Eastern Ontario conservation authorities feeling the pinch from provincial funding cuts

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It's been two weeks since the provincial budget was announced - and it's becoming clearer how many agencies across Ontario will be dealing with funding cuts. As Paul Soucy found out - that includes conservation authorities like Quinte and Cataraqui – Apr 25, 2019

Conservation authorities across Ontario were hit hard during the April 11 provincial budget announcement. The organizations are set to lose half of the funds previously earmarked for managing natural hazards.

“That money is spent for boots on the ground,” Brad McNevin, CAO of Quinte Conservation, said. “Where we’re going out monitoring our flood control structures and monitoring for flood forecasting.”

READ MORE: Ontario government cuts conservation authority funding for flood programs

The Quinte region will lose more than $150,000, a significant cut that worries people at the conservation authority.

“We don’t have a huge staff. I don’t want to see people laid off,” said John Wise, Quinte Conservation board chair. “We don’t have huge departments every one we have is essential.”

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The Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority based out of Kingston says it’s will lose roughly $53,000, but there’s no indication of how the loss will affect programming or staff.

“We’re talking about it internally — figuring out the best strategy moving forward — both into this year and next as well,” said Katrina Furlanetto manager of watershed planning and engineering at the Kingston region conservation authority.

READ MORE: Ontario may allow developers to pay fee in lieu of taking action to protect endangered species

“I understand about deficits, I run my own business, I’m a farmer,” Wise said. “But draconian, overnight cuts without consultation is not the way to work.”

Wise added that to make up the difference, an increase in user fees for parks is likely.

Any city or town that is in a conservation authority’s watershed zone has to pay a levee for conservation and flood protection, Wise said they will also likely have to raise those levees to make up for the provincial loss.

Quinte Conservation has asked Conservative MPPs Todd Smith and Daryl Kramp to attend their next board meeting to speak about the funding cuts, but so far they haven’t heard back.

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