Volume 12 Week 5

Sunday, Jan. 20


Posted Jan. 10

Posted Jan. 9

Posted Jan. 7


Orléans Ward
Matt Luloff

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney




Water and sewer rate restructuring long overdue

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The City of Ottawa is asking residents to provide their input into whether or not the municipal water and sewer rates should be restructured, and if so, how?

The question is being raised at a time when the revenue raised through water and sewer charges continue to decline as the cost to provide water and sewer services continues to increase.

Apparently, as water and sewer rates have gone up, consumption, and ergo revenue, has gone done. Go figure.

And the more water and sewer consumption goes down, the greater the pressure has been to raise the rates in order to maintain the same revenue stream. It’s a classic Catch-22.

People are being “rewarded” for conserving their water by paying higher rates. It doesn’t make any sense.

It also doesn’t make any sense to use a consumption tax to pay for fixed infrastructure like sewer pipes and watermains, or administration and maintenance costs.

A consumption tax, which water and sewer rates are, should be used to pay for consumption. Fixed infrastructure costs and associated maintenance costs, should be paid for through a surcharge on your property tax bill. Anyone who uses water, or benefits from the city’s sewer system should pay the surcharge.

Of course, this is the way it used to be before amalgamation and for several years afterwards, but then a funny thing happened. With skyrocketing infrastructure costs on the horizon, the council of the day decided to take them off the property tax bills and place them on the water and sewer bills.

It was a politically expedient and shortsighted decision meant to artificially suppress future tax hikes and has now come home to roost.

The question which remains is whether or not the current city council has the intestinal fortitude to reverse course.

The betting here is that they won’t. Instead, they will very likely add a fixed charge to the base of the water and sewer bill which wouldn’t be subject to fluctuations in consumption. A similar proposal was rejected by city council in 2010.

If they do implement a fixed charge, the second question will be whether they will reduce the water and sewer rate to reflect the extra charge, or they’ll just tag it on and expect everyone to happily pay.

(Updated 12 p.m., March 11)


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