37e législature, 3e session



Monday 4 November 2002 Lundi 4 novembre 2002



Monday 4 November 2002 Lundi 4 novembre 2002

The House met at 1845.



Resuming the debate adjourned on October 31, 2002, on the motion for second reading of Bill 195, An Act respecting safe drinking water / Projet de loi 195, Loi ayant trait à la salubrité de l'eau potable.

The Acting Speaker (Mr David Christopherson): I'm advised that the member for Toronto-Danforth last had the floor when this bill was before us. You have about 41 minutes for the third party leadoff. You may now continue that speech.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): I left off on Thursday talking about some of the cuts and downloading that happened under this government's watch, the Mike Harris government's watch, and gave that as a backdrop, but I also took the time, and I want to do it again now, to acknowledge the people of Walkerton and to thank them for their response to the terrible tragedy that happened in their town. Their perseverance and their dignity and their ability to carry on, despite this horrible thing that happened to them, to make sure that this never happens to another community in the province of Ontario is to be admired. I'm sure we all want to pay homage to all of the people of Walkerton but particularly to those who lost loved ones or whose loved ones are ill.

Last Thursday, I talked quite a bit about what led us to Walkerton although I still recommend to everybody to read these reports. They're very easy to read, quite comprehensive, and it really gives in stark detail what went wrong in parts one and two, and the role that his government played, the role that the municipality played, the role that everybody played in the terrible things that lead to that disaster.

Today, I want to talk specifically about the bill before us and compare it to the bill that I proposed, which did pass second reading in this House, and that was Bill 3. I do appreciate the fact that the Premier and the Minister of the Environment and others have acknowledged the role that I played in leading us to be here in the Legislature, way too late, but finally, debating a Safe Drinking Water Act.

Again I'm going to say, before I launch into the comparison, to be fair to the government, because I am a fair person, that my Safe Drinking Water Act was written without the benefit of the Justice O'Connor inquiry and the reports. Indeed, I started working on that bill some time before the terrible events happened in Walkerton. I knew that when we were in government, as we all knew, there was a patchwork of guidelines and regulations and laws under several different ministries that didn't come together, and at that time I was aware -- we all were -- that we needed to do something to bring these acts together. One of the things we did as a government to start us in that direction was to bring in the Ontario Clean Water Agency. In fact we took, I think it was, $200 million out of the ministry. The government, Mike Harris, by the way, first said that we'd cut the ministry by that amount. Remember that, when he was trying to blame the NDP for what happened? As it turned out, we demanded a correction and we got it, that that $200 million went directly into setting up the Ontario Clean Water Agency to begin that process of having an agency whose prime purpose was to take care of and deal with safe drinking water in this province.

The other thing that we did was to bring in a green planning act. You will recall, Mr Speaker, because you were there, John Sewell, Toby Vigod from CELA, and others crisscrossed the province for, I believe it was a year or two, a long time -- and they came in under budget. I always have to put that in because they're very proud of that and they also did an incredible -- we were proud of them too, given that there was a recession at the time. They came forward with recommendations and we created a green planning act as a result of that which all stakeholders could live with.

There were some developers who weren't happy with parts of it. There were some environmentalists who weren't happy with parts of it. There were some communities that weren't happy with parts of it. But the bottom line was, it was a pretty darned good bill that actually did protect the environment and also protected the water at its source, which is a big piece that's missing from this bill, the nutrient management bill, the sewer and water bill that we were debating earlier today. That piece had been started by our government under the green planning act, because of course when you start talking about protecting the source of the water, you have to deal with development in any environmentally sensitive areas. We brought in that act, which this government completely cancelled. It just left no aspect of it and went back to the previous Planning Act and in fact changed that regressively, so we went back even before that previous Planning Act. That went a long, long way in terms of starting the process of protecting water at the source.


We also provided adequate funding for conservation authorities, which this government cut by I believe about 70%, plus huge cuts to the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources. And they cut another program that the NDP brought in. We called it CURB, Clean Up Rural Beaches. Yes, it cost dollars, and I know we were in a recession. When that party was over here at the time where I'm standing now, everything we did that actually cost some money, even if it meant protecting the environment or providing housing for vulnerable people or providing adequate health care, all those things, we were slammed every day in this Legislature for letting the deficit go up, while this government borrows money to give tax cuts to the wealthy. I still stand by what we did when I think about the things we spent that money on: keeping people afloat, trying to keep jobs, saving companies up north and indeed protecting the environment.

So, yes, we brought in many new programs. In fact, we gave the largest amount of funding ever to the Ministry of the Environment when we were in government. One of the little programs we brought in was CURB, Clean Up Rural Beaches. It dealt specifically, once again, with source protection. In this case, it was very specific: keeping cow and other animal manure out of wells and other drinking sources. It made a lot of sense and it was some millions of dollars; I can't remember the amount. But we went out into the farm community and worked with the farmers to figure out where the water source was vulnerable and to help them fence off and do education programs.

Those are the kinds of things we did, when we were in government, to start that process of source protection. When this government stands, which it frequently does, including the minister the other day, and points accusingly across the floor, "What did you guys do when you were in government? You did nothing," he is so wrong. We indeed did a lot -- not enough; more to come.

We also brought in the Environmental Bill of Rights. I as the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations -- few people know about this. I know you will remember, Mr Speaker, because I was very proud of this other little source protection piece I did that doesn't get talked about. It's known as LUST. Do you remember LUST? You don't have to answer that, Mr Speaker. LUST is leaking underground storage tanks. I brought in the toughest regulations for leaking underground storage tanks in I believe all of North America. It was little noticed. It wasn't a sexy program, even though it was called LUST. It didn't get a lot of media -- I made him smile. I worked very hard on that program, along with John Swaigen, who is a local environmental lawyer who had written a book about the subject and had lobbied previous governments before to do something about this tremendous problem of the old tanks. We don't even know where they're all buried, unfortunately. It's not an issue that comes up a lot in this House, but it too has led to contamination of our groundwater. Bringing in new regulations and trying to deal with all the old ones that are leaking was another key piece of the work our government did on source protection.

Right now I have named three pieces. There are more, but those are the three significant pieces that our government did: the green planning act; LUST, leaking underground storage tanks; and CURB, Clean Up Rural Beaches. There was more, but I just wanted to say that again for the record tonight because I know there will be government members up with their canned speeches ready to read. I hope they're not going to go there again tonight but I just wanted to make sure that was on the record.

I was very pleased to finally see a Safe Drinking Water Act before us. After working so hard on that -- and as you know, we're a very small caucus. I think we were a little bigger when I started to write that bill, but there weren't a lot of resources in our research and caucus staff to help me very much with that bill. Basically I did it on my own with Sean Morton, who was then my legislative assistant and an environmental lawyer, as well as Chris Watson, who you'll recall was with us then and was the researcher for many areas -- because we're spread pretty thin in that little caucus -- and a very hard worker. He did a very good job, and of course is now off in Ottawa being the principal secretary to the federal NDP at this very exciting time in the party's history.

Anyway, it was me, Chris Watson and Sean Morton, together with some experts in the field -- Rick Lindgren from CELA, in particular -- that we drew on. We drew on his expertise, Paul Muldoon's and others; not, of course, in any partisan way, because they're a non-partisan organization that would deal with any member in this House from any party. If you should come to them and ask for their advice, I say to the government, on amendments to the bill, which I will be doing, asking them for their advice, they would give their advice for free to any of us because it's their goal to further the enhancement and protection of the environment.

So we worked very hard for days and weeks and months on that bill to get it as good as we could, with the help of our very good legislative services, which drafted the bill and dealt with us time and time again, to try to get it right. So those are the people I want to thank for helping me write this bill, which was a pretty good bill at the end of the day.

It was based on US safe drinking water legislation, which celebrated its 25th anniversary at about the time I was bringing forward my bill. My bill drew a lot, as well, on the track record that has been available to us from the US for some time, and I did add some made-in-Ontario pieces. But we drew on that particular bill.

It's important to point out that Justice O'Connor came at his recommendations from a somewhat different point of view. And this is why I say I want to be fair to the government here because, as I said, I did mine trying to bring everything that I could, as best I could as a private member, into one piece of legislation. What Justice O'Connor does in part two of his report is basically recommend coming at all of the water pieces under four different pieces of legislation, instead of trying to do it in one piece. Between both the part one and part two reports, he comes up with a number of recommendations that make it easy for the government to follow. Indeed, his version of a Safe Drinking Water Act dealt mostly with pipes and pumps. That is the reality. Mine tried to deal with other things, including some source protection in the best way I could, and other items.

But what I want to say to the government is that because they did not bring forward source protection -- understand, with the nutrient management bill, which is now out there and the minister is still consulting about, the regulations that would do any kind of source protection still have not been brought into force. The Safe Drinking Water Act does not even mention source protection. We're dealing with a sewer and water bill that is more nuts and bolts, but also doesn't deal with it. It talks about full cost recovery, but without talking about who's going to pay, for instance, for the expenses involved in source protection.

The bill the government brought forward does deal with, fundamentally, the pipes and pumps, the safe delivery of our water, but doesn't deal with keeping that water safe and clean before it actually goes into the pipes, which is what Justice O'Connor talked a lot about throughout both his reports. He talked about a multi-barrier approach. The single thread throughout both the reports, in fact, dwelt on source protection and multi-barrier, source protection being the first part of the multi-barrier approach to protecting our water. It's a key piece, and it's the piece that's left out of this bill.

The government does say, to be fair, that Justice O'Connor recommended doing the source protection under a different act. He recommends amending the EPA, the Environmental Protection Act, to deal with source protection, and that's what the minister says he's doing. But what is alarming is that, here it is, what, two and a half years now since the tragedy in Walkerton, and Tony Clement, a former Minister of the Environment said, I believe it was in 1999, that they were starting to do work on source protection. Then Walkerton happened. And what did the minister and the Premier announce the other day? What did he announce, Mr Speaker, do you know? He announced that they're about to put together an advisory committee on source protection. We don't even know who's on the committee. There is no committee. An advisory committee at this late date? What have they been doing over there? This is the government that cancelled the green planning act, got rid of CURB, and now we hear that, after Walkerton happened, they're just putting together an advisory committee to tell them how to do source protection.


If they wanted to follow to the letter Justice O'Connor's recommendations and had come in and tabled a source protection bill or the amendments to the Environmental Protection Act at the same time, then I would have been quite comfortable with that, but I have grave concerns and fears -- there is an election looming, we all know that -- this advisory committee that is to be put together is to tide the government over until the next election and to say, "Well, we're working on source protection. We've got this great advisory committee." It's in the hopper and will be in the election platform, but it won't have been done.

The reason why I'm so concerned about that not being part of this bill -- and no bill before us in the near future -- is that Justice O'Connor and others have said the bills that have already passed, particularly the Nutrient Management Act, and this bill as proposed, the Safe Drinking Water Act, if passed, will not prevent another Walkerton. That's what we're supposed to be doing here: pulling all these threads together and bringing in legislation that would put in all the barriers that would prevent another tragedy like that from happening.

There's a big hole in the bucket, so to speak, in this piece of legislation before us. We have to understand that. You can't help but make these analogies, as I drink this water, which could be considered a demonstration at this point. This glass of water right now is full, but with the legislation we have before us, this glass is not full: it's half full or half empty. As I've said before, I prefer to think of it as half full. We have an opportunity to fill the rest of that glass.

I'm extremely disappointed that they have watered down this bill, my Bill 3, after the minister said in this House and the Premier started by saying they liked it, wanted to improve it and to pass that bill, and the Premier directed Chris Stockwell, the Minister of the Environment, to work with me in bringing forward my bill with amendments to strengthen it. That's not what happened.

Perhaps this is a good opportunity actually, on the side for a minute, to put on the record as well that I am not being appointed by the Tories to be the czar of some new water agency they're creating. I've heard that, particularly from a lot of Liberals. I've been getting calls from their ridings saying, "My member told me that the Tories are going to be appointing you to be the head of some big new water agency," and everybody out there is believing it. For a few weeks I was returning calls all over the province, and mostly, I've got to be honest with you, they came from Liberal members. I don't know what that was all about, but I want to put it on the record that it is not true and I would rather jump off the Peace Tower -- is that what the famous Liberal in Ottawa said? -- than go work -- and I'm sure they feel the same way about having me as the head of one of their agencies. So just for the record: no, no, no. This is a groundless rumour. I don't know that they're creating a new agency, except for the one in Walkerton, which I support, but (a) I doubt very much they'd ask me to run it, and (b) I know that they would know I wouldn't take an appointment from them.

