We need to protect our groundwater, Arnott says – Speech
Ontario Hansard – 01-June2017
Mr. Ted Arnott: My question is for the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. New regulations governing water-taking permits for water bottling companies were recently posted on the environmental registry. For years I have maintained that any decisions regarding large-scale water-taking permit applications should be science-based, to ensure that our groundwater is preserved and protected for future generations. I also believe that communities should be consulted, that their long-term growth plans should be taken into consideration and that hydrogeological studies should be peer reviewed.
Can the minister assure this House that his new regulations will ensure the long-term sustainability of our groundwater resources?
Hon. Glen R. Murray: I want to thank the member for a very thoughtful question. From our ongoing conversations, I know he has a very sincere concern about this. He represents a part of the province which is water-stressed, particularly in the adjacent neighbourhoods of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, where we have groundwater being drawn off.
Our concern with these regulations is the security of groundwater resources, which are particularly challenging. Where they are being drawn off and also used by municipalities and private water bottlers, these are areas that are most water-stressed. It’s exactly for those reasons—to protect the security of Ontarians’ supply of clean, reliable water—that we are posting those.
Through the posting period and the review, the science-based teams that are looking at this and our partnership with community leaders and municipalities will do exactly what the member is asking.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Ted Arnott: Each year, an untold number of plastic water bottles are thrown away, ending up in landfills or littering our countryside. I’ve said for years that the government needs to provide the necessary leadership and policies to encourage the recycling of more plastic water bottles.
Most Canadian provinces have a deposit or refund program that covers plastic water bottles to encourage recycling. I’ve been told that Manitoba will be launching a deposit system soon.
The government recently raised the fees charged to water bottling companies by $500 for every million litres of water drawn. I maintain that some of that money should be shared with host municipalities, and not just be a cash grab for the government. Will the minister commit to sharing some of that money with municipalities, and also put some of it towards improved efforts to recycle all plastic water bottles in province of Ontario?
Hon. Glen R. Murray: Again, I’m going to rush to qualifiedly agree with the member opposite, because I know he and his party supported Bill 151 on the circular economy, the Waste-Free Ontario Act. At Ice River Springs, for example, the Gotts have 100% recycling recovery using extended producer responsibility, which is an economy-wide market mechanism that is working very well. Your party supported doing exactly that.
We are open to a discussion about alternatives, as the member suggested, but we want to make sure that we’re not creating a duplicate system. We want to allow industry and environmental groups to work with the extended producer responsibility, which the Gotts and the Ice River Springs company are familiar with as a global leader right now in resource recovery.
Should this not work, we will then have to look at alternatives, but I think we should first give a bill that was just passed months ago a chance—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.