HALIFAX, April 15 /CNW Telbec/ - New federal regulations that would require upgrades to municipal wastewater systems and could cost Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) alone some $ 2 billion, are prompting an urgent call from the Atlantic Mayors' Congress (AMC) for a national three-way cost-sharing agreement.
The Mayors are in Halifax for two days of meetings and the federal wastewater regulations topped their agenda.
"We understand the importance of protecting our environment and we support national standards, "said AMC Chair, Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly. "Regulations on their own won't get the job done and the federal government just mailing the bill to our property taxpayers is wrong".
"The bill in Atlantic Canada alone will be in the billions of dollars-clearly, the scope of the task requires all governments to pay their share."
The mayors backed their argument by pointing to a national survey conducted earlier this year by FCM that shows 87 percent of Canadians believe the federal government should pick up its share of the tab when it imposes new rules on municipal governments.
Announced by federal Environment minister Jim Prentice on Feb. 9, the draft regulations were published in the Canada Gazette on March 19, beginning the formal 60-day public comment period.
The regulations were developed in a six-year process begun under the former Liberal government. They were endorsed in February 2009 by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). If adopted, they will create national standards for some 3,500 wastewater facilities, most of which are in need of repair and upgrading, according to the CCME
The figures from the federal government's own Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement that was tabled with the regulations last March show that the new regulations would cost Atlantic Canadian property taxpayers upwards of a billion dollars. But an analysis completed for Halifax Regional Municipality shows a potential cost of over $ 2 billion for Halifax alone.
"If the regulations are adopted without a cost-sharing strategy in place, the federal minister of the environment with the stroke of a pen will add billions to the infrastructure deficit in our communities and billions to our residents' tax bills," said Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee.
A major 2007 Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) study set the national municipal infrastructure deficit at $123 billion. The study also revealed "sub-deficits," in various classes of infrastructure with water and wastewater systems needing $31 billion--before these new regulations.
Municipalities build and repair over half of Canada's infrastructure, and virtually all of its water and sewage systems. At the same time, municipalities on average continue to receive just eight cents of every tax dollar collected in Canada, with the other 92 cents going to federal, provincial, and territorial governments.
"We're talking about a once-in-a-generation overhaul of an essential service - exactly the kind of project governments need to cost-share, added Mayor Kelly. "The only way we're going to meet this challenge is if revenues are shared more equitably".
The mayors announced that they plan to ask every Atlantic Canadian MP and provincial government to support a cost shared strategy and plan to work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) which today launched a national survey to determine the cost to property tax payers of the federal regulations.
SOURCE ATLANTIC MAYORS' CONGRESS
For further information: For further information: Mayor Peter Kelly, (902) 490-4010