Canadian Consulting Engineer

European trade agreement may affect water infrastructure

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is voicing support for more investment in Canada's water infrastructure. It also has concerns over the impacts of a proposed international trade agreement with the European Union.

June 13, 2011   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is voicing support for more investment in Canada’s water infrastructure. It also has concerns over the impacts of a proposed international trade agreement with the European Union.

On June 1, CUPE issued a press release saying that more than 1,000 water and wastewater facilities may be forced to upgrade their infrastructure thanks to new rules passed by Environment Canada. The union says that costs might exceed $20 billion for the necessary upgrades.

Many municipalities lack the proper resources to fund these upgrades, they say.  First Nations communities are also severely in need of upgrades, with 114 under a drinking water advisory and 40 with high risk water facilities.

The union is concerned that private sector funding will be used to fund the upgrades, especially if the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is signed with the European Union. Negotiations to enter that trade agreement are in their eighth round, and Prime Minister Stepen Harper has said he wants to have a deal signed by January 1, 2012.

In the press release, CUPE lists some failures of privatized infrastructure services and suggests that the large multi-national European water companies have their sights on Canada.

“In this context of underfunding [in Canada], the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) may further facilitate the privatization of our municipal water systems. Canada is considering including municipal drinking water and wastewater systems in a proposed trade agreement with the European Union. Veolia Environment and Suez, the largest multinational water corporations in the world, are based in Europe. Each has signed a joint business declaration “in Support of a Canada-EU Trade and Investment Agreement”. If water is included in CETA, it will amount to signing away the public’s right to control its water.”

“To protect our water,” CUPE continues, “Canada needs a long term infrastructure strategy to support the municipal infrastructure deficit and the new wastewater facilities upgrades.”

To see the CUPE release, click here


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