Councillor McRae: Water Summit, Audit Woodroffe Project, New Uploading Money, Government to Court?


Councillor Maria McRae
Chair of Ottawa Enviroment Committee


Taxpayer recommendations are sometimes treated as a communication issue, rather than an opportunity for ideas that could benefit all residents. Your approach is different and we would like to thank you for years of public service to the community.


It is important to start by commending you and your team for not taking the easy way out and passing the buck to the next Council. It is right for the City to have a long term water infrastructure maintenance plan, it is also right to try to isolate the expenses to the water and sewer bill.


There are some mitigating factors that require an innovative approach.


1) Many at the United Nations consider water as a fundamental human right, a 125% rise in water per cubic rate over 8 years, another 74% rise? Life and therefore this project is as more important than LRT. 2.1 billion in spending? We need a Water Summit. Do you agree?


2) Among big cities, why are we last in Ontario? No one can argue with replacing old water mains, but surely other cities face similar challenges, so why does it seem like Ottawa is raising fees faster than anyone else. A large cities comparison of Ontario FIR reports on water & sewer user fees by population from 2002 to 2010 revealed the following:
Ottawa 25%
Toronto 15%
York 13%
Peel -1%
Halton 16%
NB: Source Data from Ontario FIR Reports for Ottawa & Toronto Are Shown Below


3) Residents paid water fees in good faith, but some allege that money that should have been spent on water infrastructure during Bob Chiarelli’s 2 terms or O’Brien’s 1 term seems to have been spent on other initiatives. Are there any past Council meeting minutes where staff recommended upgrading water infrastructure and the funds were spent elsewhere? We need to redirect the funds. Do you agree?


4) If there are any procurement issues with water infrastructure projects, we need to fix them now before spending more. Would you be willing to call for an audit of the Woodroffe Water Main project?


5) In 2011 and 2012, the City received $32.67 million in new uploading money is new, is there any documented prioritization process to decide how to spend this? Is there any legal way to redirect uploading money to water infrastructure? Can Council pass a motion that all new uploading money be applied to the budget for Integrated Road & Sewer?


6) Why are we being penalised for using less water? Is there no way to reduce water production costs to meet lower demand? From 2002 to 2010, water and sewer rates per cubic metre have risen by 83.4%, total water revenue rose by 59.7% and population by 27.5%, property tax by 45%. The point is that total water revenue has grown only 15% faster than taxes, but the rate per cubic metre has sky rocketed by 83.4%.


7) There is a lot of spending on non-core services by other levels of government, has the City asked a consultant to determine if tax in lieu rates are consistent with taxes paid by the commercial sector? How do other levels of government pay for water? There was a court case between the City of Montreal and the federal government (Ports Authority & CBC). Our interpretation is that the City has a right to charge fair value property taxes.


8) In 2012 the average compensation per person at the City went up 4.6% to about $88,000 per person, a 4 year wage freeze would yield $239 million dollars less benefits if there is no legal way to freeze them. BC froze wages from 2002 to 2006; it is not fair to ask the private sector that is earning 40% less (including pension) than City workers to continue to pay more. Would you be willing to ask the Province to legislate a 4 year wage freeze?
Would you be willing to ask the AG why benefits are rising at almost twice the rate of salaries? Would you be willing to reduce the number of management layers through attrition?


9) With reference to Toronto’s 2012 budget, “over the 10-year planning horizon, Toronto Water continues to be 100% self-sustaining with no debenture financing”. Why are they able to achieve this and Ottawa cannot?


10) To address the 2012 budget, Toronto had a review that revealed that 10% of the services they provide are non-core services and 15% of services are delivered above standard. Did Ottawa hire a consultant for a similar review? What were the results? To implement the No New Money campaign promise, would you support a Departmental Spending Prioritization Summit?
Should you decide on a Water Summit, it would be an opportunity for much smarter people to introduce better ideas? If any of these ideas are adopted, it will show us that the interest of residents is more important than the interests of the “communication department”.


We welcome the receipt of a substantive response under the heading of each question and will gladly forward your response to others.


Toronto 2002
Population: 2,162,147
Total Revenue: $270,036,972.00 + $20,944,136.00
Water Revenue per Person: $227


Toronto 2010
Population: 2,773,000
Total Revenue: $414,566,052 + $312,936,574
Water Revenue per Person: $262

Ottawa 2002

Population: 719,543
Total Revenue: $91,692,124.00 + $59,007,769.00
Water Revenue per Person: $209


Ottawa 2010
Population: 917,570
Total Revenue: $122,752,044.00 + $2,181,984.00 + -$39,334.00 + $3,018.00 + $115,797,790.00
Water Revenue per Person: $262

Municipal Taxpayer Advocacy Group