Broomhead disappointed councils excluded from helping lobby efforts

Well­­ington North Mayor Mike Broomhead is ready to take a big yellow bus down to Queen’s Park to assist conservation authorities in lobbying the province for more funding – but so far there has been no invitation to join.
While Saugeen Valley Con­servation Authority General Manager Jim Coffey and Chairman Doug Freiburger es­sentially provided the same presentation made to Minto councillors earlier in the month, the response from Wellington North on March 10 was somewhat different.
Freiburger spoke about the environmental footprint and the work done by the authority.
“The work of conservation authorities is an integral part of the community,” he said, adding it creates intangible benefits … whether it is protecting wetlands, which ensures a pristine water system, or flood control projects that prevent damage to properties and lives.
“Conservation is good business,” Freiburger said. “I feel our work will be felt for generations to come.”
He asked Wellington North for its support in lobbying to secure more provincial funding.
Mayor Mike Broomhead offered a different perspective to efforts being made through Conservation Ontario and various conservation authorities to access provincial funds.
“It is interesting, because for the last three years, we’ve heard the same message,” he said. However, Broomhead add­ed that many times the township has offered to send representatives with the conservation authorities as a show of support. He added similar efforts have been extremely successful in other lobby ef­forts by the township.
“Never once were we taken up on the offer,” said Broom­head. “It’s disappointing.”
He believes the SVCA’s case, or even that of Con­servation Ontario, would be much stronger if representatives of the authority’s member municipalities were added to show support.
Broomhead said he would be more than willing to drive to Toronto to lobby – even if it is only for a 10-minute meeting with a government minister.
Freiburger said generally, when meetings are set with government officials, there are set criteria as to who can attend.
Even though he is vice-chairman of Conservation On­ta­rio, he is not invited to attend those meetings, which is why he said he is asking municipalities to bring up the matter of conservation authority funding any time they have a chance to meet with government ministers.
He said more needs to be done to educate the entire provincial government.
“Only a small portion of our work is directed to the Ministry of Natural Resources,” he added.
He cited the work on behalf of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, for planning issues, as well as work on behalf of the Ministry of the Environ­ment for water quality.
Freiburger explained source water protection is different, and even in that instance, only partial funding is provided.
He cited work with rural landowners affecting the Min­istry of Agriculture – which provides no funds. He commented on the Ministry of Health, which is working to get people involved in physical activities. Conservation Auth­orities provides trails and parkland – yet get no funding to provide those health related opportunities.
Freiburger said, “I’d take you tomorrow – if I could get in.”
Broomhead countered that even when the Ministry of Environment told his township who it could bring to meetings, it brought citizens down with its group.
“What MPP would turn you down?” he asked “We need to load up in a big yellow bus and head to Queen’s Park.”
Broomhead agreed that Conservation Authorities are not being heard by the province.
“We complain every year about the increase to the municipal levy, and we have offered our support,” he said.
He noted that Wellington North is not the only municipality suggesting “enough is enough.”
And, he added, it is not just about conservation authority funding.
“As long as the costs can be passed down to the lower tier municipalities, the trend will continue – because lower-tier governments seem to have the least say,” he said.
Local  SVCA representative Don Ross suggested council might consider a different tactic by inviting authority representatives with them when visiting ministry officials.
“Maybe MPPs do not see [funding conservation authorities] as ribbon cutting opportunities such as new sewage treatment plants,” Ross said.
Coffey said Wellington North’s message would be taken to Conservation Ontario.
He noted he had been part of the team involved in the last round of lobbying efforts – which had the support of 89% of the member municipalities.
“But nothing came of it,” he said. “Maybe it is the senior bureaucrats, but we are still trying to get our foot in the door.
“My feeling is that they consider conservation authority funding as pocket change. What is $15-million in the big picture? But please don’t shoot us in the foot. Without your support we cannot continue to fight.”
Without that support, it means subdivisions may not be approved and trees not planted, Coffey added.