Striking a balance between the necessity of clean water and the need for a healthy economy has never been more daunting for municipal leaders in Ontario.

Doug Ford’s PC’s recently introduced Bill 66, also known as the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act.  As written, the bill would allow municipalities new power to bypass protection acts including sections of the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Protection Act, the Greenbelt, and Lake Simcoe Protection Acts.

Orillia’s mayor, Steve Clarke, says there needs to be a delicate balance. “Anything to cut red tape is great, but not at the expense of the character that is our city, or the quality of life we are able to enjoy.”

The bylaws would require a minister’s approval, and the municipalities would have to prove the development creates employment.  

Barrie’s mayor has previously stated that the bill goes too far, and environmental groups say it threatens water resources across the region.  Margaret Prophet with the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition wants the province to rewrite the proposed legislation.  “There is a big risk to source water for those who live around the lake, or the 200-million-dollar tourism industry that relies on Lake Simcoe, and the health of Lake Simcoe.  It takes away protections for the lake as well,” Prophet says.

The bill has been posted online on the province’s environmental registry where the public can comment until January 20, 2019.