QUEEN’S PARK — Warrantless entry by municipal authorities is the new normal, according to Municipal Affairs Critic Ernie Hardeman (PC – Oxford).
Hardeman told Farmers Forum that Bill 139 will allow officers of a conservation authority and members or employees of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which will replace the Ontario Municipal Board, to enter private land in their jurisdiction without a warrant. The bill passed its final vote Dec. 12.
There are some restrictions for warrantless entry included in the bill for conservation authorities. The officer cannot enter a building on the land, nor can he use force. He can, however, enter the property “at any reasonable time,” inspect, conduct tests including taking samples, photos, and specimens, ask any questions he deems relevant, and even bring an expert he believes is relevant to his investigation with him.
The officer is required to believe that someone on the property is attempting to interfere with a river, creek, stream, watercourse or wetland.
While Hardeman said he’s not opposed to warrantless entry if justified by an emergency, he said these rules go too far. “There’s a reason we have the warrant system in place. If authorities have to be on the property, they have to get a warrant, and I think we shouldn’t take away that obligation lightly.”