Having said that, I want to point out that the content of Bill 3 never came to pass. A few good pieces of it were incorporated into the new bill that was introduced.

I'm going to say this for the Minister of the Environment: he did not work with me, as the Premier said when he made the announcement. I went out to Oakville last Tuesday morning to hear the announcement and the Premier did say that I worked closely, or something to that effect, with the minister in developing this bill. Not true. I was shut out of the loop after they decided to bring in their own bill and I want that on the record as well, because I would have fought hard to keep some of the components of my bill that aren't in the government bill, but I never had that opportunity. You will recall that Janet Ecker, the Minister of Finance, mentioned in the throne speech -- I guess it was in the budget; it has been mentioned on several occasions, in the budget, in the throne speech -- that my bill would be strengthened and brought forward.

Well, that's not what happened. My bill was weakened. Although the government bill has components on pipes and pumps, delivery of water, training, certification and all that kind of stuff, which is vitally important, that is part of their bill. It wasn't in mine. I would have been happy to put it into mine, now having the information before us from Justice O'Connor. What happened was, that was put in, and only a couple of pieces -- important pieces -- from my bill were put in.

I want to say this about Justice O'Connor's report -- and it also applies to another committee I sat on, the alternative fuel committee, which I signed off on. I have now heard members of the government say, in response to me, that I would like to do things differently from the report on alternative fuels I signed off on, as well as the Walkerton report. "You signed off on the alternative fuel report and we agreed in that committee that we would shut the coal plants down in 15 years," or whatever, and since then our party has come out with a policy to shut them down sooner. They say, "Didn't you believe what you signed off on?"

I just want to make it clear, in terms of that report and these reports, that I see those reports as the floor we can improve on. It's really dangerous when governments take reports and then decide that nothing else can be added to improve upon recommendations. I see the recommendations in these two reports from Justice O'Connor in many cases as the floor that can be improved upon, not the ceiling, as the government sees it. "We're going to follow it to the letter," says the government. Indeed, the bill they put forward doesn't exactly and precisely do that for the Safe Drinking Water Act, but it goes a long way to doing that. I want to make it clear that I see it as the floor that we can build upon.

There is absolutely nothing in Justice O'Connor's recommendations around the Safe Drinking Water Act or treatment or distribution or pipes and pumps that says it should not address additional drinking water matters in this bill. In my view, it should not be restricted to pipes and pumps just because Justice O'Connor said that's where you deal with this piece, particularly because you don't have the other pieces before the legislation.

I'm going to tell you some of the things in my Bill 3 that would have made this a much stronger bill had they been incorporated into the government's bill, and why I'll be working with the government now to see if we can make those amendments and get them included. The highlights of Bill 3, which had been introduced earlier as Bill 96, include water testing by accredited labs -- well, the government has done that -- strict notification requirements; strong community right-to-know provisions; making it an offence to pollute water; significant fines; judicial review of the actions of the Ministry of the Environment; establishing a water advisory council; requiring the minister to undertake research on water issues and do work around source management and source protection; annual state-of-safe-drinking-water report; annual review of regulations; and a Safe Drinking Water Act fund, which is so critical. Some of those things have been included in this bill, but not many.

As I said, a key recommendation, the source protection, is a glaring omission. It could easily have been incorporated into this bill. There's no reason why it has to wait for an amendment to the EPA. I find it absolutely astonishing that two and a half years after people died in Walkerton, we have before us no source protection plan yet and a non-existent advisory committee. The government should have used the past two and a half years -- especially because Tony Clement, a former minister, said that he was working on source protection -- to develop this policy for clean water. They should have started funding the conservation authorities again and doing the kind of work that needed to be done.

Also a key piece missing from my bill that I think is critical -- and it is certainly a key piece of the American Safe Drinking Water Act -- is upholding the community's right to know the status of their drinking water and to give an airtight process for notifying the public of adverse tests, producing consumer confidence reports, and maintaining an electronic drinking water registry.


I'm going to talk a bit more about that in a minute, but another huge hole in the bucket is the lack of provincial funding to help municipalities meet their infrastructure and water quality commitments, nor is there any talk about investment in rebuilding the scientific infrastructure at the Ministry of the Environment following its destruction by this government. Justice O'Connor specifically stated -- and we cannot cherry-pick from this report when it suits the government to say, "Oh, well, Marilyn, you're wrong. We followed the recommendations for the Safe Drinking Water Act," but then to not pay attention to some of the other key recommendations or advice. He did specifically state, "The funding cuts to the MOEE were part of the reason for Walkerton," and recommends that the whole system be adequately funded. This bill says nothing about money and resources.

I say to the government: you can have really tough legislation and really tough regulations, but if you don't have the resources, if you don't have the front-line workers to enforce it, to do the inspections, to do the testing, to lay the charges, to do all of those things, it's not worth the paper it's printed on. We've seen that, in fact, time and time again since the government cut such massive resources from the Ministry of the Environment. So we need to see that safe drinking water fund incorporated into this bill.

The other bill that's before us, that we were debating -- actually, it was a time allocation motion. The government's trying to ram that one through as well. We debated that time allocation motion this afternoon. I raised that concern as well, because the new buzzword is "full cost recovery." I pointed out this afternoon and on Thursday when I talked about full cost recovery, some of the not necessarily recommendations -- because there are some cases where Mr Justice O'Connor said, "I don't feel it's within my mandate to give a specific recommendation on this, but I do want to point out to the government that I have concerns about the" downloading -- he called it "restructuring" -- "to the municipalities since this government came to power, particularly around social services," and expressed the concern that the municipalities should not be asked to meet new requirements to keep their drinking water safe unless the government does a review of the kind of what he called "restructuring" that downloaded a lot of services to the municipalities. It's causing a great deal of economic problems for these municipalities.

When we talk about full cost recovery, especially in light of the terrible situation that people are now in because of the privatization of our energy system, which the NDP, from day one, said would be a problem -- and we are the only party in this House who stood up at that time. And you know what? We were laughed at at the time. We were laughed at by Liberals; we were laughed at by Tories; we were laughed at by some in the press. When we started to look at what happened in California and other jurisdictions and said, "It is going to happen here" -- and we pointed out all the reasons. I remember I had Matt Freedman come up from California, a young lawyer who has been involved with the citizens' group there who were fighting the very fight that we were having. He came up and watched us making all the same mistakes and tried to warn us. I had a public meeting. We've been working with lots of others who have been trying to stop this deregulation and privatization.

I have to hand it to my leader, Howard Hampton, who kept on that issue day after day; and all of our caucus kept on it, before we had the proof, even though we could show from other jurisdictions what happened. We could see it coming, and nobody wanted to listen then.

Now the Liberals are scrambling. Some members are getting up in question period and in members' statements and doing their best to try to again ridicule the NDP position on this. Our position was right then and our position is right now. It's about time that everybody in this House understood that the deregulation and privatization of our energy system is wrong. It's going to create havoc in this province and people are going to have their power cut off. Jobs are already being lost; we're all hearing it. It's time we all agreed that the NDP was right all along on this one and reverse this stupid decision that is so badly hurting our constituents.

So coming back now, I get very nervous when I hear these guys talking about full cost recovery, watching what's going on with hydro, because it's in their interest to embrace full cost recovery.

Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): And those guys too.

Ms Churley: And the Liberals too at this point, yes. But when I hear --


Ms Churley: The Liberals have been attacking us lately. I don't do this a lot, but I have heard the attacks on us by the Liberals and I'm going to say that the Liberals are trying to have it both ways on this and they're not going to get away with it on this one. I say to the members who were asking questions today about how badly their constituents are being hurt and that we need to give incentives to private companies to come in and do this and that, it's not going to work. Energy is something that's life-sustaining. We need it. It should be a public system.

Yes, we said that the public system we had needed to be changed so we could bring in green power and we needed to deal with the nuclear debt and all of those things. We would change the system as it is now because we knew very well when we were in government how difficult it was under that system to bring green power on the grid. But now when I hear the government talk about full cost recovery on water, well, what an excuse it is to suddenly get out of providing the funding that they should be providing to jurisdictions across this province, which they got out of from day one. We used to have a partnership with those municipalities and we had a dedicated fund that went to improving water and sewer systems. They got rid of that.

So now I hear this, when we know that there's a lot to be done and it's going to be expensive to upgrade our water system to make sure Walkerton never happens again, we hear government members: "We really like this full cost recovery; that sounds good. People should be paying for their water." Well, you know what? I agree in principle, as we all do, that we have to stop taking our water for granted. That's part of what led us to Walkerton.

You read these reports, and it's shocking throughout the whole system what happened that led to this, not just the Koebel brothers, as you like to say again over there. All the pieces are shocking. Dan Newman was the minister then. He knows all of the pieces that went wrong. The need to do something about it is going to be expensive. For the government members to stand up and say, "Oh, well, it's just full cost recovery; everybody's got to pay for their water," we pay for our water here in Toronto, as we should, but now we know that there has to be tremendous infrastructure work done. But across the province in the smaller municipalities -- these rural areas, the little campsites, trailer parks, all of those water systems in poorer municipalities -- what does it mean to them when they're told that they're going to have to start paying for all of this? They're not going to be able to do it. So does that mean, if they can't do it, the government will do under the Safe Drinking Water Act what they did under regulations? Although it's harder to do under legislation; it's one of the problems I have with just regulations, because the government can come in with a stroke of a pen, which they did when they brought in the new regulations after Walkerton happened. It was one of my concerns and complaints about it. They did exactly what I said they might do; that is, some municipalities could not afford to meet the requirements of the new regulations. So what did the government do? Instead of giving them the resources, the funds that they needed, they postponed the date for when those municipalities would have to upgrade their systems. Who knows how safe that drinking water is in those jurisdictions? We just can't have that.

The time is marching along and I wanted to speak a bit about a part of the bill that's left out that really means a lot to me, and that is the public right to know. One of the big pieces of the American legislation deals with that, and it goes quite far. President Clinton made some amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, I think it was in 1996, and the public right to know was a big component of that.


I'm trying to find a sample paper that I have. Of course I can't find it in all these pieces of paper; here it is. When I first announced my Safe Drinking Water Act, two and half years or so ago, I had some big posters made to demonstrate graphically what I mean by those things, so people would understand. I know I'm not supposed to hold these things up, Mr Speaker, and you probably can't see it anyway, but what it says is, "Sample Public Notice: Drinking Water Warning," and under that, as an example, "Spring field water has high levels of nitrate." Then it gives very specific instructions: "Do not give the water to infants under six months old or use it to make infant formula."

It goes on even in the language of that particular community, Spanish, to talk about how there's information for Spanish speakers -- in my community it would be Chinese, Greek, Indian and some other language -- potential health effects, actions consumers should take, when the violation or situation occurred, whether alternative water supplies should be used, what is being done to correct the situation or violation, and the name, phone number and business address for more information. That's the kind of information that's automatically given out in the US in communities where there's any adverse water report whatsoever.

Then the other side is a mock-up that I did: "Water quality registry." It says, "Welcome to the Ontario water quality registry. Clean, safe drinking water is a basic human entitlement and essential for the protection of public health. The Safe Drinking Water Act recognizes that people who use the public water systems in Ontario have the right to clean and safe drinking water." Then it says that it "provides Ontario residents with access to vital information about the quality of drinking water in their community." This registry would have "What's on tap" -- I kind of like that line -- "at the OWQR: drinking water alerts." And you could find anything, like a database of drinking water tests, listed by community; index of certified water laboratories in Ontario; index of water notices issued, listed by community; index of convictions under the act and judicial reviews; drinking water and health basics; report on the state of drinking water in Ontario and report on the water advisory council.

