Last week South Dundas council supported increasing water and sewer rates in the villages of Iroquois and Morrisburg to fund existing system upgrades and plan ahead for future renewal. The rate increases are necessary because there are no other options. Morrisburg and Iroquois face long-term challenges with repairing and replacing water and sewer lines, much of which were installed in the 1950s during the St. Lawrence Seaway construction project. In 2020, South Dundas replaced the lines on Ontario Street at a cost of over $2 million. According to the report to council, there are 11 streets, most of which are longer than Ontario Street, that are “ticking time bombs.” There are many more streets than those in need, just not as greatly.
This is not just a South Dundas issue. The villages of Long Sault and Ingleside face the same issues, as do parts of the city of Cornwall. The building of the St. Lawrence Seaway and creation of this mass infrastructure put the end of service date all at the same approximate time. No municipality would be able to handle this much infrastructure renewal at one time, on its own.
The federal and provincial governments are both touting infrastructure spending as one of the great economic stimulus tools to help claw our way out of the recession or quasi-depression that COVID-19 has inflicted on the economy. This stimulus presents a clear opportunity to renew infrastructure for these Seaway communities, while also creating jobs to get people back to work. Doing nothing is not an option.
It is fortunate that Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry has a member of provincial Parliament, who is a sitting member of government. Jim McDonell is also the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. His duties are specifically municipal affairs. No MPP could be better placed to champion this important work with the current provincial government. Federal Member of Parliament, Eric Duncan serves as proof that even on the opposition benches, one can effect meaningful change. Duncan has already taken on many important issues of a regional and national scope.
Critical infrastructure renewal like the water and sewer systems is a need to have, not a nice to have. Deferring repaving a road or building a recreation building is something that is easily done. You cannot defer renewing or replacing a water pipe until sometime in the future. Our upper-level representatives in McDonell and Duncan need to take up this cause and help defuse the ticking time bomb of much-needed infrastructure renewal in the communities they represent.