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OTTAWA Water workers are fed up with the problems in our water systems and are demanding concerted action by all levels of government to address the source of the problems, says the president of Canadas largest municipal union representing water workers in every province.

The unfolding tragedy in North Battleford is the latest sad spotlight on the problems bubbling just beneath the surface of Canadas water systems.

Its a national disgrace that governments are too busy buck-passing to actually deal with the real issues of bucks and regulations, says Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Since 1997 CUPE has been calling for action to protect and improve Canadas water supply. Stronger regulation and enforcement is a cornerstone of CUPEs action plan, as is sufficient infrastructure funding to ensure drinking and wastewater systems can meet high standards of quality and safety.

Our hearts are with the residents of North Battleford, and we welcome the call for a public inquiry, as we did in Walkerton. But we need more than inquiries. We need urgent action.

Weve been calling for national standards with teeth enforceable rules that will hold provinces and municipalities accountable. Guidelines just dont cut it, says Darcy.

Its the height of complacency for the Liberals to just shrug off these calls by pointing to questions of jurisdiction. Clearly its time to take another look at waters integral role in the day-to-day health of all Canadians. That makes it a national issue, to be worked on in cooperation with the provinces.

CUPE also renews its call for stable, long-term infrastructure funding that will support provincial and municipal efforts to build and upgrade public water systems while heading off threats of privatization. Downloading responsibility for a growing number of public services has created severe cash shortages in some provinces and towns.

The current infrastructure plan is a drop in the bucket when you look at the actual needs out there at least $16.5 billion over the next decade, and thats just for drinking water treatment. Given the federal surplus, theres no excuse for not allocating more money now and tying any new money to publicly owned and operated projects that meet national standards, says Darcy.

We cant approach water issues by simply trying to plug leaks as they spring. Its time for a serious top-to-bottom overhaul of water protection in this country.


For further information:
Pam Beattie, (613) 761-8796 (cell)

CUPE is Canadas largest union, representing a half-million women and men working in health care, emergency services, education, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation and airlines. CUPEs front-line water worker members include the municipal employees in North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

For more information on Water Watch, CUPEs water campaign, visit cupe.ca.