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July 24, 2014

Discussions between Infrastructure Canada and CWWA

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A meeting between Infrastructure Canada staff and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association was organized on July 15. The new Director of Policy, Stephanie Tanton, invited CWWA Executive Director Robert Haller and Manager of Government Relations Adrian Toth to their Ottawa offices. Stephanie and her team were seeking the views and perspectives of CWWA on priorities, existing gaps, pressures and innovative approaches to the municipal water and wastewater infrastructure challenges.

This was a great "get to know water" session.  We started out discussing how the Minister and Ministry seem to always speak to transit and bridges, sometimes roads and then "other." Our hope was that if they better understood the issues in the water/wastewater sector, they might be more confident to speak to it and promote it as a priority sector.

We went through the issues of aging infrastructure, chronic underfunding and lack of reserves, population pressures, climate change and more. We spoke about our concepts and asked their support to help transition communities away from a dependency on grants toward long term solutions and self-sustainable communities. The promotion of asset management and recognition of full life-cycle costs, water pricing and affordability, innovation and energy efficiency were part of the discussion. We also looked for the promotion of new technologies and support for projects that not only replace old infrastructure but also address climate change and/or energy issues.

We talked a lot about the positive elements of P3’s that promote innovation, risk management and solid maintenance plans, but how P3’s are not an option for medium and small communities – so how do we create a hybrid of loans/grants that can also introduce the best concepts from a P3 model?

They still had our submission to the Infrastructure Roundtable in their hands and were very interested in our positive approach to long term solutions with asset management, priority setting and innovation. We feel the meeting established a solid bridge of communication and paved the road to a better collaboration between our organizations. But we told them we won’t be happy until Minister Lebel mentions "water and wastewater" when he speaks to infrastructure challenges and the priorities for the Building Canada Fund.


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