Funding to flood management programs was cut by 50 per cent by the provincial government, according to Ontario conservation authorities.

The province originally gave $7.4 million to Conservation Ontario, which represents 36 conservation authorities in the province. However, that funding has since been cut in half as a result of the 2019 budget.

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Flood management programs are crucial for issuing warnings, monitoring stream flows and protecting property from high-cost damages. With less funding, impacts will be “felt immediately, particularly in smaller and more rural conservation authorities,” Kim Gavine, General Manager of Conservation Ontario, said in a statement.

Cutting natural hazards funding is particularly problematic right now in light of the fact that – like everywhere else – Ontario is experiencing stronger and more frequent flood events as a result of climate change impacts,” Gavine added.

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The number of floods in Ontario has been on the rise in recent years. The most notable incident occurred last August when a heavy rainstorm hit Toronto and caused flash flooding. The storm resulted in over $80 million in insured damages.

Municipalities are responsible for handling floods and other natural disasters, according to the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. However, many don’t have the resources to manage a crisis when it occurs, TVO notes. That’s why funding to provincial flood management programs is so crucial.

Additionally, a 2017 report found that out of 26 Ontario municipalities, only four Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, and Peterborough had plans to address flooding in their emergency management plans.

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Conservation Ontario not only works with municipalities to deliver flood management programs, but they also manage and operate $2.7 billion worth of flooding infrastructure, which includes dams and dikes. As a result, their work helps prevent over $100 million in flood damages each year.

A reduction in funding will most certainly come at a cost. “The government has been very clear about its goal to reduce costs, but a 50-per-cent reduction in payments that support government mandated responsibilities will have a significant impact on how we can deliver our programs and services,” Brad McNevin, chief administrative officer at Belleville’s Quinte Conservation, said in a statement.