Haliburton voice going unheard in flood talks: Moffatt
By Sue Tiffin
At a Sept. 25 county council meeting, Councillor Carol Moffatt expressed frustrations with a meeting with Doug McNeil, special advisor on flooding, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, earlier in the month.
Moffatt, Algonquin Highlands mayor and Upper Trent Watershed Water Management Partnership co-chair, said the Sept. 10 meeting with the provincial flood advisor in Muskoka was “extremely disappointing.”
According to a July press release from the provincial government, after a series of flooding engagement sessions, McNeil “will advise the province on ways to reduce the impacts of flooding and ensure communities can recover quickly.”
Moffatt, who attended the meeting representing the county, reported it was clearly Muskoka-based, and that she was the “lone non-Muskoka voice” in attendance.
“It seemed to me that, I felt like, we just don’t matter. It seems to me the entire watershed that we belong to – Gull down into the Trent – none of those folks were consulted.”
Moffatt presented an extensive submission offering a snapshot of Haliburton County’s history and experience with watershed management and flooding events as well as work done so far toward flood mitigation.
“I feel that in the face of last year, Muskoka being given $5 million to create the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Council, that there’s a neighbouring community that has a far greater voice than we do,” said Moffatt. “And, yet, I believe Haliburton County has consistently, for a longer period of time, experienced challenges with high water and flooding and changes that we’re experiencing with changing weather patterns, etc. and that our voice is not being heard.”
She questioned if UTWMP should become a separate body like the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Council and said that she had had conversations with UTWMP co-chair, and Coalition for Equitable Water Flow chair Ted Spence after the meeting in Muskoka.
“There’s a distinct advantage and I think that we’re not being heard at all by the province and that we need to undertake some discussion and course of action and lobby of some sort to make sure that the Haliburton County and UTWMP voice is being heard loud and clear at the province, because I’m not convinced it is.”
Minden Hills mayor Brent Devolin suggested the county might “strike an alliance” to “take a unified approach” with Renfrew area, which has experienced recent flooding as well, if they are feeling as disenfranchised as Haliburton County is, and noted a need to revisit the county’s lack of voice in light of the provincial government’s recent winding down of some programs of provincial conservation authorities.
“I think this is a large enough issue that we need a special date set aside with no other business to talk about where we’re at, and some thoughts and strategies,” said Devolin. “I’m not saying we do it right away, maybe it’s a month or so, but to think about the options.”
Moffatt said she would speak with Spence about a meeting going forward.
“To me, the message was, you don’t matter. The message very clear to me was we have no interest in what happens in Haliburton County. I hope that I’m wrong about that ... So I think there’s some conversations to be had.”