In Walkerton, six people died and 2,000 became ill from E. coli in their drinking water. After caring for the sick, the urgent priority was to clean up the water.
A provincial crown corporation, the Ontario Clean Water Agency, took over Walkerton’s water operations and secured the drinking water supply.
But OCWA was on the auction block. It was Canada’s biggest water system operator, and global water companies like Vivendi wanted it. That meant Ontarians in 180 municipalities – from small towns to cities like Mississauga and Brampton – were facing water privatization.
And I was hired by OPSEU to work on the Walkerton Inquiry and lead the effort to save it.
This was a judicial inquiry. I needed the strongest facts and arguments to persuade Justice O’Conner to recommend that drinking water be kept public.
And my best source for facts and knowledge was OCWA’s workers – talking with them about how they did their jobs. But I also heard something else — how much OCWA workers valued providing safe drinking water as a public service.
I researched water privatization around the world – some were really horror shows. But their public service values became my strongest argument.
I wrote the OPSEU brief, argued my case to technical panels — and directly to Justice O’Conner.
We won the recommendation. Today, drinking water systems are still owned by all of us.
Whether it’s teachers, health care workers or water system operators – public service values matter deeply, and I am proud to defend them.