President’s message, winter 2018

Fake news and water governance

It may be the norm for election campaigns at every level for candidates or their followers to stretch the truth, but in the last few years, this has become dangerously exaggerated. Especially on social media, fake news or ‘alternate facts’ spread very rapidly, leaving voters confused as to what the truth is about with any issue.

When it comes to water governance, that’s not simply inconvenient: it can be dangerous and life-threatening. And for elected officials who have come to office not knowing or understanding the facts about their water services and safety, it can lead to bad policy decisions and personal liability.

For elected officials, being fully educated in the responsibilities and requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act (2002) is crucial to avoiding not simply problems, but severe penalties for failure to do their due diligence as required by provincial law. And under the Standard of Care in the Act, elected officials are personally responsible for their municipality’s water.

For example, administrative penalties have a maximum of $10,000 for each day of contravention. Individual can face fines from $20,000 to as high as $7 million, depending on the offence. Plus, individuals convicted under the Act may also be imprisoned for certain offences. Courts may also impose other penalties on those convicted. This is not something to take lightly.

Elected officials also have to deal with non-regulated challenges that impact both public safety and municipal budgets, such as the problems of stormwater management and flooding caused by climate change, or microplastics and pharmaceuticals in wastewater. To deal effectively with these and other water-related issues, you need facts and education, not simply social media opinions.

That’s one reason to make sure you renew your OMWA membership: to get the facts from your peers and from the water system professionals. OMWA’s newswire will keep you informed about water-related news, issues and legislation, and our Education Days provide training and workshops for both water utility employees and elected officials. Plus, you will receive our email blasts about upcoming events and current water issues.

If you are newly elected and looking to champion an issue at the council table, think about water: what happens with our water affects everyone. As a member of the OMWA we can help you and your council stay informed and engaged in water issues.

As an advocate with the province for municipal water systems, OMWA is able to comment on proposed policies and legislation that affect you and your municipality. We welcome all new members and look forward to our current members renewing for 2019.

Together we are stronger. Your voice matters in those conversations. When we work together, our water customers have a higher level of confidence in you and me!

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