OTTAWA and the province must set aside jurisdictional squabbles and fix the clean-water crisis that plagues remote reserves, federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae said Friday.
"You can't let these things descend into jurisdictional and constitutional battles. Every Canadian should have access to running water," Rae said. "The two governments have to get their act together and get it done."
Along with Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard, Rae travelled to St. Theresa Point Friday afternoon to visit homes with no proper plumbing and meet with the chief and council.
St. Theresa Point is one of four reserves around Island Lake, where most of the province's 1,400 homes without modern sanitation are located.
Rae and Gerrard visited the home of Alice and Francis Taylor, who live with their son, Kevin, who has cerebral palsy. Their home has no running water and the family has been outspoken about their need for better services for their son.
"You just feel, as a Canadian, that we're not living up to the most basic of standards," Rae said.
The interim Liberal leader touted an unusual agreement he made with Ottawa in the early 1990s to solve Ontario's on-reserve water crisis. Back then, a retrofit agreement saw the two governments spend more than $200 million over 10 years to upgrade electrical wiring and install running water, bathtubs, sinks and toilets in hundreds of homes.
"It was the decision of the province to insist on doing it, and to say to the federal government, 'Listen, these questions of jurisdiction, we won't continue this pointless fight,' " Rae said in French. "We will share the cost."