One of the key promises the Ontario government wanted to keep before this election was to implement all of the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry. And, indeed, the government now proudly announces that it has done just that. However, there has been no progress on one of the statutes that was supposed to implement the Inquiry recommendations, the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act, 2002.
The MOE used to brag:
The Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act, 2002 helps ensure clean, safe drinking water for Ontario residents by making it mandatory for municipalities to assess and cost-recover the full amount of water and sewer services. It is also another indication of the government’s commitment to implement all recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry.
But now, it appears, the government has quietly decided that it doesn’t need this heavy-handed statute after all. On September 1st, the Ontario Gazette contained a new “Financial Plans” regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, O.Reg. 453/07. This regulation takes a much simpler approach to full cost pricing of water and sewage services.
Instead of the SWSSA’s intense micromanaging and requirements for detailed provincial approval, this regulation simply requires municipalities to create and approve their own financial plans. The plans must be public and must ensure that each water system will be properly funded over the next six years:
2. …1. The financial plans must be approved by a resolution that indicates that the drinking-water system is financially viable and that is passed by,
i. the council of the municipality,…
2. The financial plans,
i. must include a statement that the financial impacts of the drinking-water system have been considered, and
ii. must apply for a period of at least six years.
4. …the financial plans must include details of the proposed or projected financial operations of the drinking-water system itemized by,
i. total revenues, further itemized by water rates, user charges and other revenues,
ii. total expenses, further itemized by amortization expenses, interest expenses and other expenses,
iii. annual surplus or deficit, and
iv. accumulated surplus or deficit.
5. The owner of the drinking-water system must,
…ii. make the financial plans available to members of the public without charge through publication on the Internet ….
6. The owner of the drinking-water system must give a copy of the financial plans to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.