering collaboration and engagement with municipalities, agencies, ministries, and other stakeholder groups;
  • providing general information to the public on the steps in the development permit process;
  • keeping the public informed about Commission meetings and activities; and
  • ensuring NEC communications are presented to the public in relevant and modern formats.

The NEC also plans a refresh of select marketing materials that will increase awareness about its work as an agency of the Ontario Government.

4.3   Modernized & Streamlined Legislation / Regulations/ Plan

The NEC is regularly analyzing its broader legislative and regulatory framework, in concert with the MNRF Policy Division, for opportunities to make amendments that may further streamline development permit reviews and exemptions, improving service to NEC clients, and supporting housing initiatives.

In October of 2023, changes to the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA) were proposed and posted on the Environmental Registry for public comment. The proposed changes would increase compliance powers and enable low risk activities to proceed without the need for an application. The NEC will continue to work with the Ministry’s Policy Division toward other legislative and regulatory opportunities.

Beyond the legislative and regulatory opportunities, the NEPDA requires a review of the NEP every ten years in coordination with the Greenbelt Plan. Since the last review began in 2015, the next review is anticipated to begin in 2025.

5.   Performance Measures and Targets

Performance measures promote accountability and transparency of services. They also provide evidence that is used to recalibrate program delivery, enhance customer service, and identify program modifications/needs. The NEC’s priorities for the next three years are to provide valuable and responsive client services, support accountability and transparency, and be an inclusive organization where diversity and accessibility are fundamental values.

The NEC has established performance measures to help assess its success in achieving these priorities. By monitoring performance, the NEC can evaluate the effectiveness of policies, quality standards and/or practices in meeting its goals. Table 3 on the next page identifies performance measures for 2024-27.

In addition to operational performance measures for program delivery, the NEP identifies that performance indicators will be developed and performance monitoring will be undertaken by the Province, in coordination with the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and in consultation with the NEC, municipalities, other public bodies and stakeholders, in order to demonstrate progress towards the implementation of the NEP policies. The NEC continues to engage with the MNRF Policy Division in the development of future performance indicators and monitoring.

The implementation of a modern, digital-based platform for receiving, processing, and issuing development permits and other program elements, will assist in the

development of meaningful performance measures. It is expected that new performance measures will be identified and reported in association with the digital program implementation. Until then, the following performance measures continue to apply.

Table 3 – Performance Measures for 2024-2027

ActivityRationalePerformance MeasureOutcomes
Posting Memorandum of Understanding, Annual Business Plan and Annual ReportAgency and Appointments Directive (AAD) requires these documents be prepared and posted annually upon approval by the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. These documents set out how the legislative responsibilities of the Niagara Escarpment Commission are carried out.Documents prepared and submitted in timely manner, per requirements of AAD and MOU. Documents posted on NEC website once approved by Minister.Public sector transparency and accountability. Public access to information Responsible and accountable government.
Meetings of the Niagara Escarpment CommissionThe NEC meetings focus on specific planning matters and to discuss policy initiatives. These regular meetings are the main vehicle for the NEC to conduct its business and implement its legislated mandate.

