Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on September 12, 2012 (updated: September 12, 2012)

Drummond is right: Ontario must do more to ensure polluters pay

Ecojustice believes that polluters, not law-abiding Canadians like you, must pay to clean up their messes. We were pleased to learn that a report from economist Don Drummond — on what Ontario can do to balance its budget — called for “greater emphasis on prevention and the polluter-pay principle for contaminated sites.”

We have consistently argued for the application of the polluter-pay principle. When our homes, workplaces and neighbourhoods are polluted, our bodies can absorb those harmful toxins. Those substances may inflict pain and suffering on Ontarians, including our most vulnerable — our children.

Removing toxic chemicals and pollutants from our homes, workplaces and neighbourhoods will make us safer and healthier. Our government must do more to ensure the health of Ontarians, and our environment, are not harmed by polluters.

Last November, we were at the Supreme Court of Canada to do that for all Canadians. We argued that a business cannot use legal loopholes to avoid cleaning up the Newfoundland and Labrador communities it contaminated with poisons and cancer-causing chemicals. Taxpayers in that province are currently on the hook to clean up Grand Falls-Windsor, Stephenville, Botwood and Buchans and other communities where AbitibiBowater’s activities polluted the land and water.

We agree with Drummond: polluters, not Ontario taxpayers, should foot the bill to clean up their toxic messes. Clean-up costs can run into the tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars. At a time when the province is considering deep spending cuts to all sectors, we cannot afford to cover these costs for those caught polluting Ontario’s land, air and water.

We have a right to be free from harm at the hands of polluting industries, companies and individuals. Ontario should follow Drummond’s recommendations and do more to prevent environmental contamination. When and if a contamination should occur, the polluter should pay.

This post was co-authored by Ecojustice’s Dr. Elaine MacDonald, staff scientist; Dr. Anastasia Lintner, staff lawyer and economist; and William Amos, staff lawyer and director of the Ecojustice Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

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