Warning message

Please note that this page is from our archives. There may be more up-to-date content about this topic on our website. Use our search engine to find out.
The federal governments commitment to supporting water and wastewater systems isnt enough to upgrade and build reliable systems. And in a new twist on previous infrastructure programs, this round opens the door to costly public private partnerships.

The 2000 federal budget renewed an infrastructure program that includes funding for water and wastewater treatment systems. However, the funding is woefully inadequate. The federal commitment (for all infrastructure not just water systems) totals $2.65 billion over six years. When matched by money from provincial and municipal governments, the fund could reach $7.95 billion. Even if that were all devoted to water, it wouldnt meet the needs of aging and decaying water systems.

The shortfall comes as the need for new investment grows ever-more pressing. Canadian cities and towns need more than $5 billion a year for the next decade to meet water and wastewater investment needs, according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association says its $6 billion a year for 15 years.

At the same time, the infrastructure program goes beyond the federal-provincial-municipal partnerships of the past to include private sector participation. And the private sector just cant wait to get involved.

The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships calls the new infrastructure plan a program that has been designed to include private sector partners and innovation in finance, delivery and services. In February, the Council invited Lucienne Robillard, the federal minister responsible for infrastructure, to tell them where she sees the private sector playing a role in providing the infrastructure required to service this country in the future.

A 1996 Federation of Canadian Municipalities study showed that water distribution and supply systems were on average 37 and 36 years old respectively while sewer collections systems were an average 42 years old. The FCM called the new infrastructure program a good down-payment but simply not enough to meet long-term demands.