Conservation authorities press province to better define the role they need to play

Click to play video: 'Conservation authorities seeking clarity from province on ‘core’ vs ‘mandatory’ programs' Conservation authorities seeking clarity from province on ‘core’ vs ‘mandatory’ programs
Conservation authorities want the provincial government to clarify what it means by 'core' programs they must offer as opposed to 'mandatory' ones being shut down. – Aug 30, 2019

This spring, Queen’s Park introduced Bill 108 that contained revisions to the Conservation Authority Act.

The legislation includes definitions of the programs conservation authorities offer. While they were working on what these mean, a letter came from the Ministry of the Environment which they say confused the issue.

“Well, the minister sent a letter and he mainly said two things in it, to be winding down those activities that are not going to be defined as core to the legislation, and secondly that we should raise our levy or raise our fees,” said Andy Mitchell, board chair of the Otonabee Conservation Authority.

READ MORE: Eastern Ontario conservation authorities feeling the pinch from provincial funding cuts

At a meeting on Wednesday evening, Otonabee Conservation tried to sort out which programs were on the chopping block.

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“The legislation talks about ‘mandatory’ and ‘other’ programs, it doesn’t talk about ‘core’ and ‘non-core’. So the minister used those terms and we don’t know what those terms mean…. our core program is our natural hazards program, our flood management program, the operation of our dams, our flood forecasting and warning system,” said Dan Marinigh, CAO of the Otonabee Conservation Authority

READ MORE: London conservation authority defends programs against environment minister

Peterborough MPP David Smith says the Ford government wants to bring some consistency to conservation authorities across the province and to get them back to delivering basic services.  He adds the conservation authorities need to ensure they are only offering programs that are transparent when it comes to the provincial funding they receive.

“We made an adjustment to the flood mitigation funds to the conservation authorities because we found they weren’t using most of that money for flood mitigation. They were filtering into other programs they wanted to run instead. And that’s not a transparent use of taxpayer money.”

The conservation authorities hope to hear from the province about their concerns in the next few weeks.

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