Blog: Freshwater Highlights From Budget 2022

On April 7, 2022, the Government of Canada released the budget for 2022-2023, “A Plan to Grow Our Economy and Make Life More Affordable.”

The budget contains several proposals and updates on federal freshwater programs. Highlights include: clean drinking water for First Nations communities, freshwater protections, and monitoring of plastic waste in water systems.

Clean Drinking Water for First Nations Communities

In the “Clean Drinking Water and Better Infrastructure for First Nations Communities” section of Budget 2022, the federal government repeats its commitment to “working with First Nations communities to support sustainable access to safe drinking water.”

The Budget provides an update on progress made to-date on long-term drinking water advisories. It states that 79% of advisories have been lifted, 7% of projects are completed and advisories are due to be lifted, 12% of projects are under construction, 1% of projects are in the design phase, and 1% are in the feasibility study phase. This progress report flows from a 2015 commitment to end all long-term drinking water advisories affecting federally funded water systems by 2021.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

Budget 2022 affirms the federal government’s previous commitment to repeal and replace the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act.

CELA supports this commitment and will continue to provide whatever assistance is helpful, particularly around our expertise in Source Water Protection, to replace the current legislation.

Atlantic First Nations Water Authority

One of the most exciting developments on freshwater is Budget 2022’s commitment of $173.2-million over 10 years to “support the transfer of water and wastewater services in 17 communities to the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority.” CELA is pleased to see First Nations-led drinking water management model receiving funds to make it a success and believes it will be a fantastic model.

Infrastructure investments

In order to fulfil the Government of Canada’s 2015 commitment to clean drinking water, Budget 2022 proposes at least $247-million in funding for water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities on reserve.

Protecting freshwater

In the “Protecting our Freshwater” section of Budget 2022, the Government of Canada recognizes that this country is home to 20% of the world’s freshwater supply and that freshwater protection is important for people, the environment, and the economy.

Canada Water Agency

Budget 2022 proposes $43.5-million over 5 years plus ongoing support for the creation of a new Canada Water Agency. The funds will flow through Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Agency is to be stood-up in 2022 and will be located somewhere outside of the National Capital Region.

For more information about the proposed Canada Water Agency, please see CELA’s March 2021 recommendations to the Government of Canada.

Freshwater Action Plan

Budget 2022 proposes $19.6-million to support the Freshwater Action Plan and clean-up efforts in the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Winnipeg, Lake of the Woods, the Fraser River, the Saint John River, the Mackenzie River, and Lake Simcoe. Funds are for 2022-2023 only, and the Budget goes on to say that “The future of this initiative will be communicated at a later date.”

Freshwater Action is critically important. CELA is concerned with the apparent uncertainty of the long-term future of this work. This is an issue that we will continue to monitor in the coming year.

CELA also looks for action on the Canada Water Strategy. The current Strategy is dated and does not recognize Indigenous self-government, the role of Indigenous leadership in freshwater protection, or climate change. There is a need to address complex challenges facing freshwater systems at the watershed level, and CELA would like to see more detailed commitments and proposals from the Government of Canada in the coming year.

Similarly, the Canada Water Act should be reviewed and adjusted to reflect modern realities and priorities.

For more information about the state of federal freshwater policy in Canada, please see CELA’s June 2021 brief to the Standing Committee On Environment And Sustainable Development or this short summary of the brief.

Freshwater science and research

Budget 2022 proposes $25-million over 5 years for the Experimental Lakes Area and $44.9-million over 5 years plus ongoing support for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. CELA is very pleased to see additional funding to continue the exceptional scientific work done at the Experimental Lakes Area and financial support for scientific research in the Great Lakes.

Eliminating plastic waste

In the section “Taking More Action to Eliminate Plastic Waste”,  Budget 2022 also proposes $183.1-million over 5 years to reduce plastic waste and conduct related research. A portion of those funds will go towards monitoring plastic pollution in water systems.

CELA has been calling for an end to plastic pollution for several years. In February 2022, we were one of 52 groups in Canada who called on the federal government to eliminate the use of such toxic substances as part of a comprehensive plastic strategy. You can read CELA’s submission on our website.

Other budget resources

Freshwater protection in Canada involves federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous government cooperation and leadership. CELA recently provided budget recommendations to the Ontario government, including freshwater protection measures. You can read CELA’s Ontario-focused budget recommendations on our website.

Leading up to the 2022 federal budget, CELA and the Green Budget Coalition provided recommendations to the Government of Canada. You can read our original recommendations on our website. Separate updates on budget implications for energy, conservation, and other issues will be issued by CELA and our partners in the coming days.

To see Canada’s Budget 2022 in its entirety, visit the Government of Canada website. Freshwater program updates are in Chapter 3. First Nations clean drinking water program updates are in Chapter 7.