Provincial funding cuts to Manitoba’s conservation districts have prompted some municipalities to reconsider their support as well, the board chair of Manitoba Conservation Districts Association says.
Speaking at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities convention during a bear pit session with provincial cabinet ministers, Heather Dalgleish said the program lost roughly 12 per cent of its core funding since 2013. That’s resulted in some municipalities, which aren’t receiving the matched 3:1 funding they’ve expected from the province, rethinking their own contributions.
“It’s becoming contentious,” said Dalgleish, adding that a strategic review of conservation districts undertook earlier this fall shows some municipalities may withdraw their contributions altogether.
“I’m afraid, we do have a couple of conservation districts that are very, very concerned that they’re going to have RMs withdraw from the program,” she said.
The issue becomes even more critical as new leaders with different priorities take their seats around newly configured municipal councils, she added.
Dalgleish acknowledged the MCDA does have access to about $750,000, or roughly the amount equivalent to their funding cut through Growing Forward II program funds.
But that cash is funding for specific projects that must be pre-approved, not core funding, she said.
“Minister MacIntosh and MAFRD and the agriculture minister worked very hard for the C.D.s and we did gain back that $750,000 in monies… but it is specific application-based money,” said Dalgleish. “Our complaint is the core funding cuts.”
During the AMM’s bear pit session, Dalgleish pointedly reminded Premier Greg Selinger of its surface water management strategy, asking how it can at the same time claw back funding to a program focused in water management and flood risk reduction.
“Does the province of Manitoba not realize that every small dam and water retention project that we do is, in fact, flood mitigation?” she said. “Yet our hands are being tied to move forward on even one of these projects.”
Selinger replied that the province does recognize their work as an essential part of the surface water management strategy, but urged Dalgleish to refer the specifics of the program’s funding difficulties to Conservation Minister Gord MacIntosh.
Dalgleish said later in an interview that the minister knows they need their core funding restored, and they’d have it if the conservation minister did.
“Our concern is when they’re in budget negotiations within the province, the rest of the ministers do not understand the value of what we are actually doing,” she said.