The Ontario 2018 election is just one week away. We asked thousands of people across Ontario what issues matter most and what will inform how they vote on June 7.

Here’s what matters to you on water in Ontario. We also carefully compared these issues with the parties’ platforms in a report card to see how their platforms measure up. Ask your local candidates what they will do to protect water using the sample questions below.

Eliminate bottled water permits

94 per cent of people said they want the government to eliminate permits to extract and exploit groundwater for bottled water corporations. Nestlé continues to pump millions of litres of water every day on two expired permits in the Grand River Watershed. The Aberfoyle permit expired nearly two years ago on July 31, 2016. The Erin permit expired 9 months ago on August 31, 2017.

Council of Canadians Political Director Brent Patterson writes that Nestlé’s bottled water taking permit process won’t likely begin until after the election.

Nestle still wants to extract 1.6 million litres of water a day from its Middlebrook well in Elora. There is a two year moratorium on new or expanded bottled water permits — including the Middlebrook well — ends on January 1, 2019.

In January, Turtle Island News reported about opposition from the Six Nations of the Grand River, where many people still do not have clean drinking water. Six Nations Chief Ava Hill said to Nestlé representatives, “Well the truth is you’re taking the water out of the ground and we don’t want you to.”

Local group Wellington Water Watchers Executive Director Arlene Slocombe has said, “We have learned through engagement with thousands of people during our campaigning that protecting water from water bottling corporations like Nestlé is a bottom line issue for people. They tell us water is life and they will act to protect it.”

Watch this video, entitled “Water for Life, Not for Profit! The Fight Against Nestlé in Ontario” to learn more.

Recognize the human right to water and establish an Ontario Minister of Water Protection

In 2010, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to pass a resolution recognizing the human rights to water and sanitation. In 2012, Canada finally recognized the human right to water and sanitation. This internationally binding resolution must be recognized at every level of government.

Miningquarries and fracking are projects that threaten communities access to clean water.

The human rights to water and sanitation must be implemented through legislation and community access to water must be prioritized over industrial uses. It is also critical to establish an Ontario Minister of Water Protection who would have the key role of advocating for the protection of water.

Clean water for all First Nations and Justice for Grassy Narrows

As of May 22, 2018, there were 192 Drinking Water Advisories (DWAs) in First Nations across Canada. 91 of these DWAs are in Ontario, the highest number of DWAs in any one province.

Despite the Trudeau government’s promise to end drinking water advisories in First Nations by 2021, there has not been a decrease in the total number of drinking water advisories. People in Ontario want the federal government to be held accountable to ensure access to clean water on all First Nation reserves.

Ontarians also want justice for Grassy Narrows First Nation, where a large portion of the community still suffers from mercury poisoning. In the 1960s and 1970s, Reed Paper dumped chemicals in the Wabigoon River near Grassy Narrows, resulting in mercury poisoning among those who ate the fish from that area.

Today CTV reported, “A new health survey commissioned by Grassy Narrows First Nation shows that decades after mercury was dumped into a river system, the physical and mental health of people there is ‘significantly worse’ than that of other First Nations in Canada.”

Getting tough on corporate crime and banning tar sands shipments in the Great Lakes

People across Ontario also said that they want Ontario to get tough on corporate crime by increasing enforcement and penalties for corporations that break environmental laws.

Banning the transportation of tar sands products in the Great Lakes Basin was also a top issue. Read more about extreme energy projects around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

Ontario Election Report Card

We did our homework and carefully compared these issues to each of the four main parties’ platforms, as well as to the public statements of party leaders during the election period up to May 24. We tallied up what percentage of the key issues each party is committing to take action on. Read the results for each of the parties here.

Questions to ask your local candidates

These next two weeks are a crucial time to ask your local candidates what they will do to protect water. Here are some questions you can ask them at all-candidates debates or when they come to your door. You can also email them these questions or tweet them to make sure they know that these water issues matter to you and that these actions are part of the Ontario we want:

  • Will you eliminate bottled water permits that allow water corporations like Nestlé to extract and exploit groundwater?
  • How will you hold the federal government accountable to ensure clean water on all First Nations reserves? 
  • Will your government provide a full mercury clean up, compensation, and a local clinic to Grassy Narrows First Nation?
  • Will you develop legislation to explicitly recognize the Human Right to Water and prioritize community access to water over industrial uses?
  • Will you increase enforcement and penalties for corporations breaking environmental laws?

Learn more about about The Ontario We Want survey and demands for stronger communities, health care for all, action on climate and energy, strengthening democracy and fairer trade deals. 

Image: stvcr/Flickr

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Emma Lui - Fraser River

Emma Lui

Emma Lui is an activist, writer and researcher. She is a contributing editor with rabble.ca and a member of Cooperative Biblioterre. Emma is also the holistic health director for the Canadian Women...