GUELPH The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario has endorsed an independent and wide public inquiry into the Walkerton E coli tragedy. According to CFFO an inquiry is needed to determine what went wrong in Walkerton and to identify what needs to be done to restore public trust that this will never happen again in Ontario.
"Walkerton's experience is a profound tragedy," said Bob Bedggood, CFFO's President. "The inquiry needs to examine all rules, regulations, structures and practices that may have contributed to allowing a known risk to get out of control."
CFFO is concerned that the public will remain skeptical about agricultural practices, private septic systems and sewage treatment until there is a specific review of practices in each of these areas.
In the case of agriculture CFFO is asking that the following issues be addressed:
a) What farm management initiatives will reduce the risk of environmental contamination by E coli?
b) Do large-scale farm enterprises pose higher risks for shedding E coli into the environment?
c) Is the level of risk of water contamination increasing as agriculture intensifies?
d) Is the rural public interest well served when governments promote the
intensification of farming enterprises?
e) What is the appropriate balance between the opportunities for farmers to keep agriculture vibrant by adopting new technology and society's concern for the quality of life in the countryside?
f) Are farmers adequately trained to manage the quality of our water?
The Federation also wants the inquiry to be comprehensive enough to include questions like:
a) Did cutbacks at the Ministry of Environment play a role?
b) Did downloading to local municipalities play a role? If it played a role was is caused by poorly executed downloading or does municipal management inthis area result in an inherent weakness?
c) Did contracting with the private sector play a role? If it played a role was is caused by poorly executed transition to private sector testing or does private sector testing in this area result in an inherent weakness?