Sudbury Conservation Authority asks province 'What is the gain?' as program cuts loom

Conservation Sudbury is worried about the future of some of its programs after a provincial directive recommending the agency cut programs not connected to its core-mandate.

Province issues directive to authorities to strip down 'non-core' programs

Carl Jorgensen with Conservation Sudbury says recent directive from the province to focus on 'core programs' is puzzling. (Samantha Lui/CBC)

Conservation Sudbury is worried about the future of some of its programs.

Last week Jeff Yurek, Ontario's Environment, Conservation and Parks minister sent letters to every conservation authority in the province, 36 in total, recommending they shut down any program not related to their core mandate.

Conservation authorities provide flood warnings, flood response and floodplain management in their respective watersheds.

The letter came as a surprise to most, as it was sent on Friday night, long after staff had finished the day's work.

Carl Jorgensen, general manager of Conservation Sudbury, said he is confused and disappointed in the government's directive, as most non-mandatory programs don't cost the province money.

"If you're trying to achieve financial efficiencies through the government, what does it matter if there is a maple syrup festival that runs out at a conservation area somewhere, that breaks even?" Jorgensen said. 

Programs that could fall outside Sudbury Conservation Authority's mandate include looking after Lake Laurentian, a park on the city's south side. The location is popular with wedding parties who make use of its picturesque backdrop for photos.

"Why would we not issue a permit for somebody's wedding?" he said. "Do they want us to stop issuing permits so people can't get married on our land? Because it's beautiful and there's a lake and trees."

Overall, Jorgensen said the directive was "puzzling."

"It doesn't cost Ontario taxpayers a dime. What is the gain? Do we now lose little nuggets of experience for the people who live here?"

Jorgensen said the directive was also confusing, since the agencies had already been preparing for a number of changes, with a "couple of years to transition" to their programs to align themselves with the province's goals.

Another program that could face the axe would be water monitoring around Sudbury, data which is collected and given to both the municipality and the province.

"The province is actually learning more and keeping tabs of the water quality in its areas," he said. "So we don't know if those programs are considered core or not to us," Jorgensen said.

"They're extremely important because it gives us long term data sets that we can help the province with and with our municipality make some informed decisions regarding planning." 

With files from Angela Gemmill


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