A new report shows that the federal government needs to invest more into ending long-term boil water advisories for First Nation communities across the country.
The new report – Clean Water for First Nations: Is the Government Spending Enough? - was created by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and builds off of their 2017 report after a request from Senator Renee Dupuis to examine budget requirements for First Nations water and wastewater systems.
Overall, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has found that the government’s planned spending until 2025-2026 is enough to build the infrastructure needed to end long-term boil water advisories in all First Nation communities in Canada, but the spending isn’t enough to operate or maintain those systems.
The report shows that planned spending from the government will only cover just two-thirds of the funding needed, suggesting an average annual funding gap of $138 million to operate and maintain water and wastewater systems.
As of 2020-2021, all water and wastewater operating and maintenance costs are covered by Indigenous Services Canada. Previously, ISC covered 80 per cent of the costs, with First Nations being responsible for the remainder.
Ottawa committed to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories on First Nation communities by March 31, 2021. While that goal wasn’t reached, the feds did commit an additional $1.5 billion to accelerate their work.
Overall, the federal government says since 2015, over $5.2 billion has been spent to end 119 long-term drinking water advisories on First Nation communities, and Ottawa has funded 584 projects and upgrades.
Still, 43 long-term advisories remain in 31 communities across the country. Northwestern Ontario has the highest concentration of these affected communities in all of Canada, with 22 projects still underway.