The Ontario government announced cuts of 50% to flood management funding in Ontario. The GRCA was advised of a 48% cut immediately. The GRCA says this represents about 15% of the money the provincial funding they receive.
The conservation authority has indicated that this cut will not change the mission to protect life and minimize property damage due to erosion and flooding but it will have to look for wither new sources for the short fall. Conservation authorities are funded from provincial funds, municipal levy, and the parks programmes are self-sustaining. The chief spokeswoman indicated that it will be up to the GRCA board to direct staff how to proceed. The GRCA noted that there may be other programmes under the knife from the province as well.
The province has been looking at ways to make the public sector more organized and to cut costs. There is a review of the roles that conservation authorities play as well. The province announced early in April that there would be public consultation into the role that conservation authorities play and update of the Conservation Authority Act which was first passed in 1946.
Throughout the last three decades many regulatory roles have been handed down to conservation authorities from the province and federal government, so any review will have to take these roles into consideration as well.
This move may be of great concern as the province has begun to see the impacts of climate change in unpredictable weather patterns. Flooding last year caused major flooding and loss of property in Cambridge and Brantford. The clean up costs in in Cambridge alone were almost $1 million. The damage costs in Brantford are much higher and were borne primarily by landowners and the municipality. Overland flooding damage is not covered by most home owner insurance policies in Canada.
Whenever there is overland flooding and roads are flooded there is significant danger to life either from the flooding itself (people driving into the water and being swept away) or from the delays caused to emergency vehicles unable to use the roads.
Part of the flood control funding given to conservation authorities is to manage new and existing development in flood plains in order to reduce future costs to property and life. To carry out this role the flood plain mapping must be periodically updated to reflect current watershed conditions and regulatory standards.
Flooding costs us all. The damage to infrastructure (roads and bridges) can be fantastic, the cost to homeowners and property owners devastating, and the cost to life not measurable. Portions of damage covered by insurance will force general insurance rates to climb and insurance will not solve the problem of flooding.