Taking Back One of My Rants

Apr 25, 2024

Every now and again, I use this column to vent some frustrations. Those rants are usually the most popular, bringing the most reaction from readers.  Several months back I expressed my disappointment with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) – suggesting their 5-year review was a waste of time.  But I’m willing to take back my words when I am (happily) proven wrong.

The reality was that, over the first 5 years of the CIB programs, no projects were approved for water or wastewater projects.  The CIB was aware of this and reached out to engage with us as the advocates for the municipal water sector.  We were happy to share our concerns with a few ‘major’ obstacles. The first was simple – municipalities were not eligible – only those with a separate water corporation, like Epcor or Halifax Water, were eligible.  The second issue was that projects needed to be in the $200 million range as a minimum. That eliminated all but the largest projects in the largest cities.  But when the review was completed, the announcement was made that all was fine and nothing needed changing.  Naturally, we were not pleased and I made this known to the CIB and to Infrastructure Canada.

HOWEVER….what the announcement said was that the “legislation” that created the CIB did not need changing.  What they did not say was that there was a lot of room to amend the regulations to address the roadblocks we had noted.  We (myself and Utility Leadership Chair Carl Bodimeade) met first with Infrastructure Canada and then with CIB staff to discover they had taken our input very seriously.  They’d gone away for several months and had come back with a number of key amendments to the regulations.  A lot of the pressure for these amendments are connected to the federal focus on housing and how these CIB programs can support immediate housing development.

First – municipalities and municipal utilities are eligible for all CIB programs.  Second – they recognize water and wastewater services as a key part of housing and they reduced the minimum project size (for housing-related projects) to $50 million.  Then they announced their first water projects involving a coalition of utilities in Manitoba.  In addition, the CIB announced new loan programs with lower interest rates.  We’re still reviewing the details, and there are likely to be some concerns, but this is a huge leap forward and shows the effect we can have as national advocates.   

We are excited to share the details of these programs with you, our membership.  We’ll start with dedicating a session of the Window on Ottawa to the CIB this spring. The Window will be presented as a series of Lunch & Learn Webinars spread through the spring and into the summer.  This was a better way to get critical information out to the membership.  You’ll see details of the Window on Ottawa series in future bulletins and e-blasts.  We also hope to present more details and look at the Manitoba project when we hold the National Conference in Winnipeg this November.

Book now for the World Water Congress & Exhibition!

Don’t forget, the World Water Congress & Exhibition is coming to Toronto this summer, August 11-15.  The Program has been released and registrations are open.  We have coordinated both a Canada Pavilion and a US Pavilion. There are also great technical tours and a family/spousal program.  But the hotels will fill up quickly, so make your plans now. Check it all out at: IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition – Shaping our water future