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BUDGET 2019 AND LONG-TERM DRINKING WATER ADVISORIES IN FIRST NATION COMMUNITIES
By Cori Marshall
Spring has arrived, and with it so has the federal budget. Since forming government following the 2015 election, the Liberal government have made investments aimed at improving access and quality of drinking water in First Nations Communities.
WaterToday wanted to look at how Budget 2019 builds on previous initiatives. We contacted the Department of Finance Canada for more information.
A statement issued by a finance official said that "Budget 2019 proposes to invest an additional $739 million over five years, beginning in 2019-20, with $184 million per year ongoing. The 2109 investment is to "support urgent repairs to vulnerable water systems and provide water operator training and support programs, so that First Nations communities can effectively operate and maintain their public drinking water systems."
Monica Poirier, Communications Officer for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), said the new money "will help some First Nations get off of BWAs and may reduce the possibility of them going back on."
The proposed allocations in Budget 2019 builds on the money that the government has invested dating back to 2016. Budget 2016 set aside $1.8 billion over five years for water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as, $141.7 million over five years for monitoring and testing. Last year the budget added $172.6 million over three years to continue to improve access to clean drinking water.
Poirier said that "the current government has been diligent in addressing the Prime Minister's commitment to end all DWAs by 2021." The communications officer underlined that "more can be done to address the water and wastewater infrastructure, long term sustainability of operations and maintenance, training, recruitment and retention of operators and public works staff."
Poirier said that the money "goes a long way", but that "it does not adequately address First Nations communities that rely solely on wells and septic systems."
Rola Tfaili, Media Relations Indigenous Services Canada, said "the Government of Canada is on track to meet its commitment." Tfaili highlighted that since November 2015 and March 2019 the number of long-term DWAs "on public systems on reserve declined from 105 to 59."
"Over this period, 81 long-term drinking water advisories were lifted, one was deactivated, and 36 were added," Tfaili said. She highlighted that the "liftings are significant" and are the result of government and First Nation collaboration. ISC intends to continue the partnerships with First Nations in the future.
The goal is to "support sustainable First Nations-led approaches to addressing new and ongoing drinking water advisories and other infrastructure and system operation needs." The investment is so that the communities themselves can address water issues before they are listed as long-term advisories.
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