Essex – The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) has begun to identify challenges and risks for the 2020 year, as the impacts of provincial changes remain to be seen.
“Though we await clarification from the province, the letter received from Minister Yurek in August seems to imply that there might be further transfer payment reductions for Drinking Water Source Protection and Section 39 Flood and Erosion programs,” explained Richard Wyma, ERCA’s General Manager. “Other program areas, such as Restoration and Stewardship, the Community Museums Operating Grant for the John R. Park Homestead, and the funding for the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup effort as well are either at risk, or to date, we have no information on the status of funding yet for 2019.” Due to these funding cuts and unknown status of expected transfer payments, the Authority continues to project an operating deficit for 2019.
Previous transfer payments for these programs totalled nearly $500,000 annually. For 2020, due to the uncertainties related to provincial transfer payments, ERCA is predicting a budget shortfall of $375,000 – $575,000 which includes over $200,000 in potential cuts to provincial transfers for flood management and source water protection on top of the $100,000 cut to ERCA’s flood management program in 2019; and over $100,000 in other potential lost program revenues.
As well, as part of changes to the Conservation Authorities Act as a result of the More Homes, More Choice Act, ERCA will have to review how it delivers its programs and services, which will include the development of agreements with municipalities for programs and services that are partially or fully funded through municipal levies. The Act provides for a transition period before these agreements are required to be in place, however, ERCA will need to begin reviewing those programs with municipalities in 2020, which may impact on what programs and services are delivered in Essex Region at a time when they are most needed.
“In addition to our longstanding role in protecting the citizens of Windsor, Essex County and Pelee Island from natural hazards such as flooding and erosion, our programs and services continue to demonstrate an ongoing and consistent response to real and serious problems and challenges in the region – land degradation, natural area coverage, water quality, and flooding and erosion,” said Irek Kusmierczyk, ERCA’s Chair.
“Today, new issues such as phosphorous and harmful algal blooms, climate adaptation, and the need to support sustainable, resilient communities must be considered in meeting the needs of our municipalities. It seems to me that at a time when Ontario is warming faster than the global average, and when homes built in flood prone areas prior to the Authority’s establishment are experiencing catastrophic flooding, the integrated watershed management approach taken by ERCA and all Conservation Authorities is more important than ever before. The loss of these programs that are demanded by our residents and municipalities would put our watershed region in grave danger.”
ERCA along with the other Conservation Authorities, and Conservation Ontario continue to advocate for continued funding for delivery of these provincial programs. Administration and the Board will consider current reserves, reallocation from land acquisition, levies and fees for service, as well as program delivery and present options to reduce deficit projections due to uncertainties regarding additional funding cuts, lack of clarification regarding mandatory services and implications and timelines to undertake service delivery agreements with municipal partners.
Since 1973, Essex Region Conservation has been sustaining and enriching the environment of the Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island region to ensure it is the Place for Life.
519-776-5209 ext. 353
Danielle Breault Stuebing
Director, Communications & Outreach Services
519-776-5209 ext. 352