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NEWS: Manitoba considers First Nations water strategy

The Winnipeg Free Press reports that, “The Manitoba government is willing to consider a partnership with Ottawa to get clean drinking water piped into homes on northern Manitoba reserves. …Eric Robinson, Manitoba’s aboriginal affairs minister, said Thursday he isn’t familiar with (an) Ontario agreement, but he is willing to look at it or other options to partner with Ottawa to bring running water to houses on northern Manitoba reserves. …Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper, who pleaded for help for his communities in Ottawa this week, wants commitments from the governments to get running water to every home on northern Manitoba reserves within two years. He estimated it can be done for about $66 million.”

“The Canada-Ontario Retrofit Agreement involved the two governments spending more than $200 million over 10 years to bring conditions in reserve homes up to standards closer to those enjoyed by other Canadians. That included better electrical wiring, running water and indoor fixtures such as bathtubs, sinks and toilets. The Ontario agreement was unusual because funding for programs and capital projects on reserves is supposed to be a federal responsibility. Provinces rarely step over that jurisdictional line. The Ontario program was implemented in 1992 by former NDP premier Bob Rae. The Conservative government under Mike Harris renewed it for another five years and $126 million in 1997. …By the time the program was over, nearly 3,800 homes on 35 Ontario reserves had been retrofitted. Ontario covered $60 million of the total cost.”

“If (Manitoba’s aboriginal affairs minister) invests some provincial cash in that project, he appears to have the backing of taxpayers. In a Free Press/Probe poll in September, 63 per cent of Manitobans surveyed said given the health risks, the province should help the federal government fund drinking water upgrades in the Island Lake region, where half the homes have no running water.”

The full article is at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/a-manitoba-solution-112054099.html.