The Ontario government has proposed legislative changes that will allow municipal and residential development to bypass protections granted in the Clean Water Act to source water.

Introduced as Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018, by Todd Smith, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, the open-for-business planning by-law is described by the government as “proposals to streamline provincial development approvals under the Planning Act would cut red tape and shorten the time it takes to build projects that create jobs.”

Bill 66 defines the open-for-business planning by-law as beyond the application of the following:

Bypassing Section 39 of the Clean Water Act means that any new residential development would not have to conform to source water protections.

“Ontario’s proposed ‘Open for Business’ legislation repudiates Premier Doug Ford’s promise not to touch the Greenbelt, threatens drinking water, undermines evidence-based city planning, and removes protection from toxics chemicals for Ontario residents,” said executive director of Environmental Defence, Tim Gray. “The Walkerton tragedy occurred due to a lack of protections for our sources of drinking water. Seven people lost their lives. To make sure it never happened again, we developed source water protections but this Bill will give developers a pass on keeping drinking water safe.”

The other exemptions in the bill, noted above, would allow for any protections of water bodies afforded therein to be ignored.

Furthermore, Bill 66 seeks to repeal and revoke the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009, as of December 31st, 2021.

This follows Bill 57, which passed on December 6th, eliminating the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). In the latest report from the ECO, a great deal of evidence was provided to show that protections for Ontario water are insufficient for its long-term security, with a number of convergent threats.

“We’re going to lower business costs to make Ontario more competitive,” said Minister Smith in a statement.

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