Canadians must start paying more for water: Conference Board

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In its report card on Canada’s environmental performance, the Conference Board of Canada assigns a “C” for water withdrawals, ranking the country 15 out of 16 in the developed world. It attributes Canada’s excessive withdrawals in part to “water pricing that does not promote efficiency.” Continue reading

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Pricing missing from Ontario water strategy

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In its new Water Sector Strategy, Ontario aims to promote public-private partnerships for water infrastructure, encourage alternative financing models, nurture the water technology sector, and increase water conservation. But the Strategy is missing a key piece of the puzzle: full-cost pricing. Continue reading

Minister Bradley take note: We can’t be complacent

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West Elgin’s mayor warned against complacency after discovering incompetence and deceit in his municipality’s water distribution system. Ontario’s environment minister should heed the mayor’s warning. Continue reading

Echoes of Walkerton: West Elgin water improperly treated, records falsified, operator jailed

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An Ontario court has fined the Municipality of West Elgin and three of its water distribution system operators a total of $193,125 for failing to maintain and document adequate chlorine levels in drinking water. The court has also sentenced the lead operator to 30 days in jail. Continue reading

Undue influence?

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A new Polaris Institute report documents a “staggering” rate of lobbying by Canada’s petroleum industry. Do environmentalists and other concerned citizens stand a chance? Continue reading

BC think-tanks call for conservation-oriented water pricing

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A report from the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives warns of an approaching water crisis and recommends pricing water to encourage its conservation and re-use. Continue reading

Power to the people

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Several recent surveys have revealed that Canadians distrust federal politicians, feel they have little in common with them, and doubt they are equipped to address important issues facing the country. These findings confirm the importance of Environment Probe’s work to empower individuals and communities. Continue reading

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

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

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