Whose Water is it, Anyway? book tour brings idea of Blue Communities across Canada

Ottawa book tour

This week, Council of Canadians Honorary Chairperson Maude Barlow is in the Atlantic, speaking in East Coast cities about her new book, Whose Water is it, Anyway? Taking Water Protection Into Public Hands.

The multi-city tour got underway in Ottawa on September 16 where more than 100 people came to the event wanting to know more about what they could do to protect water in their city. Ottawa recently announced it will ban single-use plastics, including bottled water, by 2021. Many of those attending the book tour launch want to the city to go even further and signed up to work together to have Ottawa designated a Blue Community.

Then on Monday, Maude was in St. John’s in Newfoundland where she spoke to a crowd of about 90 people about the global water crisis, its impacts in Canada, and how the Blue Communities Project gives people a positive, proactive way to protect water sources.

Tonight, she will be in Charlottetown, PEI, where she will talk about her book in the context of local water concerns, and tomorrow, she travels to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In Charlottetown, Leo Broderick, former longtime Council of Canadians Board member and active chapter member will be recognized for being given the Order of PEI for his tremendous contributions in education and social justice. Broderick received the honour because of “his work as a passionate activist for social and environmental justice, with a deep understanding of global and local issues,” a news release from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor stated. "In addition to his distinguished career as an educator, he consistently proves how ordinary citizens can have an influence to make the world a safer, fairer place.”

How ordinary citizens can effect change is a theme in Whose Water is it, Anyway? Barlow uses the Council of Canadians’ Blue Communities Project to show how ordinary people in communities can lobby their local government to adopt resolutions that recognize the rights to water and sanitation, ban the use of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, and commit to publicly owned water and wastewater services and facilities.

One challenge to the commitment to public water services is governments’ growing reliance on public-private partnerships (P3s). The Canadian government is imposing new and higher standards on municipal wastewater treatment across the country – which is a good thing for water safety.

However, it appears the only funding for this is through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is run by corporations and promotes P3s. The changes from the new regulations must be in place by 2020, limiting municipal governments’ options to choose public solutions.

Evidence of failed P3 projects across the country with cost overruns and lower quality has shown that water and water services are best left in public hands.

The Blue Communities Project is growing here in Canada and around the world. Burnaby, B.C. became the first Blue Community in 2011 and there are now close to 60 of them worldwide, including cities such as Montreal, Canada; Paris, France, and Berlin, Germany. Schools, universities and faith-based organizations are also joining in.

Read more about the Blue Communities Project and the Whose Water is it, Anyway? book tour which includes stops in Charlottetown (Sept. 25), Halifax (Sept. 26), London (Sept. 28), Toronto (Sept. 30), Guelph (Oct. 1), Saint John (Oct. 2), Winnipeg (Oct. 17), Whistler (Oct. 19), Comox (Oct. 22) and Vancouver (Oct. 23).