That's some idea of what I mean by the public right to know. That's something from my bill that's been left out and that's something that I'm hoping very, very much that the government will agree to put back in, because I think we would all agree that one of the pieces that went wrong out of the many in Walkerton was not only the labs having been privatized and the system breaking down so that the reporting wasn't done properly to the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health, but also that there was a delay in notifying the community. And although Justice O'Connor says he didn't think lives would be saved, he thought some people could have avoided getting sick had they been advised earlier. So that's a piece that I hope to get back in the bill.

The right to sue is a contentious one -- that's part of the US legislation -- and Justice O'Connor did not recommend that. He was concerned that there would be frivolous cases brought forward and he came up with a standard of care which the government did incorporate into their safe drinking water bill. But I still take the position that there needs to be a right to sue. When something that horrible happens to you, as it did in Walkerton, I think that right should be there. There's a way around this that's a compromise which I will be proposing to the government, and it's put forward by CELA, the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Let me take this opportunity to thank them. The Sierra Legal Defence Fund, OPSEU and AMO have already put in preliminary responses to the draft that came out a while ago.

On the right to sue, what CELA recommended -- and I think it's a good recommendation -- is that the whole Safe Drinking Water Act come under the Environmental Bill of Rights. Once something comes under the Environmental Bill of Rights, it means that act is part of that whole infrastructure and the public can ask for an investigation under that act and indeed can sue under certain conditions under the act. That might be the best way to go about that, because I would see it as a vital piece to come back in the act.

The Safe Drinking Water Act before us today goes about, I would say, two thirds there, but it needs some work and it needs to have some amendments made. I'd like to see the things that I talked about initially as missing from this bill, which were in my bill that was applauded widely across the province by the same people who have put in their initial thoughts on the government's safe drinking water bill, clear across the province -- I think people would like to see that in the bill. So what I would say to the government is, make absolutely sure -- no negotiating on public hearings. I want the government to commit, as the Premier said and the minister has said -- because they're starting to back down now -- that there will be full, comprehensive hearings across this province. This is an important bill, and people have the right to have their say. We need to hear indeed from the public. So the New Democratic caucus is demanding that there be full public hearings clear across this province until we get it right.

The Acting Speaker: Members now have up to two minutes, for a total of 10, for questions and comments.

Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex): I am pleased to take a moment on the member's comments on the Safe Drinking Water Act, Bill 195. The comments made were very thoughtful indeed.

I want to speak a bit about the support that I think is required, and that many are calling for, for rural communities and smaller communities when it comes to the cost of their water in the future. This has been a significant issue in my riding. I wrote to past ministers about this situation, and in particular about communal wells in small rural areas and the need for financial assistance.

Here in Ontario today we see the prices for some of the modern basics of our life in the 21st century, such as natural gas, escalating. We see hydro rates going through the roof, causing a lot of concern, to say the very least, among large and small business owners, rural communities -- natural gas and hydro rates going through the roof. These communities were in the past worried and particularly now with this bill are worried about the future cost of water, their ability to maintain the small villages and towns that they have in their area and keep them thriving to attract more people to their area, those who want to live in rural and small-town Ontario. I want to also mention that in recent days, almost since the long weekend in September, I've been hearing about gasoline prices, prices that are approaching almost 80 cents a litre. This government has done nothing to alleviate that. Natural gas, hydro, gasoline and water prices are escalating, and this government has failed to grapple with those issues.

Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): It's an honour to rise to comment on my colleague the member for Toronto-Danforth and her very excellent speech. She said three things that I think are worthy of comment in the two minutes allotted to me. The first was the public's right to sue and the difficulty in getting into that entire area of litigious practice that seems to be creeping ever so slowly, or perhaps ever too quickly, from the United States. It is a very difficult prospect, but I know there always has to be a public right to seek redress through the courts. I'm not sure exactly how we do it, but I do understand the conundrum of which she spoke.

What was far more important was the public right to know. That is not in this legislation. I will tell you that people everywhere want to know what they are ingesting. They want to know about the food they are eating, whether it has been genetically modified. They want to know about the water and what the content of the water is, whether it has any contaminants or any things that they think might be at too high a level, such as lead or iron. They want to know that, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for municipalities to provide that kind of information with the monies they have available to them.


But most importantly, she talked about full cost recovery, and I am in total agreement with her. If the direction of this government is to go the route of privatization as they have with hydro, you are going to be making the same huge mistake with the same disastrous consequences. People will not stand for a public service such as water going the same way you are proposing hydro to go.

It is important to charge sufficient money to maintain the services. I would agree with that. I would agree with that in a flash. In fact, when I was mayor of East York, we ensured that the money spent on water was sufficient to cover the cost of repairing the pipes. It is in the best public domain to do exactly that. My colleague is exactly right, and I commend her for her speech tonight.

Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): It's a pleasure to rise this evening to make a few comments on the member for Toronto-Danforth's speech. I didn't get the first 20 minutes last week, but certainly I know that you have a lot of passion for clean drinking water and that was reflected in your private member's bill. However, I have to tell you that I was somewhat disappointed you didn't feel that your bill was included in this piece of legislation. We on this side of the House took your recommendations and your bill very, very seriously. I can get into this a little bit later on, when I'm making some comparisons, but certainly we think your input was very valuable as we drafted this piece of legislation.

As you know, after Walkerton, which is something we never want to ever see happen again -- not only in our province or our country but anywhere in the world -- we want to make sure that the recommendations of people like Justice O'Connor are taken very seriously and, as a result, we think that a lot of his recommendations are exactly the reason why we are in fact here tonight debating the second reading of Bill 195.

I'm going to be making a few other comments when my turn comes up here just in a few minutes, but I wanted to say that we understand your passion for clean water. Again, we did take very seriously the recommendations of your private member's bill into many aspects of this particular piece of legislation. I'll be happy to make a few comments in a few minutes.

Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I am pleased to make some comment on the one-hour lead for the third party. I did have the opportunity to be here for the first 20 minutes and then for the 40 minutes this evening. I think everyone in the Legislature recognizes the commitment of this particular member to the issue and to environmental issues. I would like to echo the remarks that the member made with regard to the people of Walkerton, who have paid the greatest price of all for the fact that we have to entertain this kind of legislation here at this time, sadly.

My colleague Mr Bradley has also highlighted the fact that it was the Tory administration that cut the resources for the Ministry of the Environment by some 50% and fired 900 employees out the door, employees who provided the kind of services that very probably would have prevented the tragedy. It's only after that and with this hindsight and with the very dear price that has been paid by the people of Walkerton that we are here to debate Bill 195, the Safe Drinking Water Act.

I do appreciate most of the comments that were made by the member of the third party that related to this particular act. I certainly don't agree with the comments she made when she sort of digressed to debate some hydro issues. But in any case, I'm going to try and focus my comments on her remarks to the act and also share some concerns that our caucus has already voiced around the affordability of safe drinking water. We certainly hope that it will be the goal of the government to ensure that in whatever community someone would live in Ontario, whether they were a rich community or not, they would be able to access safe drinking water.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Toronto-Danforth now has up to two minutes to respond to the questions.

Ms Churley: I'd like to thank all members of the House for their indulgence tonight. I particularly want to thank the members for Chatham-Kent, Beaches-East York, Simcoe North, and Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington for their comments.

I would like to say that I don't know how I feel about always being referred to as passionate. It's true, I can be very passionate about a number of things --

Mr Dunlop: It was a compliment.

Ms Churley: No, I do take it as a compliment; don't get me wrong. But I also want to point out that I have some knowledge about these issues. I am very passionate about the environment and environmental protection. That's what brought me here. That's what made me a politician. I still fight for these things. But I also have a basic knowledge that I hope members, particularly of the government, will understand has not just been plucked out of the air. I do know a few things about this issue.

I'm pleased to hear that the member for Simcoe North said that he feels as though the government did try to work with my bill and based their bill upon it. I would like to say that I appreciate that. I believe I said earlier that I appreciate the amount of work that was done in relationship to my bill. But what I'm pointing out is that it's missing some key components that I think are important. Because they are not showing up in any other bill, this is a good opportunity to take the Justice O'Connor recommendations, my bill and the US bill, which I based mine on, and make the best possible safe drinking water bill.

I'm still hopeful, and I was happy to hear the member for Simcoe North say that we might be able to make some amendments that can be accepted to indeed improve upon the bill that's before us today.

The Acting Speaker: The floor is now open for further debate.

Mr Dunlop: I just want to say what a pleasure it is to rise this evening to open our second reading debate, the rotation portion of it, on Bill 195, the Safe Drinking Water Act.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who is here tonight, and Minister Stockwell for bringing forth this piece of legislation. As I said a little earlier, 50 recommendations from the O'Connor report are included in this legislation.

We mentioned a little earlier how important it was that we implement a system here in Ontario that is second to no other jurisdiction anywhere in the world, and that what happened at Walkerton never happens in any other jurisdiction in Ontario or in the world. I do hope that we in fact are world leaders in water quality as a result of this legislation and other legislation and recommendations that will follow.

I'll focus a lot of my comments tonight on the new licensing requirements for drinking water, but I'd also like to talk a little bit this evening about my experience as a municipal council member for 18½ years and as a plumbing and heating contractor, as someone who has actually at one time or another worked on many water systems in my particular small part of Ontario. I've got some interesting stories that I think you might want to hear about how far we have come in the last 20 or 25 years on some of our municipal systems here in the province.

I would also like to mention some key points that the government is very concerned about. Also, I'd like to mention a few comments from stakeholders and show their interest in the introduction of Bill 195, and some of the positive comments we've heard from different stakeholders across the province.

The proposed Safe Drinking Water Act would require owners of municipal water systems to obtain an owner's licence for the operation of their waterworks. This licence would not be required for non-municipal systems. Non-municipal systems would be required to follow the current regulatory requirements, which include a certificate of approval.


When I mentioned earlier about how far we've come, I wanted to mention some of the water systems we have had. I've got to tell you, when Walkerton broke out and we heard about the Koebel brothers and neglect and that type of thing and whoever was responsible for inspections, all the different issues that surrounded the inspections and the maintenance of the water systems, it brought back a lot of memories for me.

In 1980, I was elected as the reeve of the small village of Coldwater. It's still a nice little village, but now it's part of a restructured township called the township of Severn, in Simcoe county. It's a beautiful little community on a river. It's surrounded by high hills. Some of the hills are the Mount St Louis and Moonstone ski resorts. If you're heading up Highway 400, there's a long hill for many miles that is filled with artesian wells, and water bubbles out of the sides of the hills.


The Acting Speaker: Sorry to interrupt you. Take your seat, please. I'm sure the opposition benches would want to give the same courtesy that the government benches have given this evening to the speaker, so if you could keep it down, please, that would be really helpful. Sorry for the interruption. Please continue.

Mr Dunlop: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Maybe some people aren't interested in these municipal stories, but I find them very important. This particular stretch of hill is where, around the turn of the century, the people who were the forefathers, the town fathers of the little community of Coldwater, built a reservoir up on the top of the hill, and water flowed from these artesian wells and springs into this huge reservoir tank, an open reservoir. The reservoir allowed the water to flow by gravity into the community, probably 400 feet below it, where the little village was. The community had good water pressure at the taps. It was certainly a system that was good for many years and very cheap. People had water at ridiculously low prices, like $5 a month, this type of price, for years because all that really occurred was that the water flowed into the tanks. I guess about 30 years ago they added a chlorinator at the bottom of the hill. There was no filtration of any kind or anything like that, just an in-line chlorinator. That's how it got to the houses.

When I first took over as the reeve of this municipality, they'd get strong areas of the town for chlorine and weak areas. But the fact of the matter was that people drank the water; they loved the water. The health unit checked it, I believe, once a month. If they had a bad test from the health unit, they'd call out to the municipality and the inspector would say, "You've got a bad test." The council and administrators at the office would phone the local radio station, and the radio station would just simply put it across the airwaves for the people in Coldwater to boil their water for a few days until they got some better tests. That is how it was done.

I can remember that someone from the Ministry of the Environment came along about 1988 or 1990 -- it was either the Liberal or the NDP government; I'm not sure -- and said, "You know, we consider that a pretty dangerous system. You're going to have to put this new state-of-the-art system in at the bottom of the hill or find other options. And we're going to give you $1 million or something to help you along with the construction of this facility."

