Swimming in the Ottawa River
The Association of Ontario Municipalities’ annual conference was a chance for some municipal leaders to ask questions about–what else–stimulus funding. But it was in the media scrum that the real action took place. More on that later in this post…
Over the two days, provincial and federal politicians fielded questions on local projects, such as Minister Jim Watson who expressed his concerned about the Ottawa Light Rail project or Minister John Baird indicating it is not acceptable in 2009 that a municipality dumps raw sewage in a river, but also were queried on regional (the Ontario HST, the province’s deficit) and national concerns. Certainly the Chief Economist of TD Financial painted a dark grey picture of the road ahead: the recession may be ending, but the pain of its consequences is just starting. Amongst the lingering symptoms will be the massive provincial and federal deficits.
In an interview with ReNew, Minister John Baird clearly laid out his mandate: streamline the bureaucratic process for getting projects out of the door, and get the action going. More from this exclusive coming soon to our readers.
The infrastructure SOS – short order solutions – are now taken care of: several thousand projects from the Infrastructure stimulus fund (ISF) alone, added to the thousands more from the other programs and to those municipalities do without upper government help, should get the construction industry working at capacity for the next few years. What’s next? That question was posed to representatives of industry leading organizations and professional associations at a round table discussion organized by ReNew Canada this week. Their views of the future converge and our readers will have the opportunity to learn about them in our next issue.
In an interview with ReNew Canada, Minister John Baird said, “It’s unacceptable in 2009 for us to be dumping sewage into our lakes and streams.” This was after a question period with the media during which he was asked several questions about fixing sewage infrastructure in his hometown of Ottawa (Baird is MP for West Napean). Baird, who is always careful not to criticize municipal methods and prioritization of certain infrastructure projects over others, was elusive when one reporter asked, “Would you swim in the Ottawa River?” His answer: “I don’t have time to swim in the Ottawa River.” When the reporter revised his question, asking if the Minister would let his family swim in the river–a cheap shot, if you ask us–Baird said, “I’m not going to sit on the sidelines and take pot shots. We want to be part of the solution.”
A solution that, in his interview with us, Baird said “is not going to be cheap.” Nor will it be fast — he estimates it will be 10 to 15 years before Canadian cities have fixed their sewage systems. Will some of that money come out of the much-talked-about stimulus fund? “It’s a possibility,” said Baird. “That’s really up to the mnicipalities.”