The cash-strapped Progressive Conservative government is hoping to conserve money by winding down some conservation programs.
But local conservation authorities say the province doesn’t actually pay for many of those activities, and some, like maple syrup festivals, can actually be money makers.
Conservation Ontario said local municipalities and conservation authorities were told in a letter last Friday from Premier Doug Ford’s administration to shut down any initiatives that are not related to their “core mandate.”
The push to hog tie conservation authorities is part of the "More Homes, More Choice Act," which the Ford government passed earlier this year. The legislation was designed to make it easier to build new homes. Anything that gets in the way of building more homes is anathema. Conservation authorities across the province are outraged:
Deborah Martin-Downs, chief administrative officer with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, which covers parts of Mississauga and Brampton, said winding down activities like maple syrup festivals “will not save them a penny.”
Martin-Downs calls the letter “premature” and “incorrect.” She said while the authorities are in the process of negotiating what’s in their core mandates with the province, the Conservation Act allows activities that fall outside of them to be funded by municipalities, which already provide most of the funding.
Hassaan Basit, head of Conservation Halton, agrees that winding down maple syrup festivals and other recreational activities doesn’t make sense.
“It will not save money,” he said. “It will result in millions of dollars of lost revenue.”
Kelsey Scarfone, water programs manager with Environmental Defence, said the language referring to a “core mandate” is an avenue to cut essential programs that conservation authorities provide, from water monitoring to research on algae blooms.
“It really is a way to limit the types of work that conservation authorities can do on the ground, which is extremely negative because it adds so much value in terms of environmental protection in the regions that they operate in,” Scarfone said.
All of this is yet more confirmation that the Progressive Conservative Party is a ship of fools. And the captain of the ship is the biggest fool of all.