We looked at all the options and followed the protocol back then -- because I was the head of council -- and we looked at taking water out of the river, at piping it back from Georgian Bay, and finally we came across the proposal of possibly drilling wells. But so many people in the community thought that was so wrong at the time, because there we were actually going to drill wells when we had what everyone considered to be a perfectly good system at the top of the hill. However, the old guys in the community would come forward and say, "Oh, yeah, but we used to swim up there. We used to swim in the reservoir," and this type of thing. That didn't sound that wonderful but the water tasted good and it was chlorinated.

In the end, about 1993, we drilled beautiful wells. I think they produced about 150 gallons a minute. It was water out of the Oro moraine, something that we're very proud of up in that area. It's ice-cold water. But the water bills went up quite a bit. There was a lot more testing involved; there was a backup generator system in it. There was pressure enough to run fire trucks and fire pumps and all those sorts of things, but in the end we had to put this system in and the people were disappointed in the price of the system. But the reason we had to put it in was very simple: it was an open reservoir and they are simply not allowed any more in the province of Ontario.

When I think of what happened at Walkerton and the criticism I took as the reeve of the village for installing this new system, I just thank God every time I think of it, because it could have been us, with bad water tests and maybe an E coli problem or something like that in that community. We were fortunate enough that we went ahead, and now, after the restructuring of the county of Simcoe, the township of Severn, that I became the deputy mayor of, we put in state-of-the-art systems and we have staff on duty that do the complete checkups all the time. They're highly regarded and they're well trained to the latest standards that the Ministry of the Environment has.

I wanted to pass that on, that little story, because I thought it was important as a mayor or a deputy mayor to look back and think how we could have been in trouble and how you could feel for somebody like the Keobel brothers over in Walkerton because I think at some time it was bound to happen somewhere. In the end, it's so unfortunate what happened in Walkerton but it's a lesson that all of us will never be able to ever forget.

I wanted to say a few words about -- and I'll get back to some notes I've got but I kind of find these stories a little bit interesting -- our particular business in north Simcoe and south Muskoka. We were plumbing contractors and of course we looked after many, many systems for cottagers. I'm not trying to give an ad here or anything like that; I'm just saying the type of work we've done. We did a lot of resort work and worked on some of the water systems in the major resorts and a lot of the developments around Simcoe County, but we also looked after some municipal systems for the adjoining townships. I have to tell you that there really was never an inspection system put in place where we'd see people from the township or the health unit or the environment come out. We just went ahead and looked after the chlorinator systems and some of the filtration systems that were put on. The odd time, maybe every couple of years, you'd hear a report that "Environment wants something done" on a certain system.

So there was certainly never any regular inspection or detailed analysis of what was happening with all the water systems in that particular part of the province. Now maybe that happened in other communities, but in Simcoe County we generally had really good drinking water wherever the wells or the water systems were. We didn't see a lot of the inspections that we would of course see under the new regulations and what the townships have to follow today.

I wanted to say another few things about the particular piece of legislation and some of the people who have commented on Bill 195. I'm looking at an editorial here from the Toronto Star and I want to quote from it: "There's a lot to like in the Ontario government's proposed safe drinking water introduced yesterday." This was an editorial last week. "On the positive side, the act would force testing laboratories to be accredited and all operators of water systems to be licensed. It would also impose a `standard of care' to ensure municipalities act `honestly, competently, and with integrity.' In addition, it would require all waterworks operators to pass formal testing to become licensed. It would boost enforcement provisions and appoint a chief inspector to oversee training and inspection policies. These are all good, necessary steps."

This was from the Toronto Star's editorial section last week, after the introduction of Bill 195.


The Globe and Mail also reported, and this is a quote from Bruce Davidson, the vice-chairman of the Concerned Walkerton Citizens group, someone that Mr Murdoch would certainly know: "Mr Davidson praised the legislation that was introduced yesterday for `ensuring the people working in the water facilities are well trained,' and for requiring that `equipment has to be maintained and the appropriate equipment has to be in use.' A lack of training and lack of functioning equipment were among the causes of the Walkerton tragedy." That's a quote from Mr Davidson.

The Toronto Star also quoted Mayor Dave Thomas. Mayor Dave Thomas calls the legislation a very, very "positive move."

Mr Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): Thomson.

Mr Dunlop: I'm sorry, Mr Thomson.

I'll go on with the Star again: "Tim Lotimer, chair of the Ontario Water Works Association, said the proposed legislation is a `great step' forward that will help ensure the safety of drinking water for Ontario. `I think it is high time that the cost of water went up. Water is a very valuable thing,' he said." That's from Tim Lotimer.

A quote from The Brantford Expositor: "The province's commitment to a watershed-based protection plan is being warmly welcomed by the GRCA. Peter Krause, chairman of the Grand River Conservation Authority, said Tuesday that Premier Ernie Eves' announcement serves as an important reinforcement of ideas presented by Justice Dennis O'Connor in part two of his Walkerton recommendations.

"`The Ontario government's actions today are an excellent step forward,' said Kraus, who is also chairman of Conservation Ontario. The group represents the province's 36 conservation authorities.

"Source protection on a watershed basis is the first critical barrier in a multi-barrier approach to the safety of our water supply."

The Guelph Mercury says: "City waterworks superintendent Peter Busatto said the legislation raises the bar. `It goes way beyond any legislation I'm aware of in Canada and in the United States.'

The legislation got high marks from retired University of Guelph water resources engineering professor Hugh Whitely. `It is definitely a good move to recognize requirements for the various steps in delivering safe water,' said Whitely, particularly pleased with the licensing and certification ideas."

And finally, from Broadcast News -- maybe I've given too many quotes, but I though it was important that these be put on the Hansard, if it's at all possible -- "A Vancouver Island MP is calling for national drinking water standards based on the findings of the Walkerton inquiry. Alliance MP Keith Martin, who is a medical doctor, calls the Ontario report a useful document. He says the Ontario government took a leadership role by adopting its recommendations."

Those are some of the quotes from people who supported the introduction of this bill last week. I'll get back to my other notes.

While all proponents of the proposed bill clearly define various roles and responsibilities, the new licensing requirements for municipalities clearly define the accountabilities and responsibilities of municipal owners.

The proposed licensing scheme requires the owner of municipal drinking water system to obtain a certificate of approval, a permit to take water, an operational plan, a financial plan and an accredited operating agency to operate the facility.

The proposed licensing requirement is the first of any jurisdiction in our country. Commissioner O'Connor makes a number of key recommendations relating to new requirements for municipalities. These recommendations are hinged primarily on the concept of an owner's licence, as articulated in recommendation 71. In recommendation 71, Commissioner O'Connor suggests that municipalities should be required to obtain a license for each drinking water system that they own, and that such a license should be made up of five distinct pieces. The proposed Safe Drinking Water Act embraces this recommendation by requiring a municipal drinking water license built upon five mandatory components. The first two components of the new license replace the current certificate of approval process by separating the physical hardware elements into what will be called a drinking water works permit and the ongoing operational practices into an operational plan. Both of these new components will require separate approval from the ministry.

Drinking water works permits: in the proposed act, we propose that anyone who intends to establish a new municipal drinking water system must apply to the ministry for a drinking water works permit before doing so.

An operational plan, another part of the drinking water works plan: operational plans must be developed by the owner of each municipal drinking water system. Those operational plans will include sampling planning, real-time monitoring and emergency planning, in addition to day-to-day operational processes specific to the characteristics of each system.

A permit to take water: a valid permit to take water is the third mandatory component of proposed new licences. The permit is an existing approval process for regulating substantial water takings in the province through the Ontario Water Resources Act.

The fourth and fifth components of the proposed new licence are new areas of oversight in the regulation of municipal systems.

Financial plans will demonstrate the long-term viability of drinking water delivery for each system. Commissioner O'Connor highlighted the importance of this component by saying, "Over the long term, safety depends on stable and adequate financing to maintain the water system's infrastructure and its operational capacity to supply high-quality water consistently."

This proposed act supports this assertion by requiring owners of municipal drinking water systems to demonstrate the financial viability of their service. This theme of financial sustainability relates directly to our proposed Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act that was introduced in this House a few weeks ago. The proposed bill would require owners of water and sewer systems, mainly municipalities, to undertake full cost accounting of their systems. I'm running out of time here. They would conduct a detailed analysis of their system, including operating and capital costs, all sources of revenue and the investment required to maintain and expand their system. O'Connor clearly indicated his support for full cost reporting and cost recovery plans as outlined in this bill.

The accredited operating authority: the final component of the proposed new licence is a requirement for the owner of the drinking water system to secure the services of an accredited operating authority for the operation of the system. Accreditation is an important step forward, one that recognizes that running these drinking water systems is a complex business that requires specialized knowledge and coordinated management. Operating authorities, whether internal departments or hired service providers, will be required to have accreditation from a designated accrediting body before operating a municipal drinking water system.

I thank you for the opportunity to say a few words tonight.

The Acting Speaker: Members now have up to two minutes for questions and comments.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): I'm sure it comes as something of a relief for the member from Simcoe North to be able to talk positively about his government's approach to dealing with safe drinking water. It has been a long time coming for this government to table some legislation that even begins to address the issues of what's needed to ensure that Ontarians can actually trust the water they're about to drink.

We've had a long history from this government of taking exactly the opposite direction. I remember the arguments we made in this place when this government decided they were going to privatize the water testing labs. We even tried to argue it on the government's own grounds. We were able to show, to bring in evidence, that it was going to be more expensive to do the testing of water in private labs. But this government was so hell-bent on privatization of whatever they could privatize that they weren't interested in either the safety considerations or the cost considerations of privatizing the water labs.

I won't dwell tonight on whether a different decision on the government's part back then, some six years ago, might have averted the terrible tragedy of Walkerton. But I do want to acknowledge that it was only the terrible tragedy of Walkerton that in fact led the government to finally present the legislation we have before us tonight.

Even with this legislation, this government is hanging on to its privatization agenda. In the draft of the bill, there was a clause that would have ensured that if municipalities sold their water systems to the private sector -- the government was still certainly allowing that possibility, but at least they were prepared to ensure that if the municipalities sold their water systems to the private sector, they would still have to accept responsibility to ensure that the water would be clean. There would be a legal responsibility on the public sector, maybe not the provincial government but at least on the public sector accountable to the ratepayers, to the residents, to ensure that that water was safe, even if it was being administered by private owners. They took the clause out of the bill. This government is still primarily concerned about privatization rather than public safety.


Mr Prue: I listened with some considerable interest to the member from Simcoe North. I was particularly impressed; I had no idea that you were the reeve of your township or the deputy mayor of the township of Severn.

I was also very interested in what you had to say about the costs, because this is really where it comes down to the nub of it: how much is the public willing to pay for safe, clean, pure water? How much are they willing to pay? I listened to the problems of a rural municipality that did not have a great big lake like Lake Ontario beside it. I am reminded of many small communities that do not have the luxury of having Lake Ontario at their doorstep. Be that as it may, the costs have to be balanced, and what I did not hear and am hoping to hear in further debate is the balancing that this government intends to do once costs are raised. There can be no doubt that in order to ensure the safety of all the people of this province and the drinking water, some costs are going to have to go up. It is unrealistic to think that they will not. In this party we support the fact that the costs that are charged should balance off the expenses in providing the water.

Having said that, what I need to hear and have not heard yet is that the public will continue to have accessibility to water. We have seen over the last few days and over the last few weeks ordinary residents in Ontario -- people with disabilities, people on fixed incomes and pensioners -- who are no longer able to afford to have hydro. I do not want to see in this bill the same thing or potentially the same thing happen to people who cannot afford to have water. There needs to be a balance between the cost feedback and the accessibility to the water itself. Until I hear that, I'm going to have to be a little bit skeptical. But I do commend the member for what he had to say.

Mr Murdoch: I too want to commend the member for Simcoe North on this bill. This is a very important bill and I'm sure all three sides will support it when it's done. I think a lot of the meat of this bill will come when we do the regulations.

We've set up a working group with AMO to work on these regulations. AMO so far has said that the bill at this point is certainly OK. As I say, when we get to the regulations we'll see what's going to happen. I'm pleased to say that Norm Miller and Morley Kells are also in that working group. Norm brings a lot of expertise from the private campgrounds association and trailer parks to water supply, and Morley, on the municipal affairs side, will bring a lot of expertise to the table. AMO has sent a co-chair, Howard Greig. Howard is the mayor of Chatsworth in Grey county. So it's going to be a good working committee, as far as I can see. It looks like we'll be able to, hopefully, come up with regulations that suit everybody and that will make this bill as important as we need it to be.

