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.
Last May, a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria contaminated the water system in Walkerton, Ontario. A testing lab informed the Public Utilities Commission of the contamination, but, inexplicably, the PUC withheld the information from both the public and the government for the following five days. Not until the medical officer of health, alarmed by the soaring cases of bloody diarrhea in the town, conducted independent tests did the PUC confess its dirty secret. The information came too late: The contaminated water killed six people and sickened 2,000.
The judge looking into the contamination of this town’s water supply made it clear in a ruling yesterday he wants to be sure the people most affected are heard.
To have the cleanest tap water possible, the Mike Harris government has announced stricter regulations governing the testing of the Ontario water supply. This despite the fact that the testing of the water supply was the only component of the Walkerton water system that functioned properly in one of the worst outbreaks of E. coli poisoning in Canadian history. Not only did the private lab detect the E. coli bacteria in the water sample, the lab also immediately notified the municipality.
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.
Three fatal errors by Ontario’s government led to the Walkerton water tragedy that has left at least five dead and more than 1,000 infected over the past week. The government failed to prevent the pollution of the water supply. It failed to prevent the distribution of polluted water. And it failed to recognize that the private sector can handle municipal water supply more competently and safely than the public sector.
Part One of this paper by Martin Nantel reviews the ecological transformation that occurred in Lake Ontario after 1750 and the factors – including overfishing, habitat destruction, and the introduction of exotic species – that contributed to it. Part Two examines the institutions – including the open access regime and “progressive” fisheries management – responsible for the transformation. The paper concludes by arguing for new, locally appropriate institutional arrangements that will set Lake Ontario and its fisheries on an ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable course. Continue reading
A chapter from Taking Ownership: Property Rights and Fishery Management on the Atlantic Coast, a collection of essays edited by Brian Lee Crowley explaining the theory behind rights-based fishing and reviewing practical experience with tradeable quota systems and community ownership in various jurisdictions. In this chapter, Elizabeth Brubaker examines the ways in which property rights provide individual and community fisheries owners with both the legal tools to fight pollution and the economic incentives to reduce fishing pressures, implement conservation measures, and enhance stocks and their habitats.