With Canada’s federal election less than two months away, more questions are being asked around parties’ environmental policies, and in particular, their policy plans around water.
Under the election spotlight are statistics from Environment Canada that show that at least one trillion litres of untreated wastewater leaked or was dumped between 2013 and 2017, although, because municipalities aren’t required to monitor and report how much untreated waste goes into waterways, no exact figure can be known.
The Conservatives and the Green Party of Canada have both promised to end sewage dumping, although details around how this would occur remain scarce.
In recent news cycles, a private member’s bill introduced by Essex, Ontario, MP Tracey Ramsey in April has been gaining more attention for the New Democratic Party, as part of that bill calls for an evaluation of Canada’s wastewater infrastructure in light of the impact of climate change.
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In the House of Commons on April 9, Ramsey rose to say, “Canada needs a modernized national freshwater strategy. It has been over 20 years since the government established a policy on fresh water, and environmental conditions have changed dramatically since 1987. While Canada has seemingly abundant freshwater resources, very little of it is actually renewable.”
Ramsey recommended a national review and suggested: “The review will work to establish national drinking water standards, ensure that water is protected in international agreements, protect groundwater, evaluate the readiness of water and wastewater infrastructure to handle climate change impacts and reduce eutrophication.”
Additionally, Canadian Water Resources Association President Stephen Braun has echoed Ramsey’s concerns and called for a modernization of the Canada Water Act, originally proclaimed in 1970.
In 2012, the Conservatives set new standards for treating wastewater that take effect between 2020 and 2040 for different types of systems. But heading into the tentatively scheduled October 21 federal election, there has been little mention of policy in terms of infrastructure for drinking water. The Conservatives, however, have released planks around wetland protection and aquatic invasive species in their “A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment” document (Click to download PDF 28mb).
Searching online for “Liberals water” will take web users to the party’s 2015 campaign platform for water. While the Liberals still have not yet released their environment policy planks, they are on record for earmarking $2 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure. Over the last three years, the party has approved $1.5 billion for 1,452 projects that includes everything from new sewers and lagoons to treatment plant upgrades and dam repairs.