21 September 2009

Tory waste-water policy will punish taxpayers: cities

From the National Post.

So, let's see. These same municipalities, like Toronto, are willing to spend money placating al-CUPE terrorists by paying them salaries and benefits way out of whack with what the normal rate in the private sector is, yet they don't have enough of our money (as that's where it comes from - you and me!) to actually provide clean drinking water. But, his blondeness, the soon to be unemployed David Miller, doesn't want to allow people in the city to have bottled water, because the water here is SOOOOO good. Have a look at the picture below Dave, the water ain't so great. If you hadn't buckled to your al-CUPE brethren, we might be able to drink the water. Unfortunately, I think you've been drinking too much of the Kool-Aid...

Tory waste-water policy will punish taxpayers: cities

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tory waste-water policy will punish taxpayers: cities

Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service

http://a123.g.akamai.net/f/123/12465/1d/www.nationalpost.com/0920-wastewater.jpg Tyler Anderson/National Post

OTTAWA -- The Harper government's plan to clean up waste-water infrastructure could have a "destructive impact" on cities, leading to major property tax hikes and service cuts that could jeopardize Canada's economic recovery, this country's municipalities are warning.

In a scathing letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, obtained by Canwest News Service, the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities wrote that he was "deeply concerned" about the lack of funding for proposed federal standards on water pollution that are expected this fall. The cities estimate they would need $12-billion over the next 20 years to meet the new regulations.

"In the absence of a sustainable national funding plan, paying for these regulations will fall on the backs of property-tax payers," wrote Basil Stewart, mayor of Summerside, P.E.I., in the letter, sent Friday. "This is off-loading, pure and simple."

Internal documents released last year by Environment Canada said that pollution from waste-water systems in communities across the country were putting human and environmental health at risk. The federal department estimated the municipalities would need at least $10-billion to $20-billion in investments over the next two decades to clean up the facilities with a long-term funding plan to reduce pollution.

Municipalities have maintained this only represents a fraction of an estimated $123-billion required to bring all infrastructure, including roads, public transit and waste-management facilities, up to acceptable levels. Mr. Stewart suggested that part of this shortfall is a direct result of choices made by previous governments to balance their books.

"It is reminiscent of the 1990s, when federal, provincial and territorial governments pushed deficits off of their balance sheets and into local streets, fuelling growth in the $123-billion municipal infrastructure deficit," he wrote. "Without a national funding plan, the new standards will add at least 10 per cent to that figure with the stroke of a pen."

Several ministers in the Harper government, including Environment Minister Jim Prentice, have touted its existing infrastructure funding, including the Building Canada Fund, to respond to the needs of municipalities. But Mr. Stewart said there is simply not enough money left to cover waste-water planning, since much of the funding has already gone toward a wide range of projects.

"The fund has neither the focus, nor the money to underwrite a multi-billion dollar overhaul of the nation's waste water facilities," said the letter.

The municipalities have also noted recent studies by research groups such as the Conference Board of Canada, as well as the Federal Competition Policy Review Panel, which warned that the rising infrastructure deficit is damaging Canada's productivity and quality of life.

"Canadians have seen the destructive impact of off-loading where they live and work -- they don't want to go back," wrote Mr. Stewart. "As we emerge from the global recession, and confront a new wave of federal deficits, they want to hear that the federal government will not rely on off-loading to pay for national waste-water standards or other national objectives."

Mr. Stewart said the solution is to develop a national plan that requires all levels of government to share the costs of upgrades to waste-water infrastructure.

"Canadians understand that off-loading is no way to protect our environment, build our communities, or strengthen our economy," he wrote. "We have been there and it does not work. Let's not go back."

Mayors and city officials said they were also concerned about being forced to raise property taxes since they are not tied to income and can penalize lower-income households versus wealthier Canadians.

Charles Pender, the mayor of Corner Brook, N.L., said his own town of about 20,000 people could be forced to increase taxes by as much as 30% and cut other services if it does not get new funding to cover between $50-million to $65-million in construction costs.

He's also concerned the federal government will impose fines or penalties for the communities that are not able to meet the standards.

"You can't bankrupt communities, big or small, across the country in order to satisfy regulations that the federal government is imposing upon us, without providing at the same time the funding by which we could actually meet the regulations," Mr. Pender said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

On Vancouver Island, municipalities have estimated they need to spend more than $1.2-billion to make upgrades required to meet new federal regulations, which would result in a property-tax hike between $200 to $700 per household even with a fund-sharing arrangement requiring each level of government to contribute one-third of the costs. Without any cost sharing, the municipalities estimate the tax bill could rise by more than $2,000.

"It is an onerous way to fund these types of initiatives," said Judy Brownoff, a councillor for the municipality of Saanich, B.C. "It could [take away] any opportunity for communities to provide other capital improvements for years to come."

Transportation Minister John Baird has said his focus is on getting billions of dollars worth of federal stimulus money out the door for infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy. Government officials have said they are prepared to look at other requests for funding at the end of the existing round of spending.

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