As you know, clean water is something that everyone expects. We have to make sure that's going to happen here. Also, the concerns you have with the water rates are one of the things we're going to have to look at to make sure that water doesn't become so expensive, especially in rural Ontario, that we won't be able to afford it. There are a lot of concerns with individual wells and we'll have to look at those at a later date in another bill.

The member for Simcoe North spoke well about this bill and I think he brought a lot of things to light. I'm looking forward to all three parties supporting this bill when it comes to a vote.

Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): I also found the comments by the member for Simcoe North interesting. I do think we need to remind ourselves of how we got to the need for this new bill. Many people who are watching perhaps don't understand that education changes in this province have not been done by educators but by politicians. Health care changes have been done not by health care providers but by politicians. The change in the water of Ontario was done not by engineers from the Ministry of the Environment but by politicians.

There are some things engineers do that they test by actually building models. If you're going to design a car muffler, you build a car muffler and see how it sounds. If you're going to design a nuclear bomb, you don't build a nuclear bomb and set it off and then take it back to the shop to see how it works. You model it. You do computer models; you do approaches to it. I would suggest that Ontario would have been different had the approach not been, "Let's change everything." There's a model I like very much that says if you want to truly understand something, try to change it. There were massive changes made to the water system in Ontario. Quite frankly, before 1995 no one thought about the water and there were not major problems with it that we were aware of. In 1995 and following, there were massive cuts done to the Ministry of the Environment that caused people to question the water.

I would like to humbly suggest that in future an approach to change be to make haste slowly and to look carefully at a change and that a change should not be done strictly for budgetary reasons: "We can save a lot of money by not testing water," "We can save a lot of money by closing all the labs" etc.

I would like to suggest more openness, where there actually would have been consultation with the experts in the field rather than a financial decision that has brought about the urgency for this bill to now be passed.

Certainly, this bill is supported by us, but there really shouldn't have been a need for this massive change.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Simcoe North now has up to two minutes to respond.

Mr Dunlop: I do appreciate the responses from everyone: the members for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Beaches-East York, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and Prince Edward-Hastings.

I'll just basically repeat what I've said earlier: what happened in Walkerton can never happen again, and this bill will in fact work in implementing close to 50 of the 93 recommendations made by Justice O'Connor.

I think we, the members from rural Ontario -- at least in my part of the province -- take the water quality and the clean water in our lakes, rivers and wells very seriously. I'm really pleased with what we've seen occurring over the last four or five years with remedial action plans. I know we've done a great job in the Severn Sound Environmental Association cleaning up, removing a part of Georgian Bay as one of the environmental hot spots on the Great Lakes. We're very proud of that, all the communities that have worked together, the province and the federal government. It's a great project.

I'm pleased that we've been able to get some substantial money from the Ministry of the Environment through Minister Witmer, and she was there, for the groundwater monitoring of the volumes. I think it was about $600,000 in testing for that. That was part of her $10-million project, which I think is the largest groundwater monitoring project in the province's history; and of course the healthy futures program, which protected a lot of water at the wellheads and gave best-management practice plans to a number of farms throughout a number of the watersheds that are in my riding. I'm pleased at that.

I'd ask that we take this very seriously as we go through the hearings. I'd call on all members of the Legislature to support Bill 195, the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The Acting Speaker: The floor is now open for further debate.

Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): I rise to speak on Bill 195, the Safe Drinking Water Act, with both a sense of positive direction that has been finally brought to bear two and a half years after Walkerton and also with a great deal of sadness that we are now, in a reactive way, forced by an inquiry to say that a government has to bring in a Safe Drinking Water Act to protect our drinking water for the future.

I say this because, first of all, we must remember why we're bringing in this legislation at this time. I think remembering that shows we didn't have a proactive approach in this province in protecting environment and water. We thus have to have now a reactive approach, after tragic consequences of very poor planning when it came to cuts that were made in the Ministry of the Environment.

When you take a ministry, such as the Ministry of the Environment, that has a very specific public -- if you want to call it, protecting the public interest -- and you cut it to the extent that it was cut, it shows fundamentally that the public interest is not on the agenda of what this government did in the mid-1990s. Today the Ministry of the Environment still receives less funding than Bill Davis provided to the ministry in 1976. I believe, as Justice O'Connor says, that those cuts, in part, have been to blame for the consequences of the Walkerton tragedies.


This bill does provide for a number of suggestions or a number of regulations that will protect drinking water. One of the fundamental key recommendations in reversing -- because that's what this is: it's reversing this government's neglect of our drinking water. It's an attempt to reverse it. What we haven't done in this bill is the source protection. Source protection is fundamental to ensuring safe drinking water. This is the third of four legislative instalments that have arisen from Justice O'Connor's recommendations, and this act does provide a framework for matters concerning the treatment and distribution of drinking water in Ontario.

One of the things that is important and that I believe I have yet to see is one of the recommendations in part two of Justice O'Connor's report that states, "The provincial government should ensure that programs relating to the safety of drinking water are adequately funded." The government has yet to make that financial commitment to ensure the appropriate implementation of this Safe Drinking Water Act.

My colleague from Thunder Bay-Atikokan spoke about the concern with privatization. Bill 195 does not prohibit municipalities from selling off their water and sewer systems. I understand this was one of the more disturbing changes in the draft of the bill that was sent out for public consultation this summer. That consultation draft included a provision that would have ensured that municipalities would still have a legal responsibility to ensure clean water even if they sold it off to the private sector. This provision has been eliminated from Bill 195.

There is an ideological bent the Conservatives have, and that is that privatization is a panacea to all the problems. Privatization is not a panacea. Often there has to be a thoughtful approach about what the role of government is and what the role of the private sector is. In my view, this government is of the view that privatization is the answer to all of the problems.

Probably what concerns me more is that in this the government has consistently talked about cost-cutting. In this area, particularly with the cost of the Walkerton tragedy, it shows that the government was probably very short-sighted; so short-sighted that cutting the Ministry of the Environment was a cost-saving when in actual fact it wasn't a cost-saving, because the consequences of those cuts indeed have a great cost long term. Probably the economic impact of the Walkerton water tragedy is estimated at more than $64 million. That cost, though, doesn't include the tragic cost of lives. You can't possibly provide any estimate on what that is.

I've dealt with this on many occasions in this House. When we talk about source protection, for instance, in my riding we have a huge hazardous waste landfill. It was fast-tracked in 1997 through order in council. It did not go through the previously lengthy procedure of environmental assessments with public hearings and all of those things because we had to fast-track this, or at least the government wanted to fast-track it at that time. So we have a huge site. It says right in the review that was done that in the long term there is going to be a potential contamination of the groundwater. We have a site that is over 300 acres. They bought another 1,000 acres. It's huge.

What's even worse about this site is that we are still the only jurisdiction in North America that hasn't moved to treat hazardous waste before we landfill it. We simply dig the hole and just dump it into the ground. That site has had some problems. There was a leak in the site and they had to put in a remediation of sorts. What the manager told me was that they now have to pump the groundwater upwards so the contamination doesn't go down, and they have to do it in perpetuity. What does "perpetuity" mean? That it's irreparable. That's my understanding of what that means.

Where is this site? It's close to the Great Lakes. It has a great aquifer underneath, of course, that's there, and do you know what? When I have brought it up to the various Ministers of the Environment since I've been in this House, there has been an indifference to this. It's quite astonishing. There is no political will to change the regulations to ensure we don't have something that's worse than Walkerton in that area, long-term. It is so nearsighted. I cannot for the life of me understand why there is no action here.

Unfortunately the costs of the Walkerton tragedy, both in human life and in financial cost, have been huge. Why? Because there has been a narrow approach, a very narrow approach to the governing of this province. What do we have in my riding? It's happening now. There is potential, long-term, for a tremendous environmental impact that's there and the government seems to be reluctant to do anything. They just stand there and say, "We're going to review it again," even though the Environmental Commissioner has spoken on this. Here we are talking about a water source. We're saying that it will be impossible to clean up that mess because it is so large.

Do you know what else is even worse? Most of that hazardous waste is coming from outside the province. We're in the business of hazardous waste, apparently. It's cheap to do hazardous waste in Ontario because in every other jurisdiction it costs money to treat it so it's less toxic it before you landfill it. But we wouldn't want that in this province because we want to be a haven for hazardous waste for some reason that I fundamentally cannot understand. I have attempted on numerous occasions to have the Minister of the Environment address this very serious issue because I think that's the responsibility of government. It's to protect the public interest and public health and safety before there are tragic consequences from the lack of political will to move forward.

One of the areas that really concerns me, not so much this bill, because this bill was forced on the government, as I said, after two and a half years, and they had no option but to bring it in -- and again, the responsibility that the government must shoulder as being partly the cause of that tragic, tragic consequence must be something that I don't know how they can bear.


One of the issues is about source water protection, because the Safe Drinking Water Act is completely silent on those issues relating to the first barrier of drinking water protection. I wonder, if there are issues in that source of drinking water, whether at that time they will move to deal with some of the huge issues that I certainly have in my riding regarding the landfill that is there and that is, as I said, in the Dark Ages of regulation relative to any other jurisdiction on the continent. When it comes to source water protection, you don't just protect water because you bring in strict regulation. It has to have what you call a multi-barrier approach to drinking water protection, again emphasizing source protection as the logical first step in building a drinking water regimen. The Ontario Medical Association suggests that the bill should not be delivered without laying the essential foundation of source protection first. When Commissioner O'Connor tabled this groundbreaking report in May, he stressed that the key to avoiding drinking water contamination was protecting drinking water sources. We're very concerned that a key recommendation such as this is missing from this current proposal.

The government has had a great deal of time for soul-searching and thoughtful approach to begin rectifying the mistakes that were made, and yet it seems to be at a snail's pace. They were very, very quick when it came to cutting, when it came to slashing without consideration of what the consequences were going to be, but they appear to be at a snail's pace when it comes to the remediation, to fixing up some of those mistakes they made in the past.

I don't know what the rationale is. I know that the notion of saving money -- I read a book called The Cult of Efficiency. The cult of efficiency is that efficiencies are an end in and of themselves. It's not a means to an end; it's an end. In other words, if we can save some money somewhere, it doesn't matter what the consequences are going to be in the saving of that money. As long as we can do that, that's fine. It's an end in itself, without balancing the values of what a government is here for, of why legislators and people who represent the public at this level are here. It's not just about cost-cutting. It's about understanding what the consequences are going to be. You have to have that balance.

Efficiencies without effectiveness -- what does "efficiency" mean? Does "efficiency" mean that we're going to cut the ministry, that it's going to be efficient, but then the effectiveness of being able to monitor -- we have cut a tremendous number of monitoring wells in this province. I believe the monitoring wells went from 730 to 240. That's 500 water monitoring stations cut. That's efficiency, but is it effectiveness? I don't think so. Is it good government? I don't think so. Efficiency is not a panacea, even though we use that word. Politicians love that word because that word somehow gives the impression that you're doing everything right. But efficiency without values, efficiency without understanding what the long-term consequences are going to be to human health and to human life, in my opinion, is a cult. I agree with the writer of The Cult of Efficiency. We can have the most efficient hospital in the world without any patients. It would be really efficient. It wouldn't cost very much. But is it effective? This Safe Drinking Water Act is a result of efficiencies that were not in place, which led to the Walkerton inquiry that forced the government to finally say, "You know what? Our drinking water is important. Our environment is important."

We still hear today this thing about Kyoto, for instance, and we say, "Oh no, you can't sign on because you don't know this, that and the other thing." The Kyoto Protocol is a target and it's an agreement to say we've got to cut these emissions because if we don't cut these emissions, jobs are not going to be worth anything because we will not be able to live on this planet. It's very serious, and if you understood that, then you would try, instead of digging your heels in and saying, "These lobbyists are saying we shouldn't buy into Kyoto. We'll just have to find lots of reasons not to" -- because we can. We can find tremendous reasons not to do it. What I call the intellectual integrity of public service would try to find out how we can do it, not how we can't do it, because we can find more reasons not to and yet we have to try to find the reasons how to.

