New Ontario farm rules to protect water supply
August 20, 2002
TORONTO - In a bid to prevent another Walkerton tragedy,
Ontario's Conservative government yesterday unveiled
its long-awaited plan to stop the province's water supply
from becoming contaminated by farm manure.
Chris Stockwell, the Minister of Environment and Energy,
and Helen Johns, the Minister of Agriculture, said the
province will hold public consultations across Ontario
this fall with an eye to having new regulations on everything
from manure-spreading to barn construction phased in
starting next year.
Under the Nutrient Management Act, all farms across
the province would be bound by the same curbs on agricultural
waste, which directly contributed to the contamination
of Walkerton's water supply by E. coli bacteria in May,
2000, killing seven people.
"Obviously, we're making decisions today based on the
fallout of Walkerton. We are expecting the decisions
that we take will allow us not to have a repeat of Walkerton,"
Mr. Stockwell said.
"Can I give you a categoric answer of no it wouldn't
have happened [if the planned regulations had existed
two years ago]? I can't do that. Would it be less likely
to happen? Yes, I think it would be very much less likely
to happen when this whole mechanism is in place."
Ms. Johns said farmers and municipalities are being
consulted to ensure the regulations "protect our water
and the environment as well as maintain the competitiveness
of agri-food industry," but she emphasized all parts
of Ontario must be abide by the same rules.
"The regulations ... have a standardized effect across
the province, so what happens is the bylaws that are
in place in local municipalities will be replaced by
a standardized set of provincial regulations," she said.
Mr. Stockwell also announced the Conservatives' Safe
Drinking Water Act will be introduced in the Ontario
Legislature in the upcoming session of Parliament, which
begins on Sept. 23.
That legislation -- based on a bill designed by Marilyn
Churley, an NDP MPP -- would enshrine in law the right
of Ontarians to clean and safe drinking water. In an
unusual move, Ms. Churley was singled out for praise
by Ernie Eves, the Premier, during a speech on Monday
to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
The act would create a water council to conduct research,
advise the government and establish an electronic registry
of water-quality tests so consumers could check the
water in their area.
Both the Safe Drinking Water Act and nutrient-management
measures were recommended by Associate Chief Justice
Dennis O'Connor in his sweeping assessment of government
water policy and practices in the wake of Walkerton.
While Ms. Churley said she was heartened that her bill
is being adopted, she was less impressed with the government's
manure scheme because local municipalities would no
longer have control over large farms in their area.
"One size does not fit all when it comes to the so-called
factory farm. If the regulations or rules are stringent
enough, I would expect that some of those farms that
are there already wouldn't be allowed," she said.
"But my concern is that the rules aren't going to be
Delton Becker, a Grey County councillor, said rural
municipalities welcome province-wide standards although
there remains concern of relinquishing some local authority.
"This is a hot issue all across Ontario because with
livestock operations ... there's potential for water
pollution," said Mr. Becker, whose county neighbours
"[But] we need more time to look at the regulations
... before we can really say whether we're happy ...