Canadian Water and Wastewater Association eBulletin

Water Haller: We’re in the Public Attitudes Business

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Our keynote speaker in Banff, Grant Ainsley, made it very clear to all that we are in the public attitudes business. While for years we have gone about quietly providing safe drinking water and making wastewater clean, we are in a very different world now and almost EVERY aspect of our work involves addressing public attitudes.

The public's confidence in their tap water is a serious concern for us all. Incidents such as Walkerton and Flint don’t portray us very well, nor is that a true representation of our profession. But public awareness and questions around lead, manganese, and fluoride can cause some serious doubt in our customers. CWWA continues to respond to the national media and to support you, our members, with relevant materials on these issues so that you can speak to your citizens and local media.  This includes information of the role of the homeowner to cooperate in lead reduction plans. Interest around PFAS (PFOS/PFOA) is growing in the U.S. and will garner a lot of attention with the release of the new film Dark Water. CWWA will leverage our partnerships with WEF, AWWA and NACWA to keep you informed on these issues.

Maintaining a working sewer system means getting the public to think about their actions and to stop using their toilets as garbage cans. This includes efforts around flushable products, hygiene products and medications. On the stormwater front, mitigating flood risk will require significant participation by property owners to "flood proof" their properties with grading, capture and backflow controls.

Then there is the big, overriding issue of infrastructure renewal and the investment that is required. In order to do what we really need to do, we will need public support for the investment required, and the disruption that comes with it. This can only be accomplished through efforts to build the Value of Water amongst Canadians. CWWA is proud to be a sponsoring partner of the campaign to promote tap water and we encourage our member municipalities to come on board. We are considering seeking funding for a new pilot project and looking for some new partners to come on board….so expect a call out from me soon.

Progress within a Minority Government

How long this federal minority situation lasts is anyone’s guess, but it should be very interesting. There will certainly need to be more compromise and middle-ground found between the NDP/Green environmental pressures and the Conservatives' seeming reluctance to the current policies and program proposals. Previous minority governments have accomplished a great deal and we can have hope for a lot from this next session.

I am happy to see Jonathan Wilkinson back with Environment and Climate Change Canada as the new minister. As the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, and then Fisheries Minister in the last session, he is well versed on the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (WSER) and our calls for more flexibility within the regulations. He may also be a less polarizing voice to the provincial/territorial premiers. Meanwhile, the former Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, has shifted to the Infrastructure portfolio and sees this as the practical arm of the environmental campaign. I have been saying for years that the national infrastructure program is not so much about infrastructure as it is seen as a tool for addressing our climate change commitments and support for the Canadian innovation sector. I have not worked with Bill Blair yet, but expect he will carry forward the efforts begun by Ralph Goodale on a national flood risk strategy. 

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!