Government Relations and Advocacy
One of the major reasons we exist as an association is to be your advocate for the municipal water & wastewater utilities. Our focus is at the national level of course, and sometimes at an international level. We would rarely get involved at the provincial level, leaving that advocacy for the provincial/regional associations. But I’ve been invited twice recently to talk to provincial committees dealing with government affairs, and have discussed provincial policy and legislation with every one of our regional partners – learning what the priorities, how they relate to federal legislation or guidelines, and how we might work cooperatively as a federation of provincial associations. It has been interesting to see how each provincial association communicates with their provincial regulators and how they approach advocacy. As we prepare for dramatic changes to the national guidelines for lead, we will need to work with the provincial associations, to work with their provincial regulators, on exactly how the guidelines will be adopted and enforced in each jurisdiction.
CWWA is driven by its Goals or what we refer to as our Ends Policies that give very general direction from the Board to the staff. End Policy 1 is: "Canada’s water industry has an integrated and positive legislative and policy environment." The key word is ‘positive’, and we interpret this as our direction to promote ‘positive’ and ‘sensible legislation and policies. We are your advocates to review and comment on draft policies and programs and draft legislation. So stepping that back a little, the most important part of this effort is to develop and maintain relationships. It is critical that we know which ministry is doing what and who the best contact is for any issue. Just as importantly, we need all the federal policymakers to know who we are at CWWA – so if they are seeking input, they know who to call upon. Then based on the topic, we can activate the best CWWA members to assist us. While Kara Parisien and I participate in the relationship building, most of the responsibility lies with our Director of Government Relations, Adrian Toth. Adrian’s experience and respect has allowed him to build vast networks and contacts throughout the federal government, ministries and agencies, as well as international contacts.
We at CWWA recognize that we are not alone on this advocacy front and work very closely with our national partners at organizations like the FCM, CWN, SOWQ, WaterTAP, FLOW and many more.
On an international level, we work directly with the leadership of WEF, AWWA and NACWA in the US and, with our partners at the Canadian Association for Water Quality (CAWQ), we are the governing members for the International Water Association (IWA) in Canada. Most recently, we have been a major force in the creation of the International Wastewater Services Flushability Group (IWSFG) addressing the problems of wipes and other non-flushables.
So back to these provincial associations and their advocacy efforts. The provincial level is actually where most policy and legislation concerning water and wastewater comes from, but these provincial associations do not have the staffing levels to address this full-time. So they rely on their dedicated volunteers. I’ve been speaking to regional associations about dividing up departments amongst their volunteers so they can build personal relationships and build awareness of their local association.
When it comes to the national guidelines for lead, we will all have to work together to educate the provincial governments of our concerns. While we all support the reduction of lead levels, the cutting in half of the maximum allowable concentrations (MAC) of lead will hand us the toughest guidelines in the world. But of greater concern are the changes to the sampling protocols. CWWA is working to develop a national position on lead and working with the AWWA sections in Canada to educate our shared members. The next step is to work with the provincial adopters of these guidelines so that they recognize the timelines and financing that will be required by municipalities. We all want to get to the new targets, but do not want to be perceived as suddenly being out of compliance. As we say with everything about lead..."it’s complicated"...so we need to work collaboratively to achieve the goals and maintain customer confidence at all times.