TORONTO - Exporting clean-water technology and not Ontario's fresh water is the aim of new legislation that will make the province the leading clean-water jurisdiction in North America, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.
The aim is to bring together industry, academics and government to develop the sector and promote its products abroad, said McGuinty.
"This is all about opening up a new opportunity for us to do well for others — we have a world that is going thirsty for clean water — and to do good for ourselves by creating jobs here," he said.
"We intend to work with our researchers and the private sector by bringing them all together and laying the foundation for tremendous successes in that new initiative."
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."
The government wants to make it easier for people to use less water, and won't set out to raise water bills to encourage conservation, but could offer financial help, added McGuinty.
"It’s not about mandating metering, for example, or charging people who are on wells and those kinds of things," he said.
"It’s about putting in place new technologies, and possibly — depending on our financial circumstances — eventually incentives to help people use less water."
However, the Progressive Conservatives said they suspected the new legislation would drive up water bills for homeowners, noting the Liberals' Green Energy Act has driven up electricity bills much higher than the one per cent the government predicted.
"I would anticipate the worst," said Opposition critic Peter Shurman.
"They got it wrong on the Green Energy Act, and we’re paying the price already. I think the same thing is a reasonable assumption when it comes to water."
The New Democrats said Ontario still has 435 boil water advisories in place and the government should help communities like Blind River, Chatham and Wallaceburg before worrying about safe drinking water for other jurisdictions.
"The government is not even paying attention to the number of communities in this province that are on boil-water alerts," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"If the government was serious about access to clean water, they’d be taking care of those communities first."
The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance, a coalition of industry, labour, environmental organizations and municipalities, welcomed the new legislation.
"If passed, these initiatives will signal a new way of thinking about water in Ontario," said Theresa McClenaghan of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
"This act will foster a culture of water conservation in Ontario creating new opportunities for green technology developed by Ontario entrepreneurs," said Jerrad Hennessy of Niagara Flapperless, the developers of water-efficient toilets.