Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Committee members, we appreciate the opportunity to speak to you this morning.
My name is Ernie Daykin. I'm the mayor of the District of Maple Ridge in British Columbia. I'm also a director on the Metro Vancouver board and chair of the Vancouver Aboriginal Relations Committee.
As you mentioned, Mr. MacIsaac is with us from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and Mr. Ralph Hildebrand, general manager of corporate services and corporate counsel and manager of Vancouver's Aboriginal Relations Committee.
At the local government level we fully recognize and support the need for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to have access to clean, safe drinking water, and the proper disposal of waste water.
We're here today to present a local government perspective on Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, and represent some issues that are common to local governments not only in Metro Vancouver and British Columbia, but, we believe, across the country. In this regard I want to acknowledge the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which supports Metro Vancouver's views on Bill S-8. FCM's comments are reflected in some of the statements that are made in this presentation to the standing committee.
For everyone's benefit, I'll give an overview of Metro Vancouver. It's a federation of 24 local authorities, including one unincorporated area and one treaty first nation, the Tsawwassen First Nation. Tsawwassen First Nation reached the first modern urban treaty with the governments of Canada and British Columbia in 2009, under the B.C. treaty process.
Metro Vancouver works well together and collaboratively as we deliver plans and regional services, including drinking water, wastewater treatment, and solid waste management. Metro Vancouver also regulates air quality, plans for urban growth, manages a regional parks system, and provides affordable housing for our residents.
Metro Vancouver's population is currently 2.3 million, and over 50% of B.C.'s population live within the Metro Vancouver area. It's also home to 52,000 aboriginals, according to the 2011 census.
As I mentioned, I'm the chair of the Aboriginal Relations Committee, which is a standing committee of the Metro Vancouver board. It's been established to provide advice on treaty negotiations and aboriginal relations within Metro Vancouver to the board and to individual municipalities.
A key part of the committee's scope of work is strengthening relationships with first nations. We are participating actively in two tables with Katzie and Tsleil-Waututh as part of the provincial negotiation team's monitoring of emerging aboriginal treaty and non-treaty related issues, and assessing their impact on regional and municipal governments.
The relationship building and day-to-day interaction between municipalities and first nations that's taking place in our urban setting presents a number of challenges that we feel are unique, including higher population densities, competing private interests, unique land use considerations, rapidly growing servicing needs, and limited available crown land for treaty settlements.
Faced with these complex realities, Metro Vancouver has committed to building effective, positive working relationships with our first nations. This will ensure alignment and achievement of our common interests.
The regional district has been successful in communicating regional interests on a number of emerging policies and legislation that have been developed by the senior levels of government, and ensuring its continued involvement in the B.C. treaty process.
With respect to Bill S-8, Metro Vancouver has been concerned about the proposed legislation and its potential impact and implications for local governments since it passed first reading in the House of Commons in June 2012. Metro Vancouver has significant concerns about how Bill S-8 will affect its delivery of services in the Metro Vancouver area.
In response to Metro Vancouver's invitation in October 2012, staff representatives from the Vancouver offices of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada attended an Aboriginal Relations Committee meeting and made a presentation on Bill S-8. The federal representatives outlined a legislative framework for managing drinking water and waste water on first nations lands, and encouraged Metro Vancouver to submit its input into the parliamentary process by appearing before your committee.
Given the commitment on the part of the federal government—as expressed by the federal delegations—to consider and address local concerns as providers of water services to local communities, including first nations, we're pleased to be here today and provide you with our perspective.
To clearly formulate our interests and concerns with respect to Bill S-8, Metro Vancouver drafted a position paper on that bill, the safe drinking water for first nations act. That was drafted and presented to the board in November 2012. Based on the interest articulated and the issues identified in the position paper, local governments believe that it is at the community level that the effectiveness of this bill will be tested—including funding, improvements, and the need to execute and sign servicing agreements.
As such, the Metro Vancouver position paper identifies the following issues with respect to Bill S-8. One of the primary concerns expressed in the position paper is the transfer of responsibilities. From our interpretation of Bill S-8, an obligation to provide utility services and enforcement regulations could be imposed upon local governments if the federal government and respective provincial governments enter into an agreement under which the provincial governments are obliged to compel local governments to provide water and wastewater treatment services to first nation communities. Provincial governments may create or amend legislation to impose duties and responsibilities on local government as provincial bodies established by a provincial act.
Local governments do not want to be put in this position. There's a long history in B.C. of reaching agreements for services between local governments and first nations, as evidenced by the 550 servicing agreements between local governments and nearly 200 first nations.
Level of service is another concern. It's not clear whether Bill S-8 and the regulations passed pursuant to Bill S-8 will impose new requirements on local governments, and whether a regional authority such as Metro Vancouver will be required to provide water services to all municipalities to meet the obligations imposed, or whether Metro Vancouver will be required to increase its level of service to accommodate all growth and development within first nation lands.
Local governments in Metro Vancouver are compelled to comply with a regional growth plan. The projections for population growth and development are coordinated within the planning and development of regional services, such for the supply of drinking water and disposal of waste water. The imposition of requirements to provide drinking water and wastewater services to first nation lands that are developed outside of our regional planning principles could create, or will create, an imbalance between water and sewage plans and the regional growth plan.
