Oral Questions – Landfill

March 22, 2016

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. As you know, there’s a proposal for a landfill in my riding. I know the minister has received thousands and thousands of letters, postcards and emails from my constituents who are concerned about the impact on their drinking water. The mayor of Ingersoll has been very vocal about the fact that our community does not want to take another municipality’s garbage, both by going to these municipalities and in speaking to the government at ROMA.

To make it clear, we are not a willing host. At ROMA, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture stated that a municipality would not be forced to take the garbage if they are not a willing host. Can the minister confirm that this government will not force our community to take another municipality’s garbage?
Hon. Glen R. Murray: I just want to be very clear about where we are in the process right now, because there’s a legal process to ensure we protect the rights of communities, but we also have a fair process for siting landfills. I think we’d all appreciate that it’s not a matter of taking other people’s garbage. We have a system in Ontario where we share those burdens of disposal.

What has been approved are terms of reference that the proponent in this case has to follow. As we go through this process, all aspects are looked at. Detailed studies are done on risks to water supplies—
Mr. John Yakabuski: Blah, blah, blah. Will you, or will you not?

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, come to order.

Finish, please.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: So it’s an evidence-based, public, transparent process.

I wrote into the amendment for the terms of reference that we have to consider cumulative effects. I think there was some confusion there, because that actually includes human health effects. I just want it to be very clear on the record: We don’t actually have a health category, but that’s included in cumulative—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. As you know, the people in my community are worried, not just about where the garbage could come from but the risk to our drinking water from a landfill located on fractured bedrock near the Thames River and one of Ingersoll’s main municipal water supplies. They’re concerned that this government doesn’t get it.

Today is World Water Day, and to mark this occasion, the people of my riding are looking for a commitment from the Minister of the Environment. Can the minister give us his assurance that the landfill will not be approved if it puts our drinking water at risk?
Hon. Glen R. Murray: The short answer is yes, and that’s what the terms-of-reference policy is.

While I have great respect for the member from Oxford—he’s been a friend and I think we have worked well together on these issues, and I know he and I share a concern. I would even go further, Mr. Speaker: I would say that Oxford county is one of the leading counties, if not the leading county in Ontario, on environmental sustainability, zero waste and low carbon. This is a remarkable community with a remarkable environmental group. So we are very concerned, because there are not that many communities—each of us as MPPs would not put in our election literature that we’re running for re-election by putting a waste facility in our communities. It is one of the more difficult decisions. So we want to make sure that the standards are some of the highest.

I commit to work with your community, with your mayor and with yourself to ensure that if the decision, in the end, is to site a dump there, it meets every single standard. I think we’ve put in place, with cumulative effects, the highest standard possible.