Conservation authority funding for flood programs gets cut by Ontario government
|Toronto Star 20 Apr 2019 at 15:31|
TORONTO‚ÄĒOntario conservation authorities say the provincial government has cut their funding for flood management programs in half.
Conservation Ontario, which represents the province‚Äôs 36 conservation authorities, said impacts of the cuts will be felt immediately, particularly in smaller and more rural areas.
‚ÄúCutting natural hazards funding is particularly problematic right now in light of the fact that ‚ÄĒ like everywhere else ‚ÄĒ Ontario is experiencing stronger and more frequent flood events as a result of climate change impacts,‚ÄĚ general manager Kim Gavine said in a statement.
‚ÄúUsing a watershed-based approach, conservation authorities deliver effective and cost-efficient flood management programs across the province, partnering for many years with the province, municipalities and others.‚ÄĚ
Ontario had given $7.4 million to the conservation authorities for that work, but they say that has now been reduced by 50 per cent.
Conservation authorities forecast flooding and issue warnings, monitor stream flow, regulate development activities in flood plains, educate the public about flooding and protect natural cover that helps reduce the impacts of flooding.
Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski said the government is trying to eliminate the deficit ‚ÄĒ currently at $11.7 billion ‚ÄĒ and has asked conservation authorities to focus on their core mandate.
‚ÄúFlood control is part of that core mandate, and we‚Äôve asked them to focus on that,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúAcross the province, we average less than 10 per cent of conservation authorities‚Äô funding. In fact, some of them are as low as 2.5-per-cent provincial funding. And we‚Äôve heard from different conservation authorities across the province that have said that this will not affect their ability to deal with flood management.‚ÄĚ
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said it‚Äôs short-sighted, when a flood on one day in August last year in Toronto cost $80 million in insurable losses.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think there‚Äôs any way to reconcile saying, ‚ÄėFocus on your core mandate and then we‚Äôre going to cut your core mandate in half,‚Äô especially at a moment in time when we know the intensity of storms is going up, the risk of flooding is going up, the costs associated with that are going up,‚ÄĚ he said.
Brad McNevin, the chief administrative officer of Quinte Conservation, said his organization has relied on the province‚Äôs transfer payment to fund essential flood programs throughout its 6,000-square-kilometre watershed.
‚ÄúThe government has been very clear about its goal to reduce costs, but a 50-per-cent reduction in payments that support government mandated responsibilities will have a significant impact on how we can deliver our programs and services,‚ÄĚ McNevin said in a statement.