Water crisis calls for long-term plan, not constant cuts, says Alternative Federal Budget

Media Release
March 12, 2013

With the next federal budget fast approaching, the 2013 Alternative Federal Budget (AFB), Doing Better Together, released today, warns that the “Harper government’s cuts to the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) and other critical environmental programs will hinder the ability to develop freshwater policies and respond to threats to water.” Instead, the AFB is calling for a 20-year plan – and a federal investment of $39 billion in a National Public Water and Wastewater Fund – as a necessary response to the global water crisis.

“Most of southern Canada is losing its renewable water sources at an alarming rate, with communities facing low water levels and pollution from fracking, tar sands development, mining and other industrial projects. We are at a critical time to invest in protecting our communities’ water sources,” says Emma Lui, Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “We not only need the scientific evidence from crucial programs like the ELA, but also legislation that will ensure clean water for current and future generations.”

The AFB also calls for the federal government to implement the human right to water and sanitation by allocating $2 million to reinstate the ELA, rolling back changes to environmental legislation and investing in water and wastewater infrastructure, a Great Lakes Action Plan and studies on the effects of tar sands development and fracking on water.

The AFB highlights the federal government’s two omnibudget bills, which severely weakened environmental legislation, and warns that: “The bills not only marked a troubling move that stifled democratic debate on environmental policy but also cast doubt on the government’s ability to uphold the human right to water and sanitation.”

The AFB also calls on the federal government to provide funding for water and wastewater infrastructure without requiring Public-Private Partnerships (P3s). Currently, several municipalities are considering applying to the P3 Canada Fund, which provides funding to municipalities only if they enter into an agreement with a private company. Case studies in Canada and around the world have show that P3s have resulted in price increases, job losses and decreases in water quality.

The AFB allocates funding to the following areas:

  • A 20-year plan that will require a federal investment of $39 billion in a National Public Water and Wastewater Fund. The federal portion would start at $2.6 billion a year for the first six years and replace the systems rated ‘poor’ or worse. For the next 14 years, the federal government would commit $1.67 billion annually.
  • $1 billion annually for 20 years to fund the wastewater systems effluent regulations.
  • A 10-year plan investing $4.7 billion for water and wastewater facilities on First Nation reserves.
  • $500 million to implement a Great Lakes Action Plan by establishing a Great Lakes commons framework based on local decision-making and cleaning up areas of concern and priority zones, controlling invasive species, and creating an inventory on pollutants that are not covered by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement or the National Pollutant Release Inventory.
  • $50 million for environmental assessments for energy and mining projects as well as $32 million for an in-depth study of the water effects of tar sands and incorporating public input in the federal reviews on fracking.
  • $2 million annually to reinstate the Experimental Lakes Area.

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