The Ford government’s provincial budget, released on April 11, has reduced the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s (MNRF) budget by $161.7 million, with the bulk of that coming from the Emergency Forest Firefighting portion.
A summary of MNRF budgets on page 294 of the 2019 Ontario Budget shows that the base MNRF budget planned for 2019-2020 is $602.4 million, which is $19.6 million less than the interim budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and $61.6 million less than the actual budget of 2017-2018.
The Emergency Forest Firefighting budget planned for 2019-2020 is now $69.8 million, which is $142.2 million less than the interim budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and $47.2 million less than the actual budget of 2017-2018.
It is still unknown how the budget reductions are going to affect MNRF programs, services and staffing levels. OOD did submit questions asking how the cuts would be applied within the MNRF, and was directed to find the information in the 2019 Budget, however specifics of how individual ministries will apply their funding changes are not detailed in that document.
MNRF Director of Communications Justine Lewkowicz did say that the reduction in Emergency Forest Fighting budget has been misrepresented by some media sources.
“The Ontario government provides base funding of almost $70 million each year to support front-line efforts to fight wildland fires,” she said. “Funding is re-evaluated as the fire season unfolds. Last year, over 1,300 fires were recorded across the province, which was significantly higher than the 10-year average of 757 fires. Our government invested an additional $142 million for emergency firefighting in 2018 to protect our communities. We will continue to dedicate necessary resources to ensure the safety and protection of our communities.”
Viewed that way, the Emergency Forest Firefighting budget is at a normal level that will require adjustment depending on the severity of the fire season.
Details of how the cuts will affect other aspects of the MNRF will be added as they become available.
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