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Ontario mulls selling sewer and water systems

OTTAWA - The province is considering hiking water rates and selling off municipal sewer and water systems as a means of paying for an estimated $12-billion repair bill.

A discussion paper released by David Caplan, the minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal, discusses ways of coping with Ontario's crumbling hospitals, schools roads, water and sewer systems.

Water system infrastructure was one of the areas singled out as needing the most attention.

Caplan said water rates, which are currently the third lowest in the world, are going to have to go up.

"We have an enormous infrastructure deficit in this province," he said. "No firm decisions about how and the methods, but clearly we can't keep going on the way we have."

He's even willing to consider the sale of the infrastructure to the private sector to get the much-needed money.

But Paul Muldoon, the head of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said even the suggestion of water privatization flies in the face of recommendations made in the Walkerton Inquiry.

"The idea is totally outrageous, that we're going to privatize or sell one of the most important parts of our common infrastructure, our water system," he said. "Even the idea of that has to be withdrawn."

The ministry will be holding public consultations across the province in March to discuss the issues raised by the discussion paper.