Water Haller: It’s a lot busier in Ottawa these days!
There is certainly a lot going on in Ottawa these days, most of it from the new government, but a lot of it is just the regular flow of affairs.
Of course, the biggest news is the Federal Budget. The Liberal Government’s second budget was released March 22nd, overshadowing World Water Day, but with good news. Pundits complain there is no new spending, while last year they said there was too much spending – go figure? I read this budget as reconfirming their commitment to infrastructure, innovation and climate change. They make a lot of reference to innovation as well as to clean water and managing wastewater. The BIG announcements all came out in the 2016 budget committing billions to infrastructure, including over $20 billion to "green" infrastructure which includes water and wastewater. Our full review of the budget will go out to members later this week once we get through the full analysis and reviews. We are still sorting out how Phase 2 will roll out...and we’ll make sure you know when we do.
Public Attitudes play a big part of this budget. While it focuses on the middle class, recent surveys show strong support for investments in infrastructure, addressing climate change and protecting the environment. The 10th version of the RBC Water Attitudes Survey was released just days before the budget, but can certainly be interpreted as showing public support for the actions of the government. I have acted as the municipal advisor to the RBC Survey and proud to be our spokesman on these issues. The full results will be presented in a live webinar on April 11th at 11:00 am. We will get the connection details to you soon! We were also working with WEF and AWWA in preparing some Canadian fun materials for World Water Day.
Meanwhile, Health Canada has proposed some major changes to the guidelines for lead. Not only have they proposed cutting permissible lead levels in half, they propose changes to the sampling procedures that concern us. Working with our CWWA Drinking Water Committee, AWWA and Canadian academics, we submitted a response to Health Canada. While we support the reduction and elimination of lead in our systems, we are concerned for how these changes will be implemented. We will all need time and funding to comply and want that made clear to all when these changes are made.
Our work with Public Safety Canada and Dalhousie University continues. Our survey addresses security and resiliency and will lead to new national programs. We encourage all to respond to this survey request from Dalhousie. General results of the confidential survey should be ready for the National Water & Wastewater Conference in November.
We finally got our CWWA Utility Leadership Committee formed this month with a mission to look at all those management issues like infrastructure, pricing models, human resources and more. Great thanks to Carl Bodimeade’s leadership and offer to serve as our first Committee Chair.
Lastly – some great financial news. For the record, CWWA ended 2016 with a surplus of $108,000. We have been working hard to develop better revenue strategies that would move us from a break-even budget to building some reasonable reserves that can ensure our stability and then fund new projects. The 2016 is a combination of a great national conference, new contract revenues and some serious cost-cutting.