Mr. Chair, Canadians across the country expect access to clean, safe drinking water. Our government has been working since we were elected to ensure that this rigorous standard applies on reserve as well. We understand that access to a reliable source of clean, safe drinking water is fundamental to the health and well-being of any community. It is a basic part of the infrastructure that communities need to grow and prosper.
I am proud to stand in the House and share with my colleagues all of the important work that our government has accomplished on this front. As they will hear, a key priority of our government is to put in place the conditions that support long-term prosperity for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.
Access to safe drinking water, the effective treatment of waste water, and the protection of sources of drinking water in first nations communities is critical in ensuring the health and safety of first nations. First nations should expect access to safe, clean and reliable water, and waste water services at a level comparable to those enjoyed by other Canadians living in communities of similar size and location.
Since being elected, our government has invested heavily to support first nations communities in managing their water and waste water systems. In fact, since we took power, 243 major water and waste water projects, those valued at over $1.5 million, were completed in 177 first nations across Canada.
In 2013-14 alone, 543 first nations and 74 tribal councils received funding to support 733 on-reserve drinking water systems. In addition to major improvements, our government continues to provide funding for operations and maintenance or smaller upgrades to first nations water systems.
In communities where it may not be necessary for first nations to operate their own water and waste water facilities, we provide funding for service agreements with local municipalities to provide water services. In 2013 and 2014, we funded 49 of these agreements.
Our government is delivering on its commitment to address water and waste water issues by extending the first nations water and waste water action plan with further investments of just over $323 million over 2 years, beginning in 2014-15.
These investments support the concrete actions that our government has taken to support first nations communities in improving water and waste water services.
Let me share some of our most recent investments. Just last month, we announced $3.8 million to update the Ucluelet First Nation water system. More than $9.9 million was announced in December 2014 to upgrade water systems for the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band and the Okanagan Indian Band. T
In November 2014, we announced $5 million to upgrade water infrastructures for the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band and Upper Nicola Indian Band. We also, recently, announced $27.6 million in funding for the construction of a new water treatment plant and distribution centre for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.
These are just the most recent examples of investments that we are making. They are investments that will make a difference in the lives of those living on first nations reserves.
Along with the funding that we provide for first nations to assist in the planning, construction, upgrade and operation, and maintenance of water and waste water systems, funding is also provided to enhance the capacity and training of the on-reserve water and waste water system operators. Results in the 2011 national assessment were very clear. Trained and certified individuals operating these water and waste water systems reduce the risks and help to ensure safe drinking water in first nations communities.
That is why our government is working with first nations and their technical organizations to increase the capacity of operators. We also provide funding to first nations for the circuit rider training program, which is a specialized training program that provides first nations operators with ongoing, on-site training and mentoring on how to operate their drinking water and waste water systems.
In 2014-15, we invested over $10 million into the circuit rider training program across Canada. This is direct evidence of our government's commitment to creating the conditions for stronger, healthier, more self-sufficient first nation communities. Investments in water and waste water infrastructure also open the door to economic and job opportunities that will make a real difference in the lives of people today and generations to come.
In addition to strategic investments to improve first nations' water and waste water infrastructure, our government has worked in partnership with first nations to provide legal protections for first nations' water and waste water quality on reserve.
The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which was passed in 2013, provides enforceable standards to govern water and waste water quality on reserve. This will ensure that residents on reserve have the same access to clean and safe drinking water that other Canadians do.
Before our government brought this act into force, standards and regulations existed for drinking water quality off reserve, but there was no such protection for hundreds of thousands of first nations who lived on reserve. Thanks to our government, first nations will soon enjoy the same quality of water as all other Canadians.
We are currently in the process of working jointly with first nations to develop specific standards and regulations. While this will take time, it will allow our government the opportunity to bring the water and waste water infrastructure and capacity to the level required for future standards.
It is important to note that this is an initiative that was supported by first nations. When the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act was introduced, Chief Lawrence Paul, Millbrook First Nation, offered ringing praise for the bill. He said:
First Nations will be able to look forward to having the same protections that other Canadians have around the provision of drinking water, water quality standards and the disposal of wastewater in their communities. This is not only an important health and safety issue, but will help build confidence in our infrastructure and help create a better climate for investment.
It is clear that our government has made working with first nation partners to improve on-reserve water and waste water services a priority. Through progress on enforceable standards, through substantial investments in water and waste water systems, and by supporting capacity building and operator training, we are delivering concrete results. I am confident and comfortable that our government will continue to make progress as long as we remain on this path.
Our government is delivering on its commitment to address water and waste water issues by extending the first nation water and waste water action plan with further investments of $323.4 million over two years, beginning in 2014-15.
In the spirit of innovation and partnerships, what other innovative solutions is the government pursuing to achieve value for money in the context of supporting first nations in managing their water and waste water infrastructure?