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Bratina leads federal push against lead in drinking water

Led by Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP Bob Bratina, a group of Liberal MPs is asking its government to invest up to $400 million to combat the “health crisis” of lead-contaminated drinking water, which was exposed in communities across the country by a national investigation by 10 media outlets including the Toronto Star.

An open letter written by Bratina says the government “can and must” direct a portion of infrastructure spending designed to revitalize the post-COVID-19 economy into the “national public health crisis we face in the form of lead-contaminated drinking water.”

The letter recommends the money be shared with provinces for:

  • corrosion control equipment and installation so that chemicals can be added to water supplies to reduce lead risks;
  • the creation of a $50-million program accessible to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities so communities can identify lead service lines;
  • the creation of a personal tax credit to subsidize Canadians who replace lead pipes on their properties.
  • By Tuesday morning, the letter had attracted about 20 signatures of support from Liberal and Conservative MPs and senators, and two cabinet members: Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and International Development Minister Karina Gould.

Bratina is contacting other federal politicians as well as mayors across the country.

“Here we have something that is a significant issue that we can pretty much eradicate within a couple of years with infrastructure money,” he said. “When I read the (investigative) series, that was the trigger. I had the solid journalism that gave me the courage to bring it forward.”

The yearlong investigation published last November was a collaboration of 120 journalists and researchers from 10 media outlets and nine universities in partnership with Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism.

Drinking water in 11 cities was tested and data collected on 12,000 tap water tests across the country. A third of municipalities had levels of lead contamination exceeding Health Canada guidelines. Some cities — including Prince Rupert, B.C., Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Montreal — showed levels of contamination in older homes comparable to those found in Flint, Michigan.

Following publication, many cities introduced subsidy programs to help homeowners with the costs of removing lead pipes and also invested in swifter removal of lead pipes on city property.

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