Skip to content

NEWS: McGuinty unveils Water Opportunities Act

A Government of Ontario media release this morning states that, “As part of its Open Ontario Plan the province is taking steps to make Ontario the leading clean water jurisdiction in North America. To be introduced later today, the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act would, if passed, encourage the creation and export of innovative clean water technology, promote water conservation, attract economic development and create jobs. …These initiatives would help Ontarians use less water while paving the way for the growth of Ontario’s water technology sector in the rapidly expanding global market.”

On Sunday, the Toronto Star reported that, “(Ontario Environment Minister John) Gerretsen’s bill will impose water-efficiency standards for new faucets and showerheads, though it will not outlaw less efficient products as has been done with toilets. Instead, there will be voluntary standards so consumers can compare and contrast products and, the province hopes, choose the least wasteful one. …Another part of the legislation will be the promotion of ‘sustainable municipal infrastructure’, because millions of litres of water is wasted annually through leaky pipes and crumbling waterworks. The province hopes to work with cities and towns to fix their infrastructure, though it remains to be seen who will pay for the repairs and upgrades. Gerretsen will also launch the Water Technology Acceleration Partnership – or WaterTAP – as a one-stop shop for clean-water companies to work with government to boost a fast-growing industry.”

We are still awaiting the text of the proposed legislation as we will need to see the fine print in order to offer a fuller analysis. That said, while we support new efficiency standards, we would prefer to see inefficient products taken off the market rather than voluntary standards. And while we support the promotion of ‘sustainable municipal infrastructure’, this must be publicly owned and operated and that question is yet to be answered in the government’s announcement today.

The Council of Canadians has raised concerns about the McGuinty government’s pursuit of the clean water technology market in reference to past analysis in ‘Blue Covenant’.

Chairperson Maude Barlow wrote in ‘Blue Covenant’ that, “It is to the distinct advantage of the private water industry that the world’s freshwater supplies are being polluted and destroyed. With governments, industries and universities investing so heavily in the burgeoning water cleanup industry, there is less and less incentive at every level to emphasize source protection and conservation.” (p.92)

She adds, “The World Trade Organization promotes and protects the trade in environmental services, encouraging cross-border trade and investment in private water cleanup companies. Under the national treatment provision of the WTO, governments cannot favour domestic water companies and will have to open up their bidding process to the water technology transnationals that are getting more powerful all the time.” (p.92-93)

Maude notes that Suez, Veolia, GE, Dow Chemical, BASF and other private corporations are already invested in this technology (p.78-79).

But in a media release issued this morning, “The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance, a diverse coalition of industry, labour, environmental organizations and municipalities, welcomes the planned introduction today of the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act. The act will contain many of the ingredients necessary to allow Ontario businesses to capitalize on the growing global market for water-efficient solutions and technologies. The Alliance has been leading a public campaign to ensure conservation is a key plank in the bill.”

Members of the Ontario Water Conservation Alliance include Great Lakes United, Environmental Defence, Ecojustice, POLIS Water Sustainability Project, Canadian Environmental Law Association, and the Rideau Institute.


The Toronto Star article also notes, “’We’re not going to allow the bulk export of water. We want to export our expertise and our knowhow in water – not our water,’ said a high-ranking (Ontario government) official.”

So, we will also be looking to see what the legislation has to say in this regard. The Ontario legislation comes closely on the heels of C-26, legislation from the Harper government on boundary waters. We critiqued that federal legislation in a recent media release, the Toronto Star and the Georgia Straight.


The Canadian Press reports this afternoon that, “The premier went out of his way to make it clear the legislation introduced Tuesday will not allow bulk sales of water and does not make it easier for companies that sell bottled water to start taking even more water from Ontario. ‘We’re not in the business of selling water (and) it’s not our intention to sell water’, said McGuinty. ‘What we will sell is our know-how, our technologies and our services.'”

More to come.


The Toronto Star report is at http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/810131–walkerton-tragedy-marked-by-water-law.

The Government of Ontario media release is at http://www.news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2010/05/leading-the-world-in-water-innovation-and-conservation.html.

Maude’s commentary on “the burgeoning water cleanup industry” is at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2983. The proposed Water Opportunities Act was also critiqued in our media release at http://canadians.org/media/water/2010/08-Mar-10-2.html.

The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance media release is at http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/May2010/18/c4745.html.

Our critique of C-26 is at at http://canadians.org/media/water/2010/17-May-10.html and http://www.straight.com/article-324327/vancouver/federal-bill-strengthen-ban-bulk-water-exports-comes-under-fire.

The Canadian Press report is at http://www.cp24.com/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100518/100518_water/20100518/?hub=CP24Home.

The Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act has not yet been posted to the website for the Ontario Legislature, but it should be available there later today or tomorrow at http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_current.do?locale=en.