It’s time for a new Federal Infrastructure Program

Aug 3, 2023

I know…it’s seems no matter how much money the federal government allots for infrastructure programs, it’s not enough.  But municipal infrastructure has a limited lifespan, is expensive to replace, and Canada’s tax structure really doesn’t support us to handle it all on our own.

I remember when I started with CWWA, 11 years ago, the government of the day announced $10 billion for a 10 year infrastructure program – with no targets and never were the words “water” or “wastewater” ever mentioned.  The current government came in with a bold $100 billion infrastructure plan with clear targets for water and for First Nations.  Funds were primarily provided through the Investing in Canada’s Infrastructure Program, but those funds have now all been allocated.

We get a solid sense that the federal government knows that its job is not finished and that a new program (or programs) are required…soon.  Over the past few years, there has been significant attention at the federal level to collect data on infrastructure, including data collection within Infrastructure Canada and Statistics Canada – while Natural Resources Canada is conducting surveys on the relationship between infrastructure and energy consumption (we hope to share all this research at the National Conference in Niagara in November). There has also been a federal focus on source water protection as seen in the working of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment and the creation of the Canada Water Agency.

Infrastructure Canada is currently conducting stakeholder engagement and CWWA has been one of those key stakeholders, speaking for our municipal utility sector, as well as direct interviews with our members. At the same time, the Canada Infrastructure Bank is conducting it’s first 5 year review and they are ‘trying’ to figure out how these programs can be more relevant to the water sector. Our submissions are available on the website.

As I write this column, all the news is about an expected major shuffle of the federal cabinet and a refocus of the government’s priorities for the next year leading toward an election.  The ‘economy’ is expected to be priority #1 – so our job is to make sure they recognize the critical role that efficient water and wastewater systems play in a healthy economy and the importance of investments into our infrastructure to ensure reliable utilities and the growth of our water innovation sector.

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