The multicultural media plays a key role in engaging ethnic communities and newcomers in environmental issues, Ontario’s Environment Minister told members of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA) recently.
Minister Jim Bradley was joined by John Stager, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector, at CEMA’s Speaker Series on February 2, 2012.
Bradley said that engaging communities is key to helping individuals make green choices and build awareness of environmental priorities like water quality. “It’s important that newcomers are aware our water is safe to drink and use, as they may be coming from places where water isn’t so good.”
Bradley gave CEMA members a broad view of Ontario’s drinking water protection system, noting that the province has the safest drinking water in the country. “Many years of work have gone into creating a highly effective, comprehensive safety net that protects our water from the source to the tap,” said Bradley. “We have strong legislation, stringent standards, regular and reliable testing and inspections, and highly trained operators and source protection staff. All these elements make up the safety net and working together, they ensure our water is safe.” Bradley reminded CEMA members of the Walkerton tragedy in 2000, where seven people died and many more became ill from contaminated water. He said that since forming government in 2003, the McGuinty government has made drinking water a priority. And significant progress has been made. Bradley said for the past several years more than 99 per cent of water quality tests have met the strict standards Ontario has set for drinking water. He also said most municipal drinking water systems scored 100 per cent on their 2010-2011 inspections. And late last year, Ontario was recognized by the environmental organization Ecojustice as the top jurisdiction in the country for drinking water protection. Ontario’s expertise in water protection has major economic benefits as well, with new technology and innovations feeding the growth of Ontario’s water technology sector. These innovations, Bradley said, can benefit other countries facing their own water quality challenges. Bradley noted that the ministry has hosted international delegations, led environmental water missions and entered into cooperative agreements with the Netherlands, China’s Jiangsu province and Bermuda to share Ontario’s approach to water protection. “Demand for water is only going to grow,” said Bradley. “In the next 20 years, experts predict a 40 per cent gap between global supply and demand. We are ensuring that others around the world benefit from our experience.” (Photos: Courtesy Ministry of the Environment and CEMA Director Alexander Gerstein)