I was at a meeting with the local council for economic renewal and one of the discussions was how can we tap in on the opportunities provided in reducing emissions. How can we tap in economically to the benefits that would come out of the change of dealing with a new way to do business? There are opportunities there and there are other jobs created because of a change that would take place in emissions reduction and a different way to drive our cars etc.

Anyway, I would like to say in conclusion that the Liberals do support this bill, but this bill unfortunately is a consequence of a very, very tragic situation that took place two and a half years ago, and I do hope it will never happen again.

The Acting Speaker: Members may now take up to two minutes for questions or comments.

Mr Prue: It's my pleasure to rise and speak about the member for Sarnia-Lambton, who gave a very good 20-minute presentation on her party's take on this bill. I was particularly interested in the comments that came out at the beginning of the speech, when she talked about cuts to the environment. We all know that the cuts to the environment have been legendary. They've been huge. They were part of the legacy of what the members opposite like to call the previous government -- that is, the Mike Harris regime -- when in a swath and with a cavalier attitude, hundreds of people were cut from the environment department. Hundreds of people who were out there to test the wells and the water were summarily let go and were never replaced by anything other than a few private sector labs.

In fact, what surprised me and what I was impressed by most from the speech was that less money is being spent on the environment today by the ministry than was spent in the time of Bill Davis way back in 1976. Those, I guess, were halcyon days, days when all of us looked at Ontario as a place to live and a place to grow and all that stuff, and certainly not what has happened today. The cuts are very much to blame for what happened at Walkerton. In fact, in spite of what the members opposite might say about the Koebel brothers, I would think the cuts had far more to do with what actually happened in Walkerton than the misdeeds of two brothers.


But what also impressed me with the member's speech was her talk about waste disposal and about the way we continue in this society to bury our garbage in dumps, with all the leachate problems from them and the flow of the leachate out into our drinking water. Surely, as a society, we need to deal with our waste disposal in much better ways than that. I commend her for what she has said, and when I get a chance to speak to this issue myself, I would also like to talk about those dumps and the leachates that are causing problems to our water.

Mr Johnson: I just wanted to add my comments to the debate tonight and particularly to mention the debate by the member from Sarnia-Lambton. Indeed she touched on many things in this bill, the Kyoto accord, and I wasn't sure if the McLeod-McGuinty leadership wrote her notes on that or whether she got them directly from Ottawa, but they were the party line on that. I guess if I were going to respond to that, I would just say to her that if I was trying to sell her a car, I assume the she'd just say, "Yes, I want to buy it, Bert," and it wouldn't matter how much it cost or whether it had tires on it or anything else. She also touched on the landfill at Sarnia, the high-level one.

But I did want to raise the point that if it was just because of Walkerton that we were bringing this safe drinking water bill in, I wouldn't support it. If it wasn't good legislation and if wasn't a good place to go, then I wouldn't support it, but I think it is. I think that the people of Ontario deserve to be able to know that when they turn on the tap, the water is safe. That is what this bill is intended to do. It touches on a few things, and I just wanted to comment on the framework that the member for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound is bringing forward and that a colleague of mine, Vince Judge, the mayor of North Perth, is on it. I am glad that he will bring a perspective to this of small communities on communal wells. I just wanted to add those comments.

Mrs McLeod: I, too, want to underscore a very important point that my colleague has brought out in this debate, and that is the underfunding by the Harris-Eves government of the whole issue of water and sewer management, and indeed the entire Ministry of the Environment. To quote again what she has read into the record, "Today the Ministry of the Environment still receives less funding than Bill Davis provided to the ministry in 1976." I would submit, along the the lines of my colleague's arguments, that this government's agenda has basically not changed very much. I commented earlier this evening on how we still see the emphasis on privatization running through this very bill. Despite the concerns that Justice O'Connor had expressed about the dangers in having privatized water and sewer systems, the government is still looking at private labs. As they privatize the labs, they are still, in this bill, looking at private water monitoring. They are still looking at the ability of the municipalities to sell their systems to the private sector. I think they are still looking at how they can cut or reduce costs.

My colleague has touched on the fact that rates for water may increase: they could double; they could triple. It doesn't seem to bother Mr Eves very much. However, it was a very real concern to Justice O'Connor, and Justice O'Connor said that the government should be looking to ensure that the rates for safe drinking water don't become prohibitive for people.

The whole issue of what it's going to cost to provide water is directly related to how much it's going to cost the municipalities to provide the infrastructure for safe drinking water, and whether or not that infrastructure is going to lead to higher rates for individuals is dependent again on whether this government is actually prepared to put some money into safe drinking water. Despite the fact that Justice O'Connor has clearly outlined the costs involved in providing safe drinking water, there is no evidence in this bill that the government has committed to meet that funding obligation.

The Acting Speaker: Just before I go to the next speaker, we have at least three discussions going on on the government side. If you could just either keep it down or take them outside the chamber, that would be really appreciated.

Sorry, the member for Timmins-James Bay.

Mr Bisson: Not a problem, Mr Speaker. I know the only conversation you care about is the one that's about to happen here. Sorry, it's just one of those nights; I've got a cold.

Anyway, I want to say to the member from Sarnia-Lambton that I agree with most of what she said and specifically the point she was trying to make, which is that much of what we have to deal with in regard to the tragedy of Walkerton quite frankly has been as a result of many of the decisions this government has made, and specifically the large cuts that happened at the Ministry of the Environment after 1995. The member reminded us that after 1995 we had about 50% cut in both the operational dollars and staff levels of the Ministry of the Environment, and when you make those kinds of cuts at the Ministry of the Environment, it means that people who run the ministry have got to make some decisions. They've got to make decisions about what they can and they can't do, and there were a number of things that they couldn't do when it came to water testing. Again, much of what was the result in the tragedy of Walkerton is because of the decisions of this government to curtail much of the activity that the ministry was involved with when it came to water testing. I think she's right in that.

So yes, the government is bringing forward a bill to try to deal with this, but I just want to agree with the member: I think we can't forget that much of why we're here is because the Tories messed up in the first place. If the Tories hadn't done what they did when they ran in here in 1995 as the common sense revolutionists and decided to cut 50% of the ministry and cut 50% of the staff and do away with all that red tape that they talk about, that they say is a nuisance, much of this wouldn't have happened, because what we begin to realize after awhile is that regulation is not exactly as the Tories would purport it to be, which is just red tape and a hindrance to business, a hindrance to whatever; it's there to protect people from the kinds of things that happened in Walkerton. I thought the member from Lambton made some very good points and I agree with her on that particular point.


The Acting Speaker: We'll all wait until you two are done.

The member for Sarnia-Lambton now has up to two minutes to respond.

Ms Di Cocco: I want to thank the member for Beaches-East York for his kind comments.

To the member from Perth-Middlesex, I just want to say that my comments are not about a party line; they're about a level of values and about what I believe. I say that fundamentally because unfortunately I believe that in this House too many times it is only ideology and not about what one believes. It's important that I put on the record that it is about my values. That's why I say the things that I do.

I thank the member from Thunder Bay-Atikokan. Again, the whole notion is that the reason that we're here today speaking to this bill has a lot to do with mistakes, mistakes because of a tremendous underfunding of a ministry that was to protect the public. It is unbelievable that a ministry that important has funding that is less than in 1976 under Bill Davis. I agree with her that the commitment to safe drinking water is suspect, because the government has to put their money where their mouth is, and unfortunately we have the rhetoric, but we don't have the dollars to follow to assist, as stated in the inquiry report.

The member from Timmins-James Bay also spoke about the cuts that had a long-term impact. So I say that this legislation is an attempt to reverse this government's neglect of our drinking water and of our environment. I certainly hope that we can at some point in time begin to reverse it.

The Acting Speaker: The floor is open for further debate. I believe the rotation is over here; that's what I'm being advised. So if you'll take your seat and you'll take your seat -- you might think we're going to debate this, but we aren't. You're not getting the floor. The member for Kitchener Centre, however, is.


Mr Wettlaufer: Thank you, Speaker. I appreciate that.

I'm delighted to have this opportunity to discuss what I think to be a fairly strong piece of legislation, the proposed Safe Drinking Water Act that was introduced on October 29 by the Honourable Chris Stockwell, Ontario's Minister of the Environment.

Our government, the Ernie Eves government, takes the issue of the safety and protection of Ontario's drinking water very seriously. We are committed to ensuring that Ontario has and enforces the best and toughest clean water policies in the world. And make no mistake: we are committed to passing this important legislation as soon as possible.

One of the reasons that the proposed bill is so strong is that its roots are firmly grounded in the solid recommendations made by Commissioner O'Connor last May in part two of the Report of the Walkerton Inquiry. He made 93 recommendations regarding the safe delivery of drinking water in his part two. It is this government's intent to implement all of them.

A second reason the proposed bill is so strong is that it reflects this government's commitment to consult with key stakeholders and the public on the technical details concerning the implementation of the proposed Safe Drinking Water Act. Some of this consultation has already taken place through postings on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry. Through these postings and other consultations, the common thread of partnership has been woven into the very fabric of this proposed legislation.

Our government has already made reporting of all adverse water results a legal requirement. Regulations 459/00 and 505/01 require that information, including the water testing results, be made available to the public within the next day by the owner and municipality. It also requires that laboratories and owners report all adverse water results immediately to the ministry and to the local medical officer of health.

Key components of the Safe Drinking Water Act as proposed by O'Connor include mandatory licensing of laboratories by the ministry and mandatory accreditation for all testing parameters, authority to establish drinking water standards, and a mandatory requirement to establish an advisory council to advise the minister on standards.

The proposed Safe Drinking Water Act links directly to recommendation 67 of the report. Within recommendation 67, Commissioner O'Connor made several key observations. One of those observations identified the need to establish the advisory council on standards. During this debate, I will focus my comments on the Advisory Council on Drinking Water Quality and Testing Standards and the legislative authority to establish several standards regarding the distribution, treatment and monitoring of drinking water.

The implementation of the drinking water standards can be related to a number of key recommendations made in part two of Commissioner O'Connor's report. In his recommendations, he outlines what he believes, and we agree, are the government's responsibilities in this critical area.

Some of those key recommendations relating to drinking water standards state:

"The provincial government should continue to be responsible for setting legally binding ... standards" through regulation. That was his recommendation 24.

The second one is, "In setting drinking water quality standards for Ontario, the Minister of the Environment should be advised by an advisory council on standards." That was his recommendation 25.

Third, "The advisory council on standards should have the authority to recommend that the provincial government adopt standards for contaminants that are not on the current federal-provincial agenda." That was recommendation 26.

Fourth, "All municipal water providers in Ontario should have, as a minimum, continuous inline monitoring of turbidity, disinfectant residual, and pressure at the treatment plant, together with alarms that signal immediately when any regulatory parameters are exceeded. The disinfectant residual should be continuously or frequently measured in the distribution system. Where needed, alarms should be accompanied by automatic shut-off mechanisms." That was his recommendation 36.

Fifth, the drinking water protection regulation "should be modified to require standard protocols for the collection, transport, custody, labelling, testing, and reporting of drinking water samples, and for testing all scheduled contaminants, that meet or better the protocols in standard methods." That was his recommendation number 39.

As mentioned earlier, a number of Commissioner O'Connor's comments regarding the establishment of an advisory council on standards are also nested with his overarching recommendation number 67. The proposed advisory council on drinking water quality and testing standards will be composed of a blue-ribbon team of experts who understand both the spirit and law of our drinking water protection regulations. Its functions, to be outlined in the terms of reference, will include consultation and providing advice on policy, procedures and standards. The council will be visible in Ontario's communities and will actively seek public input.

The advisory council on drinking water quality and testing standards will be a council with clout. It will be supported by a strong regulatory regime. While setting high environmental standards for our drinking water is critical, the standards alone are not sufficient to ensure compliance. To ensure compliance, waterworks owners, accredited operating authorities and labs must report prescribed adverse test results immediately to the Ministry of the Environment and the medical officer of health.

