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March 31, 2016

Federal Budget is VERY good for water - Robert Haller, CWWA

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During the last Infrastructure Roundtables in 2013, we suggested that, "an infrastructure plan had to be more than just another grant program." When we argued for infrastructure support before the previous federal government, we asked for water to be identified as a priority and suggested that asset management be a prerequisite. We expressed concerns for the short-term nature of grant programs and the competitive municipal race to get the funds. We called for programs to support smaller communities to move toward eventual self-sufficiency. We had asked that a more long range vision be developed that recognized economic impact and encouraged innovation. We also asked for funds to be directly targeted to First Nations communities. That government announced $10 billion over 10 years and set no priorities. If they ever gave examples, they mentioned roads and bridges and transit...never water.

Now I don’t want to sound like a Liberal Party cheerleader, but it is hard to complain about this budget if you are in the water/wastewater sector. This government seems to have hit on all our points. Now, we are hearing $60 billion for infrastructure with $20 billion of that targeted to green infrastructure – with water and wastewater repeatedly cited as high priorities. The budget clearly speaks to asset management and developing community capacity. It addresses deferred maintenance and optimization in Phase 1 – allowing time to develop a longer term strategy for the mega projects in 2018. It supports science, research and innovation and throughout, it recognizes the economic importance of the water/wastewater sector and clean technology in Canada.  I even like the thought process that seems to be behind this new infrastructure Minister Sohi stated, projects need to be "shovel-worthy, not just shovel- ready."   

It’s probably easier to use bullets to provide the highlights:
  • $60 billion overall over 10 years
    • $20 billion for transit
    • $20 billion for social housing
    • $20 billion for green infrastructure (water/wastewater)
  • Phase 1 - $5 billion over 5 years
    • To ‘modernize and rehabilitate’
    • To protect existing infrastructure from the effects of climate change
    • Focus is on addressing deferred maintenance and optimization projects to prolong the life of existing 

  • Infrastructure Phase 2 - $15 billion in years 3-10
    • "goals are broader and more ambitious"
    • "a more modern cleaner economy"
    • Available for new projects
    • Developing criteria for approval (worthiness)

  • Funding to FCM
    • $125 million to continue the Green Municipal Fund
    • $75 million for climate change projects
    • $50 million for Developing Community Capacity 

  • Continuing previous funding programs
    • $3 billion/year to municipalities from Federal Gas Tax
    • Still $9 billion in the Building Canada Fund

  • WSER support
    • The budget speaks to the high-risk wastewater facilities that will require upgrades by 2020 to meet stronger federal environmental regulations.  
    • Establishing a new Clean Water & Wastewater Fund
      • $2 billion over 4 years
      • Federal government working on a ‘expedited basis’ and can contribute up to 50% on project costs
  • First Nations
    • $1.8 billion targeted directly at ending boil water orders on reserves

  • The Innovation Agenda with these goals:
    • Strengthening Science and Research
      • funds directed to universities and colleges
    • Strengthening Innovation Networks and Clusters
      • support for our water networks
    • Supporting Innovations companies
      • great news for the private sector

There is an overwhelming sense of optimism in the budget and in the words of the Prime Minister and the Minister of infrastructure and Communities. Some of my favourite quotes from the budget:
"Water and wastewater infrastructure is essential to keeping our waterways clean and our communities healthy and livable."

"Investment in this fund (Clean Water and Wastewater Fund) will improve the safety and quality of water for Canadian families, while supporting job creation and a clean growth economy."
"Canada will be propelled by its creative and entrepreneurial citizens, its leading science and technology, its excellent innovation infrastructure and it globally competitive companies."  
"The use of  "evidence-based decision-making"
  • "support of state-of-the-art infrastructure technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing assets" 
  • "Building a More Innovative build Canada as a centre of global innovation." 
The budget document is not that long.  You can easily read through it yourself here:  

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