No benefit seen to Clean Water Act

FORT FRANCES—More than 70 district property owners, producers, and municipal representatives gathered in Stratton on Monday night, following a forage insurance meeting, to learn about the Clean Water Act.
The Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association brought in Chris Attema, a water quality specialist for the provincial association, who is responsible for providing technical and policy advice on environmental issues.
And after hearing him clearly define the act, RRCA president Ken McKinnon said he doesn’t see the benefit of it.
“I don’t think there was one person there who doesn’t agree with clean water. Of course, we want clean water,” he stressed.
“I just don’t see it as a fair way of going about it,” he explained, adding he believes many locals feel the same way.
The Clean Water Act allows for the protection of sources for municipal drinking water systems in non-Conservation Authority areas (such as Rainy River District) through a local planning process.
Municipalities would be permitted to enter into an agreement with the minister to develop a source protection plan focusing on drinking water threats.
McKinnon said one of the “bad things” is there is nothing in the act to protect the businesses and properties that fall within the control zones.
“There is nothing for compensation if people have to alter their operations to stay within the perimeters of the act,” he stressed, noting if there was something to help people pay for any alterations, it wouldn’t be too bad.
“They should have looked at it from the bottom end—how it would affect the producers,” McKinnon stressed.
He said Attema was very knowledgeable of the act and environmental issues, and presented all the pros and cons of the Clean Water Act.
He said there were more cons than pros.
“It’s pretty scary from how I understand it,” McKinnon remarked. “There’s little or no benefit to the local people. It’s just another tactic for the government to download to the municipalities.”
“In the end, it’s going to be the taxpayers paying the bill,” echoed RRCA secretary April Szpara, noting different levels of government already have similar regulations in place.
“It’s redundant to have more policies in place for the same cause,” she charged.
Looking at the act, Szpara noted the word “shall” is used several times regarding the municipalities.
“That means the municipalities are going to be taking the financial burden,” she said.
Still, Szpara said the meeting was very helpful to inform district residents about what is going on.
“If you don’t have the information, how can you act on it and how can you prepare yourself?” she wondered, adding she knows a few producers who would rather sell their operation than deal with the act as it stands.
McKinnon said it’s hard to say how long it will be until the Clean Water Act is fully implemented, but noted it could take between two and three years.
He also was disappointed he could see no appeal mechanism in place.
So with a provincial election set for Oct. 10, McKinnon hopes local groups, municipalities, and organizations will put up a united front to oppose the act as it stands today.