Gawronsky Concerned Bill 24 Will Put Water Supply, Manitobans at Risk
Mar 17, 2017
On March 16, the Pallister government introduced a new bill that will undermine environmental regulations that protect Manitoba’s drinking water, lakes, and rivers, all in the in the name of “cutting red tape.”
Bill 24, The Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act, 2017, aims to reduce what the government claims are a regulatory “burden” on business, industry, local governments and non-profit groups. It affects 15 laws, but of particular concern to MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky are the changes to how public and semi-public drinking water suppliers report on the condition of their infrastructure and water supplies.
The rule that Bill 24 amends was a key recommendation of the public inquiry into the tragedy that happened in Walkerton, Ontario in May 2000. In this incident, bacterial contamination resulted in the worst public health disaster involving municipal water in Ontario history. At least seven people died and 2300 became ill. Investigations into the causes of the tragedy found that improper practices, the lack of government provisions for notification of testing results, and the recent privatization of municipal water testing all played key roles in the crisis.
Bill 24 states that water suppliers would only be required to conduct assessments of their infrastructure and water assessments every 10 years, as opposed to the five years that the law currently requires. Laboratories that analyze drinking water samples would only be required to report immediately those cases that pose a “serious and immediate health risk.”
“This bill is bad news for Manitobans because it weakens the public protections that are in place to safeguard our water supply,” said Gawronsky. “It’s important to remember that these protections are in place for a reason – they help prevent a terrible incident like the one that happened in Walkerton from happening here in Manitoba. If the government weakens these protections, I fear it will increase the risk of public harm.”
Gawronsky said reducing regulations have had tragic consequences in other Canadian jurisdictions. “When we hear governments talking about cutting red tape, we need to remind ourselves why most regulations were put in place – to protect the public interest. We need to ask about the impact of cutting regulations on public health, on the environment, on workplace safety. How does the government feel that weakening these protections is in the best interests of all Manitobans?"