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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Minister Wiseman Blames Towns

Wow. I am rarely at a loss for words but....wow. Before you read any further go read this, I'll wait. Please confirm for me that I just read an article where Environment Minister Ross Wiseman blames municipalities for the boil water orders in NL. I need confirmation because, as little faith that I have that the Provincial Government can mange/support the municipal sector, I didn't actually think I would hear a Minister of the Crown blame the communities themselves.

So I'm left to wonder if Minister Wiseman has any real knowledge of the sector? Does he know how many towns we have in NL?(276) Does he know how little administrative capacity there exists? (Average of 1 full-time permanent staff person) I wonder if he is aware that many of these systems were over engineered because the municipal leaders at the time were not given the appropriate support to choose the right system for their needs? And I can't help but ask "Minister Wiseman, are you aware of the ridiculously poor fiscal framework that municipalities work under, where the entire base of their funding is property tax?" Perhaps he should start by reading this, and that, and he then could begin to have some idea of the water issues in the sector.

Here we have a Minister of Government stating clearly, that small rural communities who are currently under boil water orders, and who in some cases buy, or bring in clean drinking water, have largely themselves to blame. He seems to think that towns put boil orders in place just because of water taste issues. Now, I have certainly heard of residents who decide not to drink the municipal water because of issues with taste and turbidity(sediment in the water), but to say that municipalities are largely to blame for putting boil orders in place over issues of taste is pretty insulting to municipal leaders. These leaders volunteer their time to make sure rural services get delivered, and largely for very little thanks in return.

Municipalities simply do not have the required resources to provide the services that residents require. Yet Ministers, such as Wiseman, continue to ignore this fact and refuse to develop a new fiscal framework for local government to address the situation. Wiseman was the Finance Minister for years, and so he must be aware of the fiscal restraints in rural NL!

My ongoing hope, since I have been involved in the Municipal sector, is that there are no serious incidents related to drinking water, as there was in Walkerton, Ontario. Because I can assure Minister Wiseman that no amount of "education seminars on water management systems" can teach you how to build and maintain infrastructure for free. And throwing blame at the volunteers who do their best to hold the system together, is a certainly below the level of discourse I expect from a Provincial Government Minister. Not very wise at all.



The story from www.vocm.com:

Municipalities Largely to Blame for Water Woes: Minister
Municipal water supply problems are back in the news this week. Dozens of municipalities across the province are advising residents to boil their water before using it.

Environment Minister Ross Wiseman says the municipalities themselves are largely to blame. He says a large portion of the 160 communities that are currently under boil orders are in that position because of municipal decisions about chlorination systems.

To counteract the problems, Wiseman mentions there have been ten years of annual education seminars on water management systems. There are also mobile units travelling throughout the province and providing training sessions.

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