Ontario Premier Mike Harris survived his appearance yesterday before the Walkerton inquiry. More than survived: He triumphed. Facing an orchestrated ambush by smirking union lawyers, hired activists and placard-carrying demonstrators, Mr. Harris rose so far above the low politically motivated smears of his prosecutors that many citizens of Ontario must now be wondering about the validity of the Harris caricature they have been fed for most of the past year.
Energy Probe Research Foundation’s submission to the Walkerton Inquiry’s Expert Meeting on Guiding Principles for Drinking Water Safety explores the critical role played by legal liability in risk management.
The first anniversary of the Walkerton, Ont., water tragedy is approaching. Already the professional groundskeepers of public opinion are raking the town for the official laying of the blame ceremonies. They appear to have narrowed it down to two culprits, the Harris cutbacks and privatization. Despite overwhelming evidence that Walkerton is the product of gross inadequacies inherent in public sector ownership and major instances of individual public employee incompetence, opinion nevertheless appears to have gelled around the cheap political conclusions.
If the privatization of water and sewage in Ontario is anything like the British experience, Ontario residents are in for a rocky ride. The end destination will be better water quality and sounder infrastructure. But getting there will be both painful and costly to consumers. Ontario can learn from Britain’s mistakes.
In the aftermath of the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, media outlets quickly moved from examining human error as the cause of the infection to pointing the finger at the government for deregulation, off-loading, and privatization. The Tuesday, May 30, 2000 edition of CBC Newsworld’s "Counterspin," was titled, "Don’t Drink the Privatized Water." That show was inspired by the Ontario opposition parties who denounced the privatization of Ontario’s water supply testing as a possible cause for the outbreak.
Next Tuesday, Toronto City Council will vote on a recommendation that it rule out the privatization of water supply or sewage treatment in the city. This ill-considered recommendation reflects union politics rather than a reasoned analysis of the merits of private sector involvement. If councillors approve it, they will prevent the city from capturing tremendous economic and environmental benefits.
Before world leaders gathered in Halifax for June’s G-7 summit, organizers fretted over an embarrassing problem: one of the city’s sewage pipes emptied just outside the meeting site, spewing raw sewage into the otherwise scenic harbour. Worried that foreign dignitaries and journalists would smell sewage and spot floating condoms, tampon applicators and toilet paper, politicians devised a plan. Their proposal? To extend a submerged pipe into the harbour, improving the view and sparing the visitors’ noses. The federal government ended up scrapping the plan, but not because merely hiding the sewage wouldn’t solve the problem. On the contrary, it simply deemed the $1 million project too expensive.
This report looks at the different types of sewage treatment in Ontario, the rules and guidelines purported to regulate treatment plants, the pollution caused by the noncompliant plants, and the environmental, health and social effects of that pollution. It also recommends a number of changes that should be made to stop sewage pollution.