Meetings are
scheduled on a monthly basis.
Embracing technology to provide flexibility in participation by Commissioners, NEC staff, applicants and the public.
Commission meetings use a hybrid approach (flexibility to attend either in person or virtually) and follow hybrid meeting procedures.
Agendas and reports prepared for Commission meetings are publicly available through the NEC website. Meetings are open to the public. Procedures on public participation at meetings are posted on the NEC website. Meeting minutes reviewed / approved by NEC and posted on
website.
Public access to information. Public engaged in decisions. Transparency of decisions. Implementation of legislated responsibilities.
Customer ServiceOPS sets customer service standards for hours of operation and responsiveness to communications (phone, email, correspondence). NEC is required to comply with Accessibility for Ontarians legislation and policies.NEC operations meet customer service standards related to office hours (Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5:00 p.m.). Telephone calls responded to within 24 hours. Emails and written correspondence acknowledged within 2 business days; responded to within 15 business days. Communications, including website, provided or available in accessible formats. Accommodations considered and offered to ensure accessibility of operations.Responsive and effective government. Program development and implementation results provides accessible and inclusive government.
Information provided to public related to the Niagara Escarpment programThe NEC deals with many inquiries and information requests (e.g., NEP maps and policy information; application forms; guidance documents; publications). It is important that information be provided to the public that is clear, useful, and relevant (e.g.; application forms, relevant guidelines, status of applications,
NEC contact information).
The NEC has and will continue to modernize its website with a focus on improving customer service and making information readily available the public.
Information is readily available from the NEC’s website, in person or other means (e.g., mail) and is as efficient as possible to obtain. Requests for information are responded to (or acknowledged) within 2 business days.Public access to data and information. Responsive and effective government. Effective relationships with partners, stakeholders, and the public.
Development Permit ApplicationsMost of the NEC’s business is conducted through processing development permit applications.
Effective operation is critical to implementation of the NEP.
Processing times vary for various reasons, including application complexity, delays in obtaining agency comments, and additional information requirements.
Performance measures aim to optimize efficiency of the aspect of the process that are within NEC’s control.
New applications recorded and opened within 3 business days of receipt.Modern, digital processes that meet client needs Identification of applications that are exempt from requiring a permit and streamlining of applications of less risk activities Legislative requirements met.
Niagara Escarpment Plan AmendmentsNEP Amendments are more substantive and follow a more complex process than Development Permits. Processing times vary depending on the complexity of the application, whether enough information is provided, whether a hearing is required and timelines for Minister decision. Performance measures aim to optimize efficiency of the aspect of the process that are within NEC’s control.NEC staff follow NEPDA requirements for processing Plan Amendments. Applicants provided with information regarding the status of the Amendment application. Amendments posted on the NEC’s website, including their status.Effective and efficient processes and decision making. Public has high level of awareness of status of their application(s). Legislative requirements met.
Review of Applications under Planning ActDecisions by municipalities under the Planning Act are required to conform to the NEP. The NEC is circulated a range of proposals and applications (e.g., official plans and amendments; zoning bylaws; consent applications; minor variances). NEC plays important
role in ensuring alignment with the NEP, and to support municipalities in their planning functions
NEC comments provided to municipalities within due date (usually 30- 60 days). Municipalities have access to information on NEP policies, designations, and development control.Municipalities are aware of implications of decisions on the NEP. Municipalities are supported and are partners in implementation of the NEP. High level of awareness of NEP implementation.
Management of Compliance IssuesCompliance monitoring is a critical aspect of NEP implementation – to uphold implementation of Development Control, ensure compatible development and mitigate environmental damage. The Compliance Program uses a risk evaluation approach to triage and prioritize compliance activities through completion of an occurrence report for each situation.Compliance matters responded to within 48 hours (e.g.call back; site visit; occurrence report).High quality customer service NEP and Development Control process effectively implemented Environmental impacts avoided or mitigated/ remedied

6.   Risk Assessment & Mitigation Strategies

The NEC has identified various risks to operations for the years 2024 to 2027. These risks include:

  • strategic / policy / performance risks,
  • governance / accountability / organizational risks,
  • program / caseload / utilization risks,
  • controllership / accounting risks,
  • legal / contractual / compliance risks, and
  • information / information technology risks.

The NEC has also established mitigation plans to address each risk identified (see Table 4 below).

Table 4 – Risks Identified & Mitigation Strategies for 2024-27

Risk TitleRiskKey InformationRisk Mitigation PlanStatus of Risk Mitigation PlanTimeframe to Manage Down
Strategic / Policy / Performance: Fluctuation in number of Development Permit applications received and existing backlog of applications in que.Extended review and decision- making timeframes for applications. There is risk to client service and NEC reputation if applications cannot be reviewed and processed in a reasonable timeframe.Category: Operational Impact: Reputational; Operational Likelihood: Medium Speed of Onset: ImmediateNEC will continue to monitor the number and type of Development Permit applications being received to inform areas for potential change in resources, directives and/or policies.In ProgressContinue in 2024- 2027
Strategic / Policy
/ Performance:
Commission-led NEP
amendments related to On- Farm Diversified Uses and Agricultural- related Uses
Agricultural stakeholders have expressed concern that the NEP does not adequately support agriculture.
The draft amendment, posted to the Environmental Registry in later 2023, has been referred to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT).
Category: Operational

