Council and mayoralty candidates for election in Vernon seem to be approaching the boundaries of dishonesty or ignorance in opposing the proposed upgrades to our water system.
After attending one of the open houses run by RDNO about the upcoming water referendum, I learned that:
1. Our current domestic water rates are average or below average when compared to other municipalities that fund 100 per cent of their water costs through user fees.
2. Our current water system does not meet the health guidelines in place across both Canadian provinces and many U.S. states as well. Compared to other provinces, B.C. is behind the times in ensuring these upgrades are in place.
3. The proposal includes common-sense measures such as extending dam capacity to deal with drought years and providing untreated, lower-cost water to large agricultural users.
4. The money is currently available for loan at around the rate of inflation. In other words, a zero cost loan is available to Vernon water users.
Using RDNO numbers, the cost of the upgrades works out to $1,272 per person for the 55,000 water consumers served by our utility. Viewed that way, the charges are not enormous.
No one gets elected by promising tax increases. But if we swallow this short-term promise for no water price increase now, be aware that we are all accepting increased risk of both water quality and supply in the longer term. And, if in typical Vernon fashion we decide to punt the problem down the road and do this in 10 years time, the price will only have gone up.
For those at or below the poverty line who truly cannot afford an increase in water rates, why not offer a discounted rate for those in hardship? I urge mayoralty and council candidates to do some more homework on the issue before locking in your position. Please think of the entire community’s future rather than just your own election chances.