The Window that Was
As we look back at the Window on Ottawa event, just two weeks ago, I was going to title this piece “Rear View Window”, but that is the complete opposite of the Window on Ottawa concept. The “Window” is always a reference to the front windshield – looking forward to where the federal government is going with regard to our industry. This year’s event certainly followed that format and perhaps exceeded expectations. You will find a fuller description of the sessions later in this e-Bulletin, but I wanted to highlight a few key discussions from the event.
Our partnership with Water Canada magazine and the Water Canada Summit widened our usual scope and elevated the level of federal official we normally invite. We were most honoured to have welcomed both the Minister of Indigenous Services and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.
Mr. Terry Duguid, MP and Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, has been the government lead for a few years in the development of the new Canada Water Agency. As our opening keynote speaker, Mr. Duguid spoke to the vision for this agency, the government’s key reasons for establishing it, and its initial goals. He was also excited to announce that not only was a budget reconfirmed, but agency leadership and staff have been hired, and a headquarters is being established in Winnipeg. Following the address, I led a fascinating panel discussion with senior ministry staff and key stakeholders (including CWWA) that had been involved in the consultation process. We were able to glean more details on the new agency’s priorities – a review and renewal of the Clean Water Act, a focus on source water protection, and the initiation of a centralized databank of federal research and information on water. As a panel, we discussed our expectations for the agency and shared our high hopes for its success. We recognized that this was a good start – it didn’t solve all jurisdictional issues or first nations concerns, but it was a starting point. The key messages we gave to the ministry were: first, our willingness to support this new federal effort; and second our expectations for continued consultation with the stakeholders.
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister for Indigenous Services, provided our closing lunch keynote. The minister spoke to our shared responsibilities to address the water issues with the First Nations communities across Canada, highlighting the excitement behind the new Atlantic First Nations Water Authority. Her address was followed by a panel discussion, led by Carl Yates, interim CEO of the AFNWA, with key ministry staff, as well as indigenous leaders from the federal and Ontario levels. The panel focused on the new governance model and how it might be replicated (with variations) across the country. I believe these are times of real change.
While our partnership with the Water Canada Summit opened new discussions, we were not able to fit in all of our usual topics into the new format. So a few of the favourites will be presented over the next month as virtual webinars. Later in this e-Bulletin you will see the schedule and details for lunch-and-learn sessions June 21 & 28, July 5 & 12.