What’s in the budget?
- $11 million over two years for Great Lakes Basin clean-up
- $5 million over 2 years to the International Joint Commission for further study of the Great Lakes
- $12 million over two years for the clean-up of Lake Simcoe
- $7 million over two years to advance the clean-up of Lake Winnipeg
- $39 million over two years for fisheries science research
- $19 million over two years for water pollution prevention, surveillance and enforcement along the coasts
What does it mean for Canadians?
The 2007 budget allocates a grand total of $93 million over two years for a National Water Strategy with an additional $324 million for the Canadian Coast Guard. It is, quite literally, a drop in the bucket. The amounts allocated will not go anywhere close to filling the pressing needs for water and wastewater investments in Canadian municipalities. The budget documents suggest that some of the infrastructure money allocated to provinces, territories and municipalities will be used to support water and wastewater treatment projects. However, there is no real increase in the funding for municipal infrastructure and the money that is available is subject to a privatization screen.
What won’t this budget deliver?
It won’t deliver a National Water Strategy. Just naming it a National Water Strategy doesn’t make it one. There needs to be serious, long-term investment in the water and wastewater needs of Canadian communities. Beyond the $93 million over two years there is a suggestion that some of the infrastructure money going to municipalities will be used for water and wastewater projects. There are no specific amounts identified and the money allocated to municipal infrastructure is all identified as a direct route to public-private partnerships, despite the overwhelming evidence that P3s are wasteful, expensive, inefficient and unaccountable.
In addition, there is mention of improvements to water quality in aboriginal communities, with no dollar figures and no money specifically allocated in the budget. Issues of supply and safe standards on aboriginal reserves have reached a critical point. The federal government has a major role to play in ensuring that aboriginal people have access to clean, safe drinking water. The condition of the water supply in First Nation communities is a national disgrace. The federal government had an opportunity in this budget to commit serious dollars to this crisis and chose to ignore it.
A comprehensive National Water Strategy would recognize that access to water is a fundamental right; prohibit bulk water exports and introduce strict restrictions on new diversions; legislate national standards for safe, clean drinking water. It would implement a national investment strategy for municipalities and aboriginal communities that didn’t push public-private partnerships. And a true strategy would protect Canada’s water from trade deals by opposing measures in international agreements that promote the privatization of water services and ensuring water does not become a tradable commodity in current and future trade deals