01/05/2010

This Private Members Bill would drastically change the way Ontario residents get and pay for their water and wastewater services.
The proposed legislation picks up a number of recommendations of the Expert Panel on Water and Wastewater Strategy (Swain Report) such as the amalgamation of systems, full cost recovery and creation of a regulator for water rates and services. The Bill received first reading on December 9, 2009.

Introduced by David Caplan, MPP for Don Valley East (and former Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal), the Bill if passed, would force municipalities to create separate municipal corporations to manage their water and wastewater services. These corporations would be required to meter all customers on their systems and charge the full cost for the services. Municipalities providing water to fewer than 10,000 customers would be required to amalgamate these services with other municipalities.

The new corporations, owned by municipalities, would submit business plans and rates to a new Ontario Water Board for approval. This Board would be a provincial crown corporation, similar to the Ontario Energy Board and function in a similar fashion.

The Bill could result in the most significant restructuring of the governing, costing and operations of water and wastewater services across Ontario. Restructuring of a core municipal government service to the degree that this private members bill proposes runs counter to the principal of building a fully informed piece of legislation through a consultation process. Experience says that making changes to a piece of legislation is severely constrained by a provincial standing committee process and rules.

While no date for second reading has been set and the Legislature has adjourned until February 16, 2010, AMO will reach out to government and opposition parties to express its concerns about proceeding with this Private Members Bill. The Government has never publicly responded to the Swain Report. If the government’s intent is to pursue such a significant reform to municipal water services, then it should come forward with a white paper and undertake a full consultation with the municipal order of government.