Both the Town of The Blue Mountains and the Municipality of Grey Highlands plan to continue their existing relationship with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority.
Authority CAO Tim Lanthier visited both councils on March 14 and 15 to outline how recent changes made by the provincial government are impacting the local authority. Lanthier explained that provincial legislation has altered the relationship between local municipalities and the conservation authority.
The province has mandated that all conservation authorities provide certain core programs and services, which are funded largely through levies charged to member municipalities. For programs that fall outside that core mandate, the conservation authority must have formal agreements in place with its member municipalities to continue providing those services.
Lanthier’s full presentation on the changes can be found here.
Lanthier called the changing relationship between conservation authorities and local municipalities “a very big shift.”
He explained that the non-mandatory programs provided by the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority cost $78,000 per year -- just two per cent of the overall budget. They include some communications work the authority does, some stewardship and some watershed monitoring.
Lanthier is seeking agreements with the authority’s member municipalities before the end of the year in order to be prepared for the 2024 budget cycle.
“We want to get agreements in place in time for the 2024 budget. We want to keep doing the important environmental work we’re doing today and at the same cost,” he said.
Both Grey Highlands council and The Blue Mountains council passed resolutions directing municipal staff to work with the authority on the necessary agreements for the services to continue.
Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Dane Nielsen asked Lanthier if he anticipated any issues from other member municipalities. Nielsen noted that the provincial strategy on conservation authorities is “kind of pitting municipalities against each other."
“Are there challenges to getting buy-in in general?” Nielsen asked.
Lanthier said to date that has been an issue for Grey Sauble.
“So far, I’m happy to say we are seeing buy-in from local municipalities,” he said. “We are seeing that the value is being recognized.”