Through the proposed advisory council on drinking water quality and testing standards, the government will provide both municipal and non-municipal waterworks facilities with the information they need to comply with these stringent requirements. As the council will also have a mandate to protect, to provide advice and consult with the public on our standards and regulations, they will be in an excellent position to actively ensure that Ontario's standards reflect the most up-to-date information and practices, and that these standards are consistently applied and enforceable. An advisory council will provide a broader range of expertise in the provincial standard-setting process and allow the province to obtain more assistance at little cost in this critical area.

We will also continue to seek out ways to keep the public informed about water quality, including the use of electronic systems, such as the Ministry of the Environment's Web site, which currently includes up-to-date information on adverse water quality on a site-by-site basis across Ontario. We will soon be announcing details of an advisory committee which has been established to guide the development of a framework to implement Justice O'Connor's recommendations on watershed-based source protection planning.

Also concerning source protection: in June of this year, this government announced an additional $5-million investment in 2002-03 for groundwater studies to support the development of source water protection plans. That's a total now of $19.3 million since November 1998. I believe the proposed drinking water distribution, treatment and monitoring standards proposed in the Safe Drinking Water Act, combined with an advisory council on standards, will lead to even greater environmental protection.

The Safe Drinking Water Act is a forward-looking piece of legislation that also reflects our commitment to transparency and public consultation. I urge members to support this progressive bill.


The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Parsons: As I said several minutes ago, certainly this bill goes a long way to address the Safe Drinking Water Act, but as a rural member, the fact that they have woefully neglected the protection of our water is a significant and major difficulty. We are seeing in rural Ontario continued energies that are detrimental to our water. I would suggest that the practice of cities of shipping garbage out and burying it in our fields is detrimental to us.

Each member has a role, not to protect the water in their riding but to protect the water in Ontario. Garbage dumps have a tremendous record of leaching into the ground, sometimes in the short term. Now we have technology that delays it over a number of years, but it will still come and haunt us, or perhaps not us but our children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. To wilfully neglect that is to weaken what could otherwise have been a decent bill.

We have seen initiative. We have seen the Ministry of Agriculture put forward a program that would provide farmers with incentives to protect the groundwater. There was funding that encouraged them to buy no-till agricultural equipment, funding that allowed them to replace septic systems, funding that allowed them to build shelters over manure piles for awhile -- all things that didn't benefit the farmer as much as they benefited the environment. The Ministry of Agriculture put this in place and allowed farmers to spend the money, knowing that it would better the water protection of all Ontario, and then retroactively came back about a week or two weeks ago and said, "Well, you can't spend as much as we told you you could spend. We won't fund any projects that were started before June 28. We won't pay for this equipment. We capped that at $5,000." Here we have farmers trying to protect the water, and this government encouraged them and then reneged on their commitments to the people of Ontario for clean water.

Mr Bisson: I listened somewhat to the comments made by the member across -- I forget the riding.

Mr Wettlaufer: Kitchener Centre.

Mr Bisson: Kitchener Centre. I'm sorry, I should know the name of the riding. It's covered here with a bunch of books and stuff.

I just want the member to comment on a couple of things. I agree with you that there are a number of things in this legislation that are quite frankly a step forward. I don't think anybody in this Legislature argues that what's contained in this bill is part of what Justice O'Connor asked to have happen when it comes to the issue of making sure we have safe, clean drinking water in the province of Ontario. But what I want to hear the member talk about is why as a government member, when his government was first elected in 1995 -- because he came here in the class of 1995, and I remember well that he was one of the members who cancelled the leaking underground storage tank program that was put in place by Marilyn Churley, the then Minister of Consumer and Corporate Relations, which is exactly one of those issues that deals with contaminated water -- I want to know why he as a government member cut the CURB program, another one of the programs that was put in place by the provincial government of Bob Rae to deal with clean drinking water.

He was a member of the government. I don't remember if he was a member of that committee, but I know he was a member of the government that voted to repeal the green planning act that was put in place by the NDP government by then Minister Dave Cooke that dealt with much of what issues of planning are and also, to an extent, how it affects water. I want to know why he was a member of a government that voted in favour of cutting by 70% the funding for the conservation authorities in the province of Ontario. We all know that conservation authorities play a very large role when it comes to ensuring that the groundwater is made safe.

So I just want to ask the member by way of these opportunities that we get for questions and comments to comment on those points of why he would, as a member of the Conservative government, have voted against all those initiatives that protected water in the first place.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I was drawn into this discussion by the member from Kitchener Centre.

This is a comprehensive bill to address the issues from the Justice O'Connor commission report. It's my understanding that 50 of the 93 recommendations in the O'Connor part two report have been addressed.

But I was drawn even more intensely to -- the act authorizes inspections of drinking water systems and laboratories. You can't legislate against stupidity, but in the case of the Koebels, clearly the case had been made there. I would say to you that I think of all issues about my riding of Durham -- and I'm meeting this week with the members from the Fralicks Beach Shel's Wood Water Co-op in Port Perry. This is a specific case, as most members here would know, that is inherent upon -- this is a co-op where they have about 60-some homes, and those homes are all off a common well in the area. It's my understanding that if it weren't for Minister Stockwell's intervention, they would have had $8,000 a year in charges on tests when this well -- I lived there. In fact, my home was there for some time before I was elected here, because I can't afford to live there now. The fact is --


Mr O'Toole: I couldn't afford it now because $8,000 -- can you imagine my constituents and their concern about it? Their wells have not been tested negatively and now they have to have these tests to ensure that the tests are negative.

I think that our Premier, Ernie Eves, and Minister Stockwell have fully assured the people of Ontario that this province will have the safest drinking water. I put to the people of Ontario, what is the cost at the end of the day? That's what we should be considering here.

Mr Mario Sergio (York West): Do I still have two extra minutes? Do we have another rotation?

Hon Brad Clark (Minister of Labour): Yes, go ahead, rotate.

Mr Sergio: Well, if it weren't the member for Kitchener Centre, I would perhaps reconsider.

I do indeed concur and sympathize with a lot of the remarks made by the member, but let me say to the member and the members of the government that if indeed we have the basis for a strong bill here, it will not be complete until we have the bill approved, and until it includes all the other recommendations that this side of the House is proposing and all the recommendations from Justice O'Connor. There are some key points missing in the legislation as it has been proposed. I'm not saying --

Hon Mr Clark: What have you got against it?

Mr Sergio: No, you'll have to wait to hear that when I do my 20 minutes or so and you hear my comments, but let me say that this is a beginning. As the government knows, if they really want to make this bill watertight, they'd better go back and reread Justice O'Connor's reports, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the OMA -- the Ontario Medical Association of Ontario -- and other agencies --

Hon Mr Clark: Did you read it?

Mr Sergio: Yes, I have read it, and you will hear my comments -- because you cannot provide safe drinking water to the people of Ontario until you provide that at the sources. I can tell the minister -- unfortunately, the minister is here and he keeps yapping about whether I've read the bill -- that the key recommendation is not in the bill as you have provided it. That is one key recommendation --

Hon Mr Clark: Did you read the Walkerton report?

Mr Sergio: Mr Minister, if you don't want to listen -- it's a recommendation by Justice O'Connor, and you have failed to include it in this piece of legislation.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Kitchener Centre now has up to two minutes to respond.

Mr Wettlaufer: I'd like to thank the members for Prince Edward-Hastings, Timmins-James Bay, Durham and York West for participating.

I think it's important to point out what I had said earlier, that earlier this year, in June, the government announced an additional $5-million investment for groundwater studies to support the development of source water protection plans, bringing it to a total of $19.3 million in the last four years.

The member for Timmins-James Bay: I guess I would like to draw his attention to the fact that his government spent $10 billion in excess of revenue each year for five years. That's $1,000 for every single man, woman and child in this province. They had their priorities. The people of Ontario had their priorities, and they expected a government to be a little bit more responsible fiscally. When we came to power in 1995, we attempted to do the right things.

The situation in Walkerton would never have arisen had it not been for the gross negligence of a couple of people by the name of Koebel. This started long before this government ever came into power. This continued through the Peterson government of the Liberals and the Rae government of the NDP.

Hon Mr Clark: It started in 1978.

Mr Wettlaufer: It started in 1978. It would have continued, unfortunately, through this government's mandate if this had not taken place, this terrible tragedy in Walkerton. As a result of the tragedy in Walkerton, Justice O'Connor has made his recommendations, and this government is committed to carrying out every single one of those 110 recommendations.


The Acting Speaker: The floor is open for further debate.

Mr Sergio: I'll try and use my few minutes to make some key points on the major points of Bill 195. Sometimes we get wrapped up in our presentation and we forget some of the important things that we want to say or important points that we want to address on various legislation.

Let me say at the outset that I will be voting in support of this proposed legislation. But of course, I would be very ecstatic to say, "Yes, I'm supporting it wholeheartedly because it contains every recommendation of Justice O'Connor's report; it meets the approval of every agency and municipality." The opposition says, "No, it does not do that." We have concerns. I think the public has concerns. The various agencies have concerns. But having said that, we have to support it.

It is two and a half years late. It's got some good recommendations that stem from Justice O'Connor's report, and I'm pleased to see that the bill is here for some very limited debate. But I hope that the Premier and members on the government side will take to heart what we have to say on this side, that indeed they will go back and say, "You know, there is a lot of concern here." If we propose to make this particular bill indeed the Safe Drinking Water Act, then I think we have to include these particular key points, which I will try and address during my presentation.

As I was saying before, just in case I run out of time and I forget to make those salient points that are missing in the legislation, what are they? Raw water supply is not addressed in the bill, and I think that's a key point: if we cannot address the raw water supply, then it means down the line we're going to have problems. Source water protection: if we cannot have a set of regulations, standard laws, that will protect our water at source, then we're going to have problems later on. Sale of water: we're going to have a problem in the future if the government insists on going on with the sale of Ontario water.

This bill is silent on the one third of staff they have cut. The bill is silent on staff and resources, which means funding. We've been saying that. Our leader, Dalton McGuinty, has been saying that for a long time, that you cannot provide protection through the Ministry of the Environment, not only on drinking water, when you cut one third of staff and millions from the environmental budget. So I believe that is important and it's not in the bill.

I don't know how they're going to address cost. How are they going to recoup and who is going to pay? We have to keep in mind that it is going to cost absolutely hundreds of millions of dollars, and it's something that this government must address and must address heavily, very actively, progressively and, if I may say, soon, without falling on the backs of the smaller municipalities, because we know where it's going to end up: on the shoulders of the individual consumer.

Those are, very quickly, some of the things of terrible importance, and in going through the bill I have found they're missing. As I said before, these are key elements that Justice O'Connor has addressed in the report. Protecting the water at source is something that AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said, "You cannot send this bill forward unless you address the problem at the source," and they're not doing that. The Ontario Medical Association says that you cannot say you are providing safety for the health of Ontarians through the drinking water unless you take care of water at source. That is why it's important.

Bill 195 was introduced this past October. In doing so, the government has been trying to frame on a comprehensive basis, but it's missing many of those ingredients, the whole report of Justice O'Connor. We not only recognize the importance of the recommendations of Mr O'Connor, but we recognize fully -- Dalton McGuinty, our leader, has said this many times -- that it's something we cannot fool with. We're not going to accuse the Conservatives and say, "What happened at Walkerton is directly your fault." Perhaps it was brewing long before. But as the report says, they had plenty to do with it, and they had plenty of warning as well from all sides: all sides of the opposition, the various agencies, people working in the ministry. You cannot have a different effect, you cannot have a different result, when you cut the funding and the manpower so deeply, and then on top of that, in five years you have cut 500 monitoring stations. You just cannot believe that everything is going to be the same, that it's going to be rosy, that the water is going to be the same, that the water is going to be checked, and that when you open your tap you're going to get the same water that you were getting before or the water that you expect to get. It is just impossible.

We support this bill because it's got some of the recommendations. It includes some of the things we've been saying to produce safe drinking water. But we hope that while supporting the initial bill here, whenever the government decides, they will do it better, they will go ahead and include some of the other things that not only we have been saying but that Justice O'Connor has been saying as well.

Not only that; I think given the particular situation very recently and the ineptness of the government -- what did they do? They appointed a commissioner. We have all seen the report of that commissioner as well, with great reservation with respect to the water conditions, saying that perhaps it's even worse than before. Having said that, I will not be going into the complete report because I only have about 10 minutes left.