Another concern that was expressed is bylaw regulation and enforcement. It is our understanding that Bill S-8 would permit local governments to apply their bylaws and regulations to first nations' lands to enforce and regulate the use of water and wastewater services to first nation communities. However it is not clear how the federal government will facilitate the enforcement of local government bylaws on reserve lands regarding the provision of utilities and other services to first nations. This includes first nation lands that are subject to future applications for additions to reserves.
Another closely related concern is regulatory authority. Bill S-8 is not clear on how the federal government proposes to protect local governments regarding environmental and public health liabilities related to servicing agreements for first nation lands when local governments have no regulatory authority over reserve lands and Indian bands do not have natural persons powers to enter into contractual agreements with local governments.
The financial liabilities are another concern that have been highlighted in the position paper. Regulating drinking water on Indian reserves would have significant capacity and resource related implications for local governments. It is not immediately clear how Bill S-8 will protect local governments that provide utility services to first nations against financial liabilities when local governments do not have taxation authority over first nation lands that are serviced.
In addition to undefined financial liabilities, there are also undefined legal liabilities presented by Bill S-8. For example, with section 13, the bill appears to remove the Government of Canada from legal liabilities associated with the regulations to be developed and implemented under the act.
In this regard, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has asked us to seek clarification from the standing committee as to what person or body the legal liability will reside with for the regulations developed and implemented under the act.
In addition, there is a concern with funding capacity. It is not clear whether the federal government and first nations across Canada have the proper funding capacity for the proposed infrastructure improvements on Indian reserves under Bill S-8.
The national assessment report, released in July 2011, estimates that over the next 10 years the combined projected capital and operating costs to meet the water and wastewater servicing needs of the communities of the 618 individual first nations across Canada will be approximately $4.7 billion, plus a projected operating and maintenance budget of $419 million annually.
The report further notes that in 2009 the water and/or wastewater systems of 153 of B.C.'s 203 first nations were considered to be high-risk systems. As indicated in the 2012 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, local governments across Canada also face major challenges while maintaining and managing decaying water and wastewater infrastructure to meet current public needs and minimum performance standards. The substantial infrastructure deficit is of great concern to municipal and local governments.
The upgrading and replacement of drinking water and wastewater systems will require considerable investments in many communities across Canada. Consequently, the capacity of local governments to expand the provision of water and wastewater systems and services may be limited. The infrastructure capacity gap for both local government and first nations must be closed to ensure that all Canadians have access to clean and safe drinking water.
We agree that the process needs increased funding to be successfully implemented. Bill S-8 outlines a legislative framework for managing drinking water and waste water on Indian reserves, but still lacks an adequate implementation plan, such as detail and substance required to improve water resource management on first nations' lands.
The issues I have just mentioned outline the difficulties that will be faced as a result of Bill S-8. At the local government level, when enacting plans, bylaws, and regulations that affect residents and businesses in the region, we seek input and consultation, and have other processes to ensure that we obtain a broad vision of ramifications of our actions and to ensure that we can practically address the concerns and avoid the law of unintended consequences.
Here, unfortunately, local government input in the enabling legislation is lacking. With Bill S-8, local government interests were not considered in the drafting of the legislation. Adequate communications and meaningful consultation with local governments are necessary, as local governments, we believe, will be impacted by Bill S-8.
In summary, I'd like to reiterate that local government recognizes and fully supports the need for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to have access to clean water and to wastewater disposal. To achieve this goal, senior governments must first make provisions for appropriate funding to first nation communities.
As local governments, we feel we have a unique perspective on this issue, its implementation, and potential implications. We remain hopeful that the regulations to be drafted for Bill S-8 will address the following requirements: reliable certification of water and wastewater treatment operators; binding and consistent water standards; clear oversight and reporting responsibilities; clear delineation of the roles of health, environment, and water officials, including first nations officials and their governments; clear and comprehensive monitoring and testing of drinking water; clear delineation of responsibility for responding to adverse events; opportunities for public involvement, disclosure, and transparency; opportunities for receiving expert third-party advice; available resources and funding mechanisms; and proper capital and infrastructure planning over time.
The tasks at hand are very large and challenging for any level of government, including first nations; therefore, all parties need to work together. There are significant investments that the federal government and first nations have made on this issue.
I think it's important to note that at the local government level we have also made significant investments. That needs to be acknowledged. Local governments request some clarity on cost recovery and the liability issues identified earlier, and which appear in Metro Vancouver's position paper.
Bill S-8 has potential implications for local governments. Given these issues identified, local government seeks a commitment from the federal government that Bill S-8 will be amended in consultation with local government and first nations.
Further, local government would like acknowledgement from the Government of Canada that local governments will not be affected by Bill S-8, and further, a commitment from the Government of Canada that local governments will be kept apprised and engaged in the process of developing the regulations for Bill S-8.
That concludes my remarks.
I'm going to pass it off to Mr. MacIsaac.