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Trudeau’s World Water Day budget

World Water Day 2015 Campbell River Chapter

Campbell River Chapter, World Water Day 2015

The Trudeau government will deliver its first budget on March 22, World Water Day.

The United Nations says, “World Water Day is an international observance and an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. World Water Day dates back to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development where an international observance for water was recommended. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.” In July 2010, the UN General Assembly formally recognized the rights to water and sanitation.

What could the federal government do to fully implement the rights to water and sanitation?

Respecting these rights means being committed to three obligations: to respect, protect and fulfil. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow explains, “The obligation to respect means these rights cannot be removed once given, such as cut-offs for people who cannot pay for privatized water; to protect means governments must protect people and communities from third party destruction of their water, such as industrial or extractive industry pollution; and to fulfil means governments are obligated to start the process of delivering safe water and sanitation services to people and communities not presently served.”

Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui has written the water budget for the annual Alternative Federal Budget (AFB) for the past several years.

The AFB would support the full realization of the rights to water and sanitation, including by:

  • creating a National Public Water and Wastewater Fund (federal cost: $2.6 billion a year);

  • implementing a new Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulation (cost: $1 billion a year over 20 years);

  • committing $100 million annually for water infrastructure aid for small municipalities;

  • committing $75 million annually for ongoing water operator training, public sector certification and conservation programs; and

  • committing $4.7 billion over ten years for water and wastewater facilities on First Nations’ reserves.

On Oct. 5, 2015, during this past federal election campaign, Justin Trudeau stated, “We have 93 different communities under 133 different boil water advisories across the country. [Serpent River First Nation] Chief Isadore Day has called for within five years there should be zero, and I’ve told the Chief and I’ve told First Nations many times, we agree with that, and a Canadian government led by me will address this as a top priority because it’s not right in a country like Canada that this has gone on for far too long.” Given fulfilling the right to water and sanitation for First Nations would take $4.7 billion to accomplish, we are looking for a proportionate commitment in the federal budget next month.

In an omnibus budget bill, the Harper government removed numerous safeguards for water protection. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was replaced with a new act that eliminated 3,000 federal environmental assessments. His government also gutted the Fisheries Act and abdicated responsibility for 99 per cent of lakes and rivers by overhauling the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Council of Canadians is calling on the Trudeau government to protect lakes and rivers by reviewing these legislative changes, restoring the lost protections for freshwater, and implementing strict safeguards for water within the framework of the UN-recognized right to water.

There are numerous other actions that the Trudeau government must take to protect water in Canada, including rejecting the Energy East pipeline, but another key budgetary measure would be the cancellation of a Harper-era subsidy for the fossil fuel industry. On Feb. 19, 2015, the Harper government announced a tax cut – estimated to be about $50 million over five years, but increasing through to 2024 – to help spur the development of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry in British Columbia. If just five of the more than twenty proposed LNG terminals were to be developed, the gas needed would also require an estimated 582 billion litres of water from rivers, lakes and streams in BC.

The Alternative Federal Budget 2016 will be launched on March 10.

To read the Alternative Federal Budget 2015: Delivering the Good (and in particular the water chapter on pages 151-156), please click here.

Further reading
Trudeau government delays its decision on nuclear waste dump on Lake Huron (Feb. 18, 2016)
What will Trudeau (un)do to protect freshwater in Canada? (Jan. 4, 2016)
Trudeau government commits to build road for Shoal Lake 40 First Nation (Dec. 16, 2015)
Council of Canadians calls on Trudeau to fulfill the right to sanitation for First Nations in Canada (Nov. 20, 2015)
Trudeau abandons Harper’s unpopular P3 requirement for infrastructure funding (Nov. 19, 2015)
Council calls on Trudeau to implement national enforceable drinking water standards (Nov. 16, 2015)
First Nations tell Trudeau to stop Site C, the era of destroying rivers should be over (Oct. 22, 2015)