“I don’t understand why this Premier is so determined to repeat the Walkerton disaster. Protecting clean and safe drinking water is not ‘red tape’.” – Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch
In the year 2000 in the rural community of Walkerton, Ontario, under the Conservative government of then-premier Mike Harris, seven people died and more than thousand people became ill – some of them permanently – in the wake of the government gutting safeguards for protecting and monitoring sources of drinking water across the province. Is Harris’s Tory friend and successor, Doug Ford, now setting the stage for more Walkerton-like disasters in Ontario?
A Statement from Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch followed by a brief Footnote from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted November 27th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Queen’s Park — Jeff Burch, MPP for Niagara Centre and NDP critic for municipal affairs, released the following statement after the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario told a government committee Monday that municipalities are asking to be released from legal liability for dangerous drinking water as a result of the Ford government’s gutting of water protections.
“It is unbelievable that in 2019 we are rolling back water protections to the point that municipal leaders are fearful that they will be held liable for a future disaster that is made almost inevitable by this government’s shortsightedness.
“I don’t understand why this Premier is so determined to repeat the Walkerton disaster. Protecting clean and safe drinking water is not ‘red tape’. Since taking office, Ford has repealed the Toxics Reduction Act, scrapped nine regulations that limit discharges of industrial water pollution, and reduced penalties for polluters. His government has also overruled municipal plans that protect against threats to groundwater due to aggregate extraction.
“The Premier must withdraw Schedule 9 of Bill 132 immediately or risk putting the lives of Ontarians in danger.”
A Brief Footnote from Doug Draper, journalist and publisher at Niagara At Large, and a full-time environment reporter at The St. Catharines Standard during the years leading up to the Walkerton water disaster –
Many Conservative Party members and supporters across Ontario continue to peddle the politically self-serving myth that the Walkerton water disaster that took the lives of seven people and made more than 2,000 others ill 19 years ago, was the result of the incompetence and reckless irresponsibility of a couple of individuals who ran the town’s water system.
While those individuals undoubtedly had a role to play in this catastrophe, their involvement was far from the whole story.
An official inquiry that cost the taxpayers of Ontario millions of dollars determined that gutting of environmental regulations and resources, and the closing down of public testing laboratories for double checking municipal water supplies for any potential dangerous contamination – all orchestrated by a Mike Harris-led Conservative government bent on slashing public spending and cutting red tape in the name of making the province open for business – set the stage for this fatal tragedy to happen.
Ontario’s current premier, Doug Ford, was a friend and supporter of Harris’s government, and noted, not so long ago, that Harris told him that he wished he had moved faster in making his cuts to government services. It certainly appears that Ford has taken a cue from what his old friend told him.
For information from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, outlining what is being proposed in Bill 132, click on – https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-1/bill-132
If you have the time to wade through the official report on the Walkerton water disaster, click here for the text – http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/e_records/walkerton/report1/pdf/WI_Chapter_01.pdf .
To contact your Ontariol Member of Parliament about this serious matter, click on the following link to obtain the contact information for your MPP – https://www.ola.org/en/members/current/contact-information .
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