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.


  1. Walkerton occurred because an unqualified moron was employed where he had no business being. It was nepotism that allowed this to happen. End of story.

    • Hello Daniel,

      The Walkerton tragedy was the result of a number of different failures. The Report of the Walkerton Inquiry, the work of Justice Dennis R. O’Connor, provides insight into the failures, including the failures of the operators involved. But it was not the failure of the operators alone, budget cuts and failings in governance mechanisms also led to the tragedy. We believe that reporting on changes to legislation that could impact the safety of our shared waters should be an issue of importance to the industry and the public. The wisdom of Justice O’Connor’s report is in laying out the systemic issues that led to the individual and collective failures that cost innocent lives.

      Water Canada is passionate about protecting our shared water resources and about the excellent work that many water and wastewater operators do every day in our country and around the world to ensure the delivery of safe, clean drinking water to more people than at any other time in human history. It is a remarkable achievement.

      Thank you for sharing your passion on this topic. We hope that your energy can help keep our water safe and clean, however you might work to do so.

      Best Regards,
      WC team


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