WHEREAS Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) are independent, multi-stakeholder, non-profit organizations that are designated by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), under the Water for Life Strategy, to report on the health of watersheds, lead collaborative planning, and facilitate education and stewardship activities; and
WHEREAS WPACs rely on government funding to hire staff to provide new or ongoing extension and education programs to stakeholders at a grass roots level starting during the first quarter of the WPACs’ fiscal year; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta’s fiscal year is April 1 until March 31; and
WHEREAS the receipt of WPAC grants are irregular and delinquent, therefore threatening the employment of professional staff and the delivery of extension and educational programs;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to provide Watershed Planning and Advisory Council funding annually before May 1 to assure that professional staff can be retained to deliver extension and education programs, as wellas examine the advantages of a three-year funding model for these.
The proportion of the complete budget that this AEP grant fulfills is different for each of the 11 WPACs in Alberta. For many (such as the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance [MPWA] of which Northern Sunrise County is a member) it constitutes at least 90% of operating budgets. This grant is meant to be the core funding for staffing, office and organization function.
Applications are typically requested by the Government of Alberta between the end of January to early March, and most frequently in mid-February. In the application, it indicates that responses will be returned within 60 days, but this has never been the case. Funding responses and funds have been received anywhere from the last week of May to early August, most often in late June.
MPWA provides the lead on a number of projects and education events and is forced to put many of these events on hold during some critical work periods because of funding uncertainty. In 2018, funding was at critical levels by mid-April and the MPWA was ready to lay off staff when the AEP grant funding finally arrived in early July. When an application is submitted for a 12-month program, but funds arrive after the first quarter and need to be used before year end, funding flow is an issue.
Further, finding competent and qualified staff is difficult. Once time and effort has been spent to train staff, organizations wish to keep them employed. Inconsistent funding and the prospect of having to lay staff off creates a poor work environment and slows down projects during important periods.
The work of the WPACs is important and the Government of Alberta has indicated this by the Minister’s announcement of the $3.2 million/year agreement. Unfortunately, there continues to be issues regarding timeliness and funding breakdown.
The WPACs have many stakeholders and partners involved in various projects. It is difficult to move some of these projects forward in efficient and timely manner when the AEP partnership, regarding core funding, causes stumbling blocks.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.