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VANCOUVER The BC government is abandoning its responsibility to protect water quality and public health, the leader of British Columbias largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE BC), charged today.

Barry ONeill, president of CUPE BC, was responding to the surprising about-face made by the Minister for Water, Land and Air Protection, Joyce Murray, on water protection policy.

In an official government press release of September 25, Murray stated: Our government is committed to ensuring all British Columbians have safe, clean water by establishing a strong legislative and regulatory framework that reflects local needs and circumstances.

This week, Murray reversed her position with the announcement that her Ministry is instead moving to a deregulated legislative framework for environmental protection.

ONeill contends that, despite Murrays claims that over-regulation is slowing economic growth, the people of BC are not willing to sacrifice safe water or other environmental safeguards to lure business to this province.

It appears this government has no qualms about putting our families and communities at risk of a Walkerton-style disaster. Perhaps the Minister should consider renaming her office the Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Devastation, he said.

ONeill urged Murray to read the 1999 Auditor Generals report that concluded British Columbia was not adequately protecting drinking water sources, and that this could be costly to the economy and public health.

Deregulation means less monitoring and less enforcement. Responsibility for testing water quality will now be downloaded to local medical health officers. How will these people cope with added duties, when the BC government has also announced it is freezing the health budget for the next three years? ONeill questioned.

We need increased government investment in our drinking water and waste water services. We dont need a government that is so quick to abandon its responsibility to protect citizens from water-related disasters.

ONeill also pointed out that Murray has done the opposite of what community leaders in BC have just asked her to do. The Union of BC Municipalities passed a motion calling on the provincial government to legislate standards for public and non-public water utilities, and to provide local funding and support for improved standards enforcement.

ONeill concluded, We have to ask what the Liberals who have dreamed up this scheme could be drinking.


Media, please contact
CUPE BC President Barry ONeill at 604-916-8444.