Facing highly volatile headwinds due to the combination of COVID-19, plummeting oil prices and the collapse of world financial markets, the Alternative Federal Budget (AFB) released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) lays out a roadmap and fiscal plan to safeguard public health, support essential public services and tackle inequality that puts so many at increased risk.
A group of progressive organizations contribute each year to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Alternative Federal Budget. The Council of Canadians is proud to contribute the water chapter to this year’s Alternative Federal Budget.
AFB 2020 PLAN
- Implement the UN-recognized human right to water and sanitation; provide safe, clean drinking water to First Nations communities; and develop a national drinking water standard.
- Adequately and publicly fund water and wastewater infrastructure in municipalities and First Nations without private-sector financing or public-private partnerships.
- Renew and expand the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.
- Fund robust environmental assessments and strong water science and research.
- Safeguard the Great Lakes, groundwater and other freshwater sources, and Canada’s oceans.
Groundwater, lakes and rivers are threatened by major industrial projects, over-extraction, pollution and climate change, as federal legislation does not adequately protect Canada’s waterways. First Nations communities still fight for access to safe, clean drinking water, while Canadian municipalities struggle to afford upgrades to their aging water and wastewater infrastructure. The Canada Infrastructure Bank promotes the privatization of public infrastructure, including water systems, by tying public loans to the involvement of private, profit-seeking financiers. With Canada warming at twice the global rate, the climate crisis threatens surface and groundwater sources, natural ecosystems and water management.
We see a strong role for the federal government as a protector of water as a public trust and shared commons. The right to water and sanitation, as recognized by the United Nations, must be upheld and implemented. No First Nation should go without safe, clean water, and across Canada national drinking water standards must be implemented and enforced. The safety and sustainability of freshwater in Canada must be safeguarded.
How we get there
The following measures will strengthen federal water policy and oversight, and enhance public and community water and wastewater infrastructure.
Expand funding for public water infrastructure
AFB 2020 renews and expands the recently closed Clean Water and Waste- water Fund and commits to funding outstanding applications for public or community-run water and wastewater infrastructure. The fund will be invested with $6.5 billion a year over six years and $2.5 billion a year after that. Public-private partnerships will not be eligible for federal funding.
As discussed in the Infrastructure and cities chapter, the AFB transforms the Canada Infrastructure Bank into a fully public, fully accountable lender where currently it only funds projects in partnership with private financiers looking to make a profit. Small municipalities that often have a hard time accessing funds due to high per-capita costs will benefit from a dedicated fund of $100 million a year for water infrastructure.
Strict, national water quality standards
AFB 2020 tasks the government with developing and enforcing a national drinking water standard for all of Canada, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. It supports municipalities upgrading their aging water infrastructure to meet the new standard through the expanded Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.
The AFB further commits $3.5 billion over the next two years ($2 billion a year afterward) for enforcing the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (passed in 2012) and $75 million a year for ongoing water operator training, public sector certification and conservation programs. The AFB also adds $80 million a year for three years to federal funding for water programs at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada.
More funding for environmental assessments
AFB 2020 spends $50 million a year for three years to conduct assessments of the impact of all energy and mining projects, to be carried out in consultation with affected communities and with the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous nations. A further $30 million a year for two years is dedicated to an in-depth, independent study of the effects of tar sands development on the environment and health.
Sustainable freshwater management
AFB 2020 implements a comprehensive action plan to protect the Great Lakes Basin, at a cost to government of $500 million in year one and $950 million a year in each of the following four years. It commits to mapping all of Canada’s watersheds, establishing freshwater quality and quantity monitoring frameworks, increasing the number of monitoring stations, and training staff.
AFB 2020 puts $3 million toward a groundwater protection plan and an additional $1 million toward a review of virtual water exports from Canada. A federal Minister of Water is tasked with co-ordinating this work in partnership with the more than 20 departments that set federal policies affecting water.