The protection of drinking water: while we support the intent, while we support the elements of the bill, as Liberals we request, on behalf of making this bill better, on behalf of the people of Ontario, to include some key points. These key points, as I said, we have already raised. They are there to be used, to be incorporated and to be put forward. We demand that these key points -- two or three I've mentioned. It is not to privatize the water and sewer system. It is absolutely not a benefit for the consumers, for the business people in Ontario. I think our position has been, and we would like to make this clear, that there is always a factor, there is always a part, a role that our businesses, our industries, our expertise, our expert people have. They have a role in that. But publicly, water and sewers must be in our domain. We cannot concede on that. We must have control; the public must have control. We have well-qualified individuals and agencies, and as I said, they have a role to play. But privatizing the entire thing -- it absolutely does not benefit the people, the consumers of Ontario.


Financial support is something we would like to see. Financial support for the water and sewer infrastructure is important. If I have time, I'll read from the report from Justice O'Connor. It will cost, if not in the billions, in the multi-millions of dollars to bring up to par and repair infrastructure, especially in those municipalities where the infrastructures are so old that I believe every one should be checked.

Important as well is affordability, affordable water rates. Not that I don't trust the capacity of the public sector, but I believe we have a responsibility to provide the people of Ontario -- the seniors, the pensioners, the working-class people, industry as well -- with a fair, acceptable water rate. Even Justice O'Connor said so. Again I refer to the report. I know the Premier and members of the government are well aware of the report, in which Justice O'Connor says you cannot make it a burden on the less fortunate. I think the government must be aware of that.

I am not going to attack the government for the reckless cuts, because we all know now where the cuts were made and how deep those cuts were. Even Justice O'Connor addressed the situation when he said it was the reckless cuts that have been putting public health at risk.

Finally, now we have this partial bill, if you will. They promised to include funding. This is of interest, because over two and a half years ago we had the Walkerton tragedy. We have had two and a half years of inaction from the government. In 2000, they announced they were going to take care, were going to fund programs, stuff like that. We haven't seen anything yet. We have not seen anything yet from this government to correct some of the problems that brought about the tragedy in Walkerton.

Bill 195 is practically only half, if I can say that, of going through the recommendations of Justice O'Connor. It includes and addresses only about half of Justice O'Connor's recommendations. We believe that the best and most effective way to ensure safe drinking water is at the source; we have to provide safe drinking water at the source. This is a key recommendation by Justice O'Connor. It is something we have been saying, and I do hope that indeed the government will be listening.

Costs borne by the consumer: I am a bit -- I wouldn't even say irritated any more by what the Premier has said. He says, "The consumer will pay whatever it costs. If it doubles, they have to pay. If it triples, they have to pay." That assertion doesn't sit well with me, my colleagues or with the people of Ontario, especially at this particular time when we are going through the convoluted mismanagement of Ontario Hydro deregulation, Hydro One rates, if you will. That is a huge problem. When you combine the difficulty our consumers are facing with respect to high hydro bills -- doubling -- they cannot afford gas, electricity, water and everything else. What are we doing to our people? Are we saying, "We have to recoup the cost, and if it's going to double, you've got to pay; If it's going to triple, you've got to pay"?

Well, Mr Premier, let me say this: it's not sitting well. It is not becoming to the leader, the Premier of Ontario, when he says, "Whatever the cost will be, that's too bad. Whoever gets hurt, it doesn't matter." It does matter, because there are people out there, plenty of seniors, who can't afford paying double for one utility, that being hydro.

I didn't have a chance earlier, but I received this today. A senior couple, constituents of mine, pensioners, live in a 900-square-foot, or maybe even less, pre-war bungalow, five rooms, two bedrooms. Their last bill was $378.16. The previous one was $199. Why? How can we justify such a big jump to our seniors? These are the things that are missing.

Evidently I will not have the time to go into the rest of my presentation, but I want to say that one of the important elements of Bill 195 is its components. What are those components?

-- One is to license and accredit the water labs, the technicians and so forth. That's fine. I think it is good that they all become accredited and licensed.

-- Standards and distribution, treatment and monitoring of the same.

-- Certification and training of the operators. I think it's high time.

-- Owners' licences and certification of approval as well. That should have been done a long time ago.

-- Statutory standards of care for municipalities. That is very interesting, and that must be done together with the various municipalities, especially those small municipalities where we know they don't have the manpower, the funds, and their infrastructure is -- they really are in need of money.

-- The Ministry of the Environment will ultimately -- this is good -- develop and issue an annual state-of-Ontario-drinking-water report to the Ontario Legislature, of course not only to us but to the people of Ontario.

That is why, as I said before, we are willing to support Bill 195. It includes some of those key recommendations, but what is missing so far are the other key elements included in Justice O'Connor's report. What is included at this stage is the goodwill, the basis. As my colleague the member for Kitchener Centre said, "It's solid." Well, maybe one leg is standing on solid ground, but let me tell you, unless we address the whole issue, we're going to be having holes later on. Knowing the history of the last two or three years, we don't want that to happen again, do we? I don't think so.

I would say to you, Premier, and to the members on the government side, take a second look at all the recommendations of Justice O'Connor. Make sure that when this bill goes ahead and is approved, it will do what Justice O'Connor wanted in his report, what the people of Walkerton expect us to do and what the rest of the people in Ontario expect us to do with this safe drinking water bill. After all, it's a very important need, as Justice O'Connor said. Wouldn't we say, Premier and members of the government, that water indeed is a very important need?

I would say yes, get on with it, come back with some of those exclusions and make the bill better so we can all say we have done our best.


The Acting Speaker: It's now time for questions and comments.

Mr Bisson: I listened to the comments made by my colleague in the Liberal opposition and I probably agree with most of what he has to say. But again I want to put the question to him, because the question was never really answered earlier, and that is why he thinks the government, which now purports to bring this legislation forward -- and it's not bad legislation, I wouldn't argue; they see the necessity for the government to play some regulatory role and also some legislative role in making sure that we have safe drinking water -- why he thinks the government, which on being elected in 1995 made all the changes it did through the Red Tape Commission, slashing and cutting regulation and red tape, as they called it, by way of moving toward privatization in the water testing field, by way of 50% cuts in the Ministry of the Environment at both staffing levels and financial levels, all of a sudden seems to have realized that maybe it has made an error, that the government probably was wrong to do what they did back in 1995 and that those things they cut were the very things we needed to make sure that drinking water in Ontario is made safe?

I'm just wondering what he thinks of the government's move back in 1996 to cut the funding of the conservation authorities of this province by almost 70%, the funding they need to make sure that groundwater is made safe -- we all know, as members of the assembly who work with conservation authorities fairly regularly, that they have a very specific responsibility when it comes to water -- and why this government didn't recognize that cutting their funding in 1996 by 70% would have a negative effect on the quality of drinking water in Ontario.

I'm just wondering what the member has to say about those issues because it seems to me a little bit passing strange that all of a sudden the Tories have turned a new leaf and understand that the government can, should and must play a role when it comes to preserving safe drinking water in this province.

Hon Mr Clark: I have just a couple of comments and perhaps questions to the member for Timmins-James Bay. I'm finding it curious why you would raise some of those questions when in fact it was the NDP government that actually allowed privatization of water and sewage treatment plants to occur initially. You can shake your head, but I live in Hamilton. As a matter of fact, the Hamilton Woodward Avenue sewage treatment plant went through privatization under your government. You actually allowed that to happen. You can sit there and be critical now, but in reality you allowed it to happen. If you check the record back in 1993, it was Minister Ruth Grier who eliminated the water inspector schools, where they actually taught the water inspectors how to do their job. I would just point out that it was your government that did that.

I bring that all around because the Walkerton report actually talks about this issue starting in 1978. So every government had their hand in the pie and had an opportunity to fix the problem. It just continued on and no one fixed it. We're now fixing it.

As for the member opposite and his position that they're going to support the bill in principle, with the greatest of respect, water source protection is not a part of the bill because Justice O'Connor stated very clearly it should be under the EPA. If you know anything about hydrogeology -- and the member from Sarnia-Lambton would know this because she has a landfill in her community -- actually looking at hydrogeology and how the water flows under the ground in an aquifer is probably the most complicated, comprehensive thing to do. In most communities in Ontario, hydrogeologists will tell you that it is incomprehensible to predict with any degree of certainty where the water will flow under the ground.

That's why we're doing a study. That's why we're asking people to look at the groundwater and find out exactly what needs to be done to ascertain where the water's moving before one would try to protect it. That seems eminently reasonable to me. I know you don't agree, but on our side we like to get things right.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): I want to compliment my colleague from York West on his comments on this bill and for pointing out some of the deficiencies in the bill. I want to bring the attention of this Legislature and particularly this government to those deficiencies that aren't addressed when it comes to a small community like Pelee Island.

I looked through the costs that are involved in bringing this bill to fruition. Under municipal costs: "All municipal water providers in Ontario should have, as a minimum, continuous in-line monitoring of turbidity, disinfectant residual, and pressure at the treatment plant, together with alarms that signal immediately when any regulatory parameters are exceeded." How is a community of fewer than 200 people on Pelee Island going to do this unless the provincial government provides the funding?

Another one under municipal costs: "Municipalities should review the management and operating structure for their water system to ensure that it is capable of providing safe drinking water on a reliable basis." I agree with that, but the community of Pelee Island has fewer permanent residents than most streets in urban municipalities in this province.

Another one under municipal costs: "The provincial government should require municipalities to have operational plans for their water systems by a date to be fixed by the provincial government." Again, this is a cost that a municipality of under 2,000 people can't afford.

"The provincial government should require all owners of municipal water systems, as condition of their licence ... to have an accredited operating agency, whether internal or external," again, something this municipality will need a great deal of assistance with.

Mr Murdoch: Again I'm up to talk about this bill. The member who just spoke was worried about the costs. I'm sure he knows, as he said, that there will be costs to small municipalities. I have many of those small municipalities in my riding also and we are concerned about the costs, but I have talked to the minister and there will be ways to address these costs. There has already been some money that has gone out to some municipalities under the legislation, under the grants we have put out. So I'm quite confident that when everything is done, when the regulations are passed, when the bill is passed, with the help of the opposition, we will be able to address these costs to small municipalities.

In the O'Connor report, he mentioned that people spend money on many things, but maybe not enough money on water. Well, people will have to pay some money for their water, for clean water, but I want to assure the member on the opposite side that this government will make sure there are funds to help out smaller municipalities. There's no doubt that is going to have to happen.

We also need the co-operation of the opposition to make sure this bill gets through and we can start working on the next bill that will come to look at the watershed; we will be looking at water there. When we get into this House, we get fighting back and forth about silly little things. I'm hoping this time, with your help, we will be able to do that and we will be able to look after the smaller municipalities. As I said, I have lots of those in my riding. As you know, Walters Falls has made some news. They have quite a problem right there, and there are very few people -- only about 60 people -- on the system. With this bill being introduced, I'm sure we'll be able to look after those problems. Again, when the regulations come forward, I hope we get support from the other side.

The Acting Speaker: The member for York West for up to two minutes.

Mr Sergio: Briefly, I think it's the intent of every member of the House to see that the bill goes through and represents the beginning of something that we all aspire to provide for the people of Ontario. I'm sure it's going to go through, maybe as it is but hopefully with some improvements.

I want to thank the members for Essex, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and Stoney Creek -- the minister himself.

Just to respond to my colleague from Timmins-James Bay as to why the government is doing this at this particular time, I should say it's better late than never, perhaps because they finally believe that this is really too important to put in abeyance any further. Yes, of course, time goes fast and there is a lot of preparation, a lot of research, a lot of reports, but two and a half years is a long time and it's time that we move on.

I'm sure, to appease the concerns of the Minister of Labour, we will be supporting this bill. It is in the interest of the people of Ontario that we seal this bill as watertight as possible, delivering safe drinking water to the people of Ontario.

I have about 10 minutes. We all want to go home. I will stop right here, Mr Speaker, and I appreciate your time in the House today.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you very much. It now being after 9:30 of the clock, this House will stand adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 2131.