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HRM Residents Face Huge Water Rate Increase
(Friday, August 30/2002)-- The Hamm government's failure to adequately cost-share on the Harbour Solutions Project could mean drastic increases in water bills for the residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Mayor Peter Kelly said today.
Mayor Kelly said municipal water users could be facing about a 40 per cent increase in the waste water portion of their water bills.
In addition, the timing of the construction phases of the Project may have to be set back and that means the dumping of approximately 180 million litres of raw sewage and other waste water into the Halifax Harbour will continue for a much longer period than now planned.
Mayor Kelly said he was surprised to learn yesterday that the Premier John Hamm had advised the Federal government that highway construction-- not harbour clean-up-- was its priority for cost-sharing under the Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF.)
The Mayor said the Hamm government has consistently led the municipality to believe that the $263 million Harbour Solutions Project would be funded from the infrastructure fund.
In a letter from Premier Hamm to then-federal Minister responsible for the CSIF, dated July 31, 2002, states "As the clean-up of Halifax Harbour is a priority of the Nova Scotia government, I have instructed my officials to work with their federal and municipal counterparts to identify funding outside of the CSIF for this project."
Mayor Kelly said "That's news to us. There seems to be some double-dealing going on here. On one hand, the Hamm government is leading us to believe that Harbour Solutions would be funded under the Infrastructure program; on the other hand, it goes behind our back and tells the Federal government that it wants to fund $600 million in highway construction under the program. This is certainly sending mixed signals to Ottawa and it could seriously jeopardize the harbour clean-up."
The Mayor said "The Hamm government can't have it both ways: telling the residents of HRM that harbour clean-up is its main priority, and then portraying it as something less to the Federal government."
He said public opinion polls in recent years have consistently shown that more than 80 per cent of those polled want the Halifax harbour clean-up as soon as possible. Close to 75 per cent of those polled believe the Federal and Provincial governments should cost-share on the Project.
"The people of HRM are not asking for anything frivolous. Forty per cent of the population of Nova Scotia resides in HRM and the Hamm government is turning a deaf ear to them, " he said.
Halifax Regional Council is committed to funding two-thirds of the Harbour Solutions Project cost, up to a maximum of $210 million. The municipality is looking for $30 million from the Province of Nova Scotia and $75 million from the Government of Canada.
The Mayor said Premier Hamm has travelled across the country seeking for support on his "Campaign for Fairness" against the Federal government and "the residents of HRM expect nothing less than to be treated fairly by their own provincial government."
Mayor Peter Kelly