Take back the environment!

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In the last year, we have witnessed an unprecedented roll-back of environmental regulation across Canada. Federal and provincial governments alike have reduced their oversight of polluting industries and weakened citizens’ rights to protect themselves and their environment. The systematic weakening of environmental regulation has created a vacuum that needs to be filled. But we don’t simply need new regulations. We need a better process – one that returns environmental protection to affected citizens. Continue reading

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Can public utilities be accountable?

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Manitoba regulators have charged Winnipeg for polluting the Red River and for failing to report the pollution. In explaining the decision to prosecute, the province cited the need for accountability. But if the city can pass fines along to taxpayers or water customers, is it really accountable for its errors? Continue reading

Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom

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Adapted from the guest blog below, this op-ed in the National Post throws cold water on the Council of Canadians’ Blue Communities campaign. Essie Solomon argues that municipalities would be ill-advised to ban bottled water sales, reject privately funded and operated water systems, and deem water a human right. Continue reading

The flawed logic behind Blue Communities

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In this guest blog, Essie Solomon argues that municipalities that become Blue Communities do a disservice to their residents and the environment. Continue reading

Private insurance reduces environmental accidents

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The current edition of Regulation magazine has an interesting article about the role of legal liability in protecting the environment. The authors document the decline in leaks from underground fuel tanks when gas stations are required to carry private clean-up and liability insurance. The price structure for such insurance, they explain, “gives tank owners economic incentives to invest in equipment that reduces the chance of accidental fuel tank leaks.” Continue reading

Ontario’s drinking water: Should you really be confident?

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In his latest report, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector urges readers to have confidence in the quality of their drinking water. But such confidence may be unwarranted. More than a third of Ontario’s municipal systems failed at least one water quality test in the last year. More than a third failed to obtain perfect facility inspection ratings. And almost 60 percent experienced “adverse water quality incidents.” Continue reading

Holding Frackers Accountable for Groundwater Pollution: An Analysis of Canada’s Liability Regimes for Hydraulic Fracturing

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This paper, by Adam Shedletzky, focuses on the legal provisions governing groundwater pollution due to fracking for shale gas. It examines the liability regimes (statutory and common-law) in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. It concludes with recommendations for strengthening the regulatory regime to enhance frackers’ incentives to take care and to ensure that those who are adversely affected by fracking can be “made whole.” Continue reading

Federal and provincial taxpayers to subsidize sewage treatment in Victoria

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The governments of Canada and BC have announced that they will foot almost two-thirds of the bill for a new sewage treatment system for Victoria. Such subsidies are inequitable, inefficient, and unnecessary. Continue reading

Debunking the myth of public-sector accountability

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Those who advocate purely public water and sewage utilities warn that private financing and operation impede transparency, diminish accountability, and undermine government regulation. They have it backwards: Public utilities have repeatedly shown themselves to be un-transparent and un-accountable. Continue reading

Transparency in P3s: disclosure v. confidentiality

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Last week, a legislative committee considering Manitoba’s Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act heard arguments on both the importance of public access to information and the need to protect industry’s confidential information. Continue reading

Mandating transparency … or killing P3s?

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In May, the Manitoba government introduced The Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act. Ostensibly intended to ensure transparency, it may instead hamstring municipalities that want to pursue public-private partnerships. Continue reading

Water regulator calls for greater transparency and accountability

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Concerned about fairness and transparency, Manitoba’s Public Utilities Board is recommending that it regulate the rates charged by Winnipeg’s water and sewer utilities. Continue reading

Factory farms erode democratic rights

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In a new report examining the impacts of factory farming, the World Society for the Protection of Animals explains that right-to-farm laws have curtailed the rights of rural residents to be free of agricultural pollution. The authors bolster their arguments with quotes from Greener Pastures: Decentralizing the Regulation of Agricultural Pollution. Continue reading

Environmental assessments don’t protect the environment: Bruce Pardy

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Last week, as most environmentalists bemoaned the federal government’s decision to streamline environmental assessments, one expert shed no tears. Bruce Pardy, professor of environmental law at Queen’s University and member of Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal, told CBC Radio that “environmental assessment is not a great way to protect the environment.” Continue reading

Modest growth in US water industry

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In its annual Water Partnerships Report, Public Works Financing assesses the state of the US water and wastewater services industry. The country’s six largest water and wastewater firms now operate, maintain, and/or manage 720 water facilities and 939 wastewater facilities in 1,319 municipalities. Continue reading

Pricing water to encourage conservation

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On World Water Day, Elizabeth Brubaker argues for full-cost water pricing. Full-cost prices give water users financial incentives to conserve, while maintaining their freedom to use water in the ways that are most important to them. Continue reading

Trew or False? Do trade agreements threaten our water systems?

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Council of Canadians campaigner Stuart Trew is warning that a free trade agreement between Canada and Europe would threaten Canada’s municipal water systems. The proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, he claims, would lock in bad deals with private water service providers and lock out regulatory improvements. Mr. Trew’s claims are false. Continue reading

$1.2B in Sewage Treatment Upgrades for Winnipeg

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Water Canada reports that Winnipeg needs to find $1.2 billion for upgrades to its sewage treatment facilities. The article cites Environment Probe’s criticism of Winnipeg’s agreement with Veolia Water – an agreement that guarantees no private investment in the ailing sewage facilities. Continue reading

Drummond Report calls for full-cost water pricing

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The Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services – chaired by economist Don Drummond – is calling for full-cost pricing for municipal water and wastewater services. The Commission also gives a nod to the private financing of municipal infrastructure. Continue reading

Privatizing water services

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CBC Radio’s “The Current” turns its attention to privatizing water and sewage services, engaging Environment Probe’s Elizabeth Brubaker and several others in a lively discussion about what greater private-sector involvement could mean for Canada. Continue reading