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Ten years after the Walkerton water disaster, it’s worth remembering how badly the Mike Harris government handled it. It was bad enough that their rushed and sloppy withdrawal of the provincial laboratory service allowed the contamination to be hidden for days. It was worse that municipal water inspections had been cut to the bone, although the Koebels’ recklessness and lies had never been caught on an inspection. But was worst of all was the way the Harris government responded once the tragedy began to unfold. Instead of working with municipalities to solve a fairly rare problem, Harris made it a “blame game”. He chose to treat municipal water providers like crooks who had to be forced to provide safe water, instead of like partners. And he made that choice into law, the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The one-sided pressure on municipalities will get even worse in three years, when s. 19 of the Safe Drinking Water Act – a new duty of care – comes into force. Safe Drinking Water Act is my presentation on that duty, from a conference this winter.

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