‘Your letter jeopardizes Ontario’s environmental future and economic prosperity’ – NVCA CAO to Yurek
The following letter was sent by Doug Hevenor, CAO of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, to Environment Minister Jeff Yurek
I am writing in response to your letter dated August 16, 2019 requesting the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) to start shutting down any programs not related to our “core mandate” as outlined in the More Homes, More Choice Act (Bill 108) and not proceed with any increases to fees or levies. I was shocked and frustrated upon receiving your letter.
For close to 60 years, in concert with a multitude of partners, the NVCA has safe guarded our watershed communities from natural hazards including flooding and erosion. We have protected our drinking water and generated millions of dollars for environmental restoration and enhancement projects within our member municipalities. A healthy environment also supports strong tourism, bringing economy to local communities.
None of this would be possible without the integration of all of our programs, including natural hazard management, monitoring, forestry, stewardship and education. The separation and “winding down” of these programs has the potential to cause long term impacts to watershed ecological health and increase flooding and erosion. Consequential economic impacts could affect key areas such as recreation, agriculture, municipal infrastructure, and public health. Now more than ever, this effective and efficient approach to integrated watershed management is paramount and to not continue would be a serious step backwards and put our watershed in grave danger.
The importance of conservation authorities is evident when looking at watersheds without conservation authorities. A prime example is Muskoka/Bracebridge which suffered from catastrophic flooding two years in a row. This resulted in an injection of $5 million, up to $10 million from the Province to find a solution. Your letter jeopardizes Ontario’s environmental future and economic prosperity. Future costs to restore Ontario’s economic and environmental balance have and will far exceed the cost of the programs that the Ford Government seems intent on eliminating.
The Province of Ontario now only contributes $97,307.20 to our operations. That represents less than 2% of the NVCA’s total budget. The balance of our budget is facilitated through our 18 watershed municipalities, corporate donations, and community and individual sponsorships. Companies within our watershed like Honda Canada, Cabela’s and Patagonia considers working with us important, as these organizations know our work will support their business model.
The NVCA also generates revenue through our Spring Tonic Maple Syrup Festival and wedding bookings. We conduct these activities because our funding was cut significantly in the mid-1990s, forcing us to find other resources to help offset some of the costs of delivering mandatory programs set by the Province.
Our member municipalities have supported us in delivering other programs that reflect the important economic drivers within our watershed. For example, recreational sport fisheries provide significant economic return and are based on the natural reproduction of wild fish using healthy stream habitats. Our river restoration and water quality programs are viewed as a cost effective investment in maintaining this revenue stream.
Every year, the NVCA facilitates tens of thousands of people, both inside and outside of our watershed through our education and conservation programs. The number of children who attend our education programs each year is equivalent to the population of a small town in Ontario. New Canadians visit our Tiffin Centre for Conservation to celebrate Canadian heritage, values and learn about the importance of our natural environment.
Our tree planting program plays a significant role in fighting climate change, and improving water quality and quantity in our watershed. Once the canopy is established, it plays a vital role in moderating stream temperatures, which supports our healthy salmonid fishery on the Nottawasaga River. In turn, this enhances the economic development and tourism in the Georgian Bay basin.
In light of the fact that your government funds less than 2% of the NVCA’s budget, we question the Province’s authority to make this request. There has been no consultation with conservation authorities or our municipal representatives as they are the ones who ensure that our programs are responsive to local needs.
The NVCA stands up to the great work that we do. Therefore, we will continue our work as directed by our member municipalities. On August 23, 2019, I will be presenting our budget proposal to our board members, asking for a 3% increase, while challenging them to advocate for the conservation authority that protects their environment and helps build their economy.
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