The Green Budget Coalition recommends that Canada make an historic investment of $1.21 billion over five years in the Freshwater Action Plan to improve water quality, manage water quantity, and protect and restore aquatic biodiversity through watershed and in-water actions. Investments should be targeted to actions that the science indicates are most likely to improve the state of the aquatic environment and that have been prioritized in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and through consultation with stakeholders.
The management and stewardship of Canada’s freshwater environments is one of the great challenges of our time. Pressures on freshwater environments are mounting and compounding due to growing populations, increasing demand for food and energy, expanded natural resource extraction, growing urban areas, and the changes in precipitation and temperature resulting from climate change.
Stewardship and management of freshwater to sustain biodiversity and people into the future must address three interconnected dimensions: water quantity, water quality, and aquatic habitat. Due to shared jurisdiction and multiple overlapping interests, the management of freshwater environments requires a shared responsibility approach between all levels of government that sets out a holistic management framework. This shared, pan-Canadian approach needs to strengthen cooperative federalism, advance reconciliation, and cultivate a watershed approach.
As one step in developing a renewed pan-Canadian approach to freshwater management, the Canada Water Agency should be stood-up as a separate Government of Canada Agency reporting to a Minister like Parks Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada to carry out its stated objectives of ensuring federal policies and programs promote effective management and protection of freshwater resources and ecosystems in Canada for 21st century challenges and beyond, including adapting to climate change.
The federal government plays a direct role in the drinking water and wastewater treatment services for First Nations. As part of the government’s responsibility for freshwater management, it must ensure that First Nations have access to safe and effective drinking water and wastewater systems. This includes upholding Canada’s commitment to repeal the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, and to develop and introduce new replacement legislation in collaboration with First Nations by the end of 2022.
Total Recommended Investment:
$1.21 billion over five years, plus any additional funds required for Indigenous peoples and governments to meaningfully engage in freshwater protection and management.
- Funding for ECCC to renew the 1987 Federal Water Policy in collaboration with the provinces, territories, and Indigenous peoples. The renewed policy would guide renewal of the Canada Water Act and establish a framework for collaboration on the management of water quality, water quantity, and aquatic habitat.
$5 million over two years [ECCC]
- Capacity for Indigenous peoples to engage in watershed planning, integrated planning for aquatic habitat protection, and water governance, building on models such as DFO’s Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management program.
Necessary funding to be determined in collaboration with Indigenous peoples and governments. $250 million over five years as an estimated starting point [ECCC, ISC]
- Renew the Freshwater Action Plan to improve water quality, manage water quantity, and protect aquatic biodiversity through watershed and in-water actions starting with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System, Lake Simcoe, and the Lake Winnipeg Basin. Investments should be targeted to actions that the science indicates are most likely to improve the state of the aquatic environment and that have been prioritized in collaboration with Indigenous peoples and through consultation with stakeholders.
- $500 million over five years in new investments in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to address nutrient loading and reduce bacteriological contamination from sewer overflows by implementing actions prioritised and costed in the Great Lakes St. Collaborative’s Action Plan 2020-2030. Together with additional investments in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund proposed in the fish habitat protection recommendation (next in this document) as well as investments in remediation of the Areas of Concern, this would create a Canadian program that responds to the $2.1 billion USD invested by the United States from 2022 to 2026 in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. [ECCC]
- $150 million over five years to reduce nutrient loading from the Red River and South Saskatchewan River Basins to Lake Winnipeg. [ECCC]
- $30 million over five years to continue efforts to protect and restore Lake Simcoe and its watershed. [ECCC]
- Expand the Freshwater Action Plan to include other priority watersheds.
- $75 million over five years to build on the BC Watershed Security Fund to address water quantity and quality challenges and improve freshwater environments for Pacific salmon and steelhead in the Fraser River Basin and other priority watersheds (coordinate this funding with the Pacific Salmon Strategy Lawrence Initiative). [ECCC]
- $200 million over five years to develop action in plans and begin implementation in other priority watersheds including the St. John River, Lake of the Woods, the Mackenzie River Basin, and others. [ECCC]