The Global Assessment of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Services 2000 has provided Canada with a first opportunity to make such a national assessment. Under the Constitution of Canada, responsibility for drinking water supply and sanitation services and standards pertaining thereto falls largely with the jurisdiction of the 10 Provinces and 3 Territories (see the political map of Canada below). These governments have long-standing regulatory programs concerning the design, construction and operation of water and wastewater treatment plants and their respective distribution and collection systems, and the standards for water quality. These programs have resulted in virtually all Canadians being supplied with adequate quantities of high quality potable water on a continuous basis, whether by central or by individual water supply systems. Equally, Canadians are connected to and served by central or individual sanitation systems providing at least a basic level of collection and treatment and, for the majority of urban Canadians, secondary or tertiary treatment services.

The Global Assessment provided the reason to assemble and assess data not normally collected nationally and will certainly provide the basis for future assessments.

Although the Federal Government has limited direct responsibility for water and sanitation standards and related programs, the federal departments of Environment Canada (EC), Health Canada (HC), Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), and Statistics Canada (Stats Can) can and did provide data and guidance in the completion of the Assessment which was undertaken by the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) representing nationally the interests and voice of Canada’s municipal water and wastewater systems.

The Federal Government has a health protection responsibility for the quality and character of drinking water materials used in the treatment and distribution or storage of potable water, and direct jurisdiction for drinking water supply and sanitation services on federal lands (for example, National Parks and National Defence Properties, etc.) and on Canada’s First Nations’ Lands. However, even in these circumstances there is often a concurrency of jurisdiction with the Province or Territory in which the federal or First Nation land is located. To deal with this specific area of federal jurisdiction (First Nations’ Lands), CWWA was assisted by the Real Property Services Unit of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), located within INAC.

Although the establishment of standards and the regulation of drinking water supply and sanitation services is primarily in Provincial or Territorial Government jurisdiction, the nature of the Global Assessment did not require accessing provincial or territorial data sources. However, the agencies concerned with water supply and sanitation were informed of the Global Assessment. Information on Canada’s 10 largest municipalities was obtained by CWWA directly from the municipalities concerned.

Environment Canada and Health Canada, as federal agencies have both general and specific responsibilities respectively for environmental sustainability and health protection. Both of those departments have national data collection programs for research and public awareness related to those national strategies and legislation, policies and other programs intended to ensure environmental sustainability and public health which are integrated with concurrent provincial or territorial legislation, policies and programs. Through the collaborative and partnering arrangements - water quality guidelines for drinking water, wastewater effluents and environmental water quality are developed and implemented which provide the framework for drinking water supply and sanitation service programs and activities at both levels of government and by the operators of drinking water and sanitation systems, whether public (municipal) or private (commercial) or by individual Canadians.

The Federal Government has always played a leadership role in the development of scientific health and environment-based guidelines for water quality. From time to time the Federal Government has also played a cooperative role with the Provinces and Territories in the financing and implementation of water and sanitation infrastructure programs sometimes by funding of public works and employment opportunity programs in the construction of municipal water and sanitation infrastructure, or to meet environmental or public health objectives. The federal contribution, while significant in absolute terms (for example, in the period 1993 to 1998 the amount was in excess of US $1.4 billion), represents only a small proportion of total public investments in municipal infrastructure. The total current asset replacement value has been variously estimated at being between US$100 billions and US$200 billions. Private sector investment in infrastructure is generally small - sometimes associated with the development of industrial towns in remote areas, but otherwise is largely limited to individual investments by Canadians constructing residences or other buildings in areas not served by central systems (generally in rural areas). Such construction is required by provincial public health and environmental standards and regulations to include water and sanitation infrastructure meeting specified standards at the time of construction. Building permit and inspection systems implemented by the municipal level of government, ensure compliance with these standards.

The greatest portion of investment in water and sanitation infrastructure and services has been made by municipal governments from revenues derived from general property taxes or, more normally, from water and sanitation charges which are increasingly moving to the state of full cost pricing. All Provinces and Territories provide funds via transfers to the municipal governments in their jurisdictions, to support certain municipal services. Water and sanitation services have been a significant beneficiary of these transfers which are provided normally to obtain provincially or territorially, the general population and economic benefits of environmental sustainability and public health. In recent years, with increasing attention given to fiscal realities and the need to control both annual deficits and accumulating government debt, reductions in transfer payments from the federal to the provincial and from the provincial or territorial to the municipal level of government have forced changes in the traditional pattern of transfers and infrastructure investment. Nevertheless, as public health and environmental standards and expectations continue to increase in the light of new scientific knowledge, demands for renewed funding support are being made by municipalities of both their respective Provincial or Territorial Government and of the Federal Government to partner in a tri-lateral infrastructure renewal initiative. Currently an initiative led by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is for the Federal Government to include in its budget for the year 2000 and beyond, a Quality of Life program that would see the three levels of government tackle amongst other municipal quality of life issues, some outstanding needs in water and sanitation services, including funding infrastructure renewals or improvements.

Canada - Political Boundaries of Provinces and Territories

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Canada - Political Boundaries of Provinces and Territories
(Capitals and principal cities)

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