Saskatoon

Meewasin Valley Authority losing nearly half its provincial funding 'very challenging,' says Saskatoon mayor

The provincial budget has slashed funding for a conservation group dedicated to protecting the South Saskatchewan River.

Authority and city had feared bigger cuts or end of provincial funding

The Meewasin Valley Authority trails run through downtown Saskatoon. (CBC News)

The provincial budget has slashed funding for a conservation group dedicated to protecting the South Saskatchewan River.

The Saskatchewan Party has cut $409,000 from the Meewasin Valley Authority, roughly half of the province's annual contribution of $909,000.

Before the cuts, the province contributed around 20 per cent of Meewasin's budget.

Mayor feared bigger cuts

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said this latest cut was concerning, but the city had anticipated it could have been higher.

"[MVA] is a very, very important part of Saskatoon's infrastructure, the integrity of our city; it's the jewel in our community," said Clark.

"Admittedly, we thought that could have been worse but $400,000 impact ... is very challenging."

He added that he was concerned about the impact to Meewasin employees, but said the government had committed to working with the city to ensure the future of the authority. 

The 2016 budget cut provincial funding to five of Saskatchewan's urban parks in Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Prince Albert, the Battlefords and Weyburn, saving the province $540,000.

Last year, the authority shut down its interpretive centre in downtown Saskatoon, stating it didn't have enough money to keep it operating.

Group both disappointed and relieved

Meewasin's chief executive officer Lloyd Isaak said although he was disappointed by the cuts, he was "encouraged" that the province had not stopped funding the authority altogether.

"We were hoping that it was going to be better but we know that at least there's some pieces of the business that remain intact and we'll, I guess, take that and work with it as best we can," Isaak said. 

He wasn't sure yet where the cuts would be made, adding that there was concern among the authority's staff. 

"We are trying to work with them to find again a good course for Meewasin, and we'll continue to work with our partners and our staff to find the best position we can for Meewasin," said Isaak.

He said the authority would consider its options at its next board meeting on April 7. The authority has been looking at ways to stay financially stable, including increased fundraising.

The Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport has made a number of other cuts. Regional parks funding will be chopped in half. 

As well, the community rink affordability grant and Main Street Saskatchewan program have been suspended.

With files from CBC's Alicia Bridges

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