December 7th, 2017

PBO: Liberals Failing to Provide Proper Resources to End Water Crisis on Reserves

OTTAWA – Today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has raised serious concerns about the Prime Minister’s commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories on reserves within 5 years. The PBO’s report, entitled Budget Sufficiency for First Nations Water and Wastewater Infrastructure,found that in the best-case scenario, the Liberal government would need to invest an additional $2.35 billion to meet its promise.

“This report raises many red flags. The Prime Minister made a firm commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories on reserve. It’s clear he hasn’t allocated the funds to keep this promise,” said NDP Indigenous Affairs (youth) Critic, Charlie Angus. “In particular, the chronic underfunding of operations and maintenance will cause more long-term problems for existing water and sewage facilities. Access to clean water is a fundamental right. It is time the government got serious about this.”

The total existing deficit in capital infrastructure and operations and maintenance money is at least $671 million and could be up to $3.5 billion between now and 2021 under conservative assumptions. The real figure could be higher than $5 billion, with the government potentially committed to only 50% of the total costs towards their goal. Disturbingly, the report also highlighted that nearly 73% of the water systems on reserve are listed by INAC as high or medium risk and yet, every year for the last five years, Health Canada has failed to spend 30% of the funding allocated for the Drinking Water Safety Program.

“The crisis in unsafe water puts lives at risk on a daily basis. How is it possible that Health Canada is sitting on money that should be used in the field to test and ensure the safety of drinking water on reserve?” asked NDP Indigenous Affairs Critic Romeo Saganash. “Our communities cannot wait any longer. The Prime Minister must immediately change course and ensure proper funding is allocated to end long-term drinking water advisories.”