Water: Royalties Act Expected Ahead of Budget in Quebec

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Water: Royalties Act Expected Ahead of Budget in Quebec

Less than three million dollars was paid in 2021 for pumping the equivalent of 232,000 Olympic swimming pools of blue gold.

The Legault government risks missing a great opportunity to tackle the deterioration of drinking water infrastructure if it does not include the sums resulting in particular from the promised increase in royalties in the next budget. on the water.

After letting the bill 42 on water charges die on the order paper last summer in approaching the elections, Prime Minister François Legault himself has promised to make it a priority as of the current session.

However, this bill is still pending while Finance Minister Eric Girard's budget is scheduled for March 21.

The most important group of environmental experts in Quebec, the Environment Network, is concerned about this delay. This group has been warning for ages that the asset maintenance deficit in drinking water infrastructure currently stands at $34 billion and will continue to increase if we do not tackle it now.< /p>

This figure, taken from the Portrait of Quebec's drinking water infrastructures from the Center for Expertise and Research in Urban Infrastructures, leaves no room for interpretation. This document highlights that 17% of water infrastructure is at high or very high risk of failure.

These infrastructures are in urgent need of love and investment, says Mathieu Laneuville, President and CEO of the Environment Network. One of the important recommendations made by the Network in the pre-budget brief submitted to the Quebec government is to encourage municipalities to increase their water service revenues so as not to hit the wall that ;we see coming with the asset maintenance deficit which has a major impact on our next generations.

Mathieu Laneuville is the President and CEO of the Environment Network.

Certainly, the experts know full well – and this is one of the recommendations – that the federal, provincial and municipal governments must contribute to investing in water infrastructure. Ottawa and Quebec have funds at their disposal, but it is clear that the cities must increase their revenues, because they do not really have room to maneuver in the current inflationary context and because; they can hardly ask their taxpayers for more.

Hence the urgency, according to the Environment Network, to reform the system of royalties in order to increase them considerably, Quebec being extremely generous towards large water users with its starving royalties.

Thus, the water royalty in Quebec is currently set at the paltry sum of $0.0025 (or 25 hundredths of a cent) per cubic meter. In Ontario, it is $0.00371/m3, to which is added $0.50/m3 for groundwater withdrawn by bottlers.

Even higher in Ontario, the royalty remains extremely advantageous. For comparison, the cubic meter of water in Europe is paid $4.48 in the United Kingdom, $5.44 in France, $6.13 in Belgium, $7.39 in the Netherlands, 7, $98 in Finland, $10.53 in Norway and $12.58 in Denmark (conversion rate used: $1.35 for 1 euro).

If cities increase their revenues from water services, they will be able to do more, because there is a big deficit to absorb, points out Mathieu Laneuville.

“Charges are putting a cost on the water resource. It is to say that when we take water, our collective resource has a value. »

— Mathieu Laneuville, President and CEO of the Environment Network

It is therefore extremely important, according to him, that the water protection bill, repeatedly promised by the Legault government, be adopted as quickly as possible in order to be able to integrate new sources of revenue into the budget and to tackle the drinking water infrastructure deficit as quickly as possible with massive investment programs.

Experts' long-term assessment reports expenditure for upgrading to standards that will increase from $34 billion to $49 billion over the next 25 years, while government planning provides for investments of $22 billion. Consequently, the deficit would still remain very high, at 27 billion.

Sherbrooke's main wastewater treatment plant is part of the infrastructure that needs investment.

A substantial increase in fees would also make it possible to provide the famous Blue Fund, another promise caquiste who aims to protect lakes and rivers, in particular.

The Environment Network also asks, like several other speakers, that the bill on the protection of water, which must deal with royalties, obliges large users to be transparent. Currently, it is impossible to know the quantities withdrawn, which in itself is problematic, particularly for municipalities where water shortages are a potential or already proven risk.

The investments required may seem colossal, but the Réseau Environnement relies heavily on a study by HEC Montréal unveiled last spring, which shows that for every dollar invested in drinking water infrastructure, the return is 1 $.72.

This performance takes the form, among other things, of improved efficiency, reduced breakage in pipes and plants, and x27;reduced leaks. The environmental benefits are also considerable, notably through the improvement of the quality of wastewater discharges, the reduction of the discharges of pathogens and pollutants and, ultimately, the improvement of the health of the population.

Finally, the Environment Network stresses that major investments will in any case be required to deal with climate change, which is the cause of droughts , floods and overflows, increasingly frequent extreme weather events for which it would be much more useful and more profitable to be prepared than to absorb the costs of the damage subsequent.

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