The Ontario City of Cornwall wants municipalities to be legally protected if the provincial government makes a decision that could negatively impact water quality.
Councillor Syd Gardiner introduced the resolution to Cornwall City Council with the hope of taking it to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for broader support.
“We can be sued; we can go to jail, because it’s our responsibility,” Gardiner told fellow councillors at the December 9, 2019 meeting in Cornwall, as he introduced his resolution to essentially provide indemnification.
The motion acts as a pre-emptive measure against Ontario’s proposed omnibus Bill 132, Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019, which aims to simplify and modernize regulations to lower the costs of doing business and make it easier to interact with government. Gardiner explained that the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Aggregate Resources Act would be directly impacted by the province’s proposal and that drinking water sources could become contaminated due to a provincial decision such as an aggregate extraction permit, for instance.
“We’re responsible for anything that happens to our water, and we don’t have any say in how it’s going to be done,” Gardiner added.
Proposed amendments to the Aggregate Resources Act raise the bar by requiring an application process where below water table level extraction is proposed, explained Gardiner, who expressed concern about water contamination. “This still leaves municipal council members vulnerable,” he warned in his written motion.
There are a total of 80 proposed changes, both legislative and regulatory, within Bill 132.
Gardiner further explained that below water table level extractions without municipal agreement, or indemnification, means municipal governments will have no alternative but to appeal applications to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to “demonstrate due diligence at a minimum.”
This would greatly increase red tape and administrative burden for the tribunal and municipal governments, “not to mention delay decisions for aggregate businesses which would risk new investment in the industry,” Gardiner wrote.
Read some of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s submissions on Bill 132.