The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives launched its 2017 Alternative Federal Budget, High Stakes, Clear Choices, yesterday. This year’s AFB focuses on creating jobs, reducing income inequality, lowering poverty levels, closing unfair and expensive tax loopholes, and getting the economy moving. The AFB also sets a path for 100% renewable energy generation by 2050 that creates green jobs and protects the climate, water and public health.
With the federal budget launch scheduled for March 22, World Water Day, this is an important time to learn what the Trudeau government must do to protect water and implement the human rights to water and sanitation.
The water chapter of the High Stakes, Clear Choices, examines key water issues such as drinking water in Indigenous Communities; public water and wastewater infrastructure; water and environmental legislation like the Navigation Protection Act, Fisheries Act and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that remains gutted from the former Harper government; extreme energy projects like the Kinder Morgan pipeline, fracking and LNG; protection of the Great Lakes and bulk water withdrawals and trade agreements.
The federal government announced that they were on track for “delivering on its Budget 2016 commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories affecting INAC-funded public systems on-reserve within five years.” A recent report by David Suzuki Foundation and the Council of Canadians, Glass half empty? Year 1 progress toward resolving drinking water advisories in nine First Nations in Ontario, found that the process for attaining clean and safe drinking water for First Nations remains flawed. The report makes 12 recommendations that must be implemented in order for the federal government to maintain progress toward its goal of ending long-term DWAs.
The water chapter of the AFB says, “In 2011, a government study estimated that $889 million is needed every year for First Nations water and wastewater facilities including projected operating and maintenance. (For further details see the First Nations chapter.)” So the amount of funding the Trudeau government allocates to water and wastewater infrastructure in Budget 2017 and whether it implements the 12 recommendations will be demonstrate whether the Trudeau government is truly committed to ending drinking water advisories in First Nations once and for all.
In order to protect water as a commons, public trust and human right, the AFB calls for the following funding:
Strengthen public and community water and wastewater infrastructure
• Create a National Public Water and Wastewater Fund to replace poor infrastructure
(cost: $6.5 billion a year for six years, $2.5 billion a year in year seven and beyond).
• Implement the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulation (cost: $1 billion a year over 20 years).
• Commit $100 million annually for water infrastructure in small municipalities.
• Commit $75 million annually for ongoing water operator training, public sector certification,
and conservation programs.
Support and fund environmental impact assessments
• Conduct assessments of all energy and mining projects; include community consultations
and seek free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities in the process (cost: $50 million).
• Conduct an in-depth and independent study of the effects of tar sands development
on the environment and health (cost: $30 million).
• Reinstate federal funding for water programs at the departments of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and Transport Canada (cost: $50 million).
Ensure the safety and sustainability of freshwater in Canada
• Implement a comprehensive action plan to protect the Great Lakes (cost: $500
million in year one and $950 million a year in each of the following four years).
• Establish water quality and quantity monitoring frameworks; increase the number of monitoring stations, train staff in water monitoring, and create a new water minister position (cost: $327.5
million over three years).
• Commit $3 million toward a groundwater protection plan and $1 million to complete a review of virtual water exports from Canada.