Impact: Reputational; Regulatory

Likelihood: Medium

Speed of Onset: Soon
Commission will participate as appropriate in OLT hearing, once scheduled.
NEC will continue to evaluate agricultural policies during future Coordinated Plan Review.
In ProgressContinue through 24-25
Governance / Accountability/ Organizational:The Commission requires quorum (nine members plus the Chair) to
make decisions.
If the Commission does not have enough members to make quorum it will not be able to make decisions, which may result in backlogs due to deferral.
Category: Operational

Impact:
Reputational;
Regulatory

Likelihood: Medium

Speed of Onset: Immediate
The NEC will continue to work closely with
MNRF to ensure Commissioner
Term timeframes and risk of delayed appointments is communicated.
In ProgressEnd of each year
Governance / Accountability/ Organizational:
Compliance with 2020 Agency and Appointments Directive (AAD).
Failure to comply with 2020 Agency and Appointments Directive (AAD) will impact NEC governance and relationship with MNRF.Category: Operational
Impact: Reputational; Regulatory
Likelihood: Medium
Speed of Onset: Soon
NEC staff to conduct periodic review of AAD to monitor and confirm compliance.
NEC staff, Chair and Commission members have been trained on and are aware of OPS policies and directives.

MNRF Legal
Services Branch periodic attendance at Commission meetings to explain legislative and regulatory responsibilities.
In Progress2024-25 and beyond
Controllership/ Accounting:
Compliance with all OPS policies and directives
Failure to comply with all OPS policies and directives may result in risk to OPS compliance with legislation (e.g., Ontario Human Rights Code, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Employment Standards Act, Occupational
Health & Safety Act) that binds the
Crown as an employer.
Category: Program Implementation
Impact: Reputational and operational
Likelihood: Low
Speed of Onset: Immediate
NEC staff, Chair and Commission members have been trained on and are aware of OPS policies and directives.
NEC staff have taken mandatory training on controllership policies and directives.
Internal procedures are in place to monitor
compliance.
In Progress2024-25 and beyond
Legal / Contractual /Compliance: NEPDA complianceThe NEC has a small compliance program and uses an Informed Judgement Matrix to assess non- compliance issues. There is a risk that NEC will not be able to address all reports of non- compliance and development that is not compatible with the NEP will occur.Category: Operational, Environmental Impact: Unknown Likelihood: Medium Speed of Onset: ImmediateImplement established risk- based approach to compliance and work collaboratively with MNRF and other partner agencies to effectively and efficiently implement integrated compliance actions. Continue to develop and enhance compliance policies and procedures to address a range of compliance situations.In Progress2024-25 and beyond

Appendix 1 – Municipalities within the NEP Area

NIAGARA REGION
(Seven local municipalities)
Town of Grimsby Town of Lincoln
City of Niagara Falls
Town of Niagara-On-The-Lake Town of Pelham
City of St. Catharines City of Thorold
CITY OF HAMILTON HALTON REGION
(Three local municipalities)
City of Burlington Town of Halton Hills Town of Milton
REGION OF PEEL
(One local municipality)
Town of Caledon
COUNTY OF GREY
(Six local municipalities)
City of Owen Sound Municipality of Medford Township of Georgian Bluffs
Municipality of Grey Highlands Township of Chatsworth
Town of The Blue Mountains
COUNTY OF SIMCOE
(One local municipality)
Township of Clearview
COUNTY OF DUFFERIN
(Two local municipalities)
Town of Mono Township of Mulmur
BRUCE COUNTY
(Two local municipalities)
Town of South Bruce Peninsula Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula

Appendix 2 – Informed Judgement Matrix for Compliance

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