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Thunder Bay-Rainy River candidates pledge to end boil-water advisories

Election hopefuls say the time for talk is done, it's time for action on an issue that's plagued some First Nations communities for decades.
Rainy River Candidates
People's Party of Canada Thunder Bay-Rainy River candidate Andrew Hartnell (from left), Liberal Marcus Powlowski, the Green Party's Amanda Moddejonge, Yuk-Sem Won of the NDP and Conservative Linda Rydholm on Wednesaday, Oct. 9, 2019 take part in the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce federal election debate at Confederation College. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – Candidates from all five parties seeking to capture Thunder Bay-Rainy River all committed to end boil-water advisories during Wednesday night’s Chamber of Commerce debate.

But each had a different idea of the best way to go about making it happen.

Liberal Marcus Powlowski said the best course is the current course, with a promise from party leader Justin Trudeau to put an end to all boil-water advisories in First Nations communities by 2021.

“The Liberals have really addressed this problem,” said Powlowski, looking to retain the seat for his party, won by one-term MP Don Rusnak four years ago.

“They put $6 billion into treatment of wastewater and providing adequate drinking water for First Nation communities. When they first came into power there were 105 long-term water advisories in effect. They’ve eliminated 87 of those as of now. There are still some, but they’ve committed to themselves to eliminate the remaining ones by 2020 or 2022.”

NDP hopeful Yuk-Sem Won said the problem should never have gotten to this point, with some communities under boil-water advisories for more than a quarter of a century.

“It has been going on for too long and even over the four years that we’ve seen them in the Liberal government there are still too many that are not being addressed. They are on a wait list, they are being told it’s coming. And that’s not good enough,” Won said.

“The NDP has committed to spending and investing the amount of money that is needed to address that issue immediately, because 2022 is too long to wait.”

Amanda Moddejonge, a first-time federal candidate for the Green Party, said the first thing the federal government needs to do is live up to its treaty responsibilities and respect all rights of Indigenous people, including an inherent right to self-governance.

“We’re going to (invite) representatives from First Nations, Metis and Inuit governments on a council of Canadian governments to improve policy, coherence and authorize public spending with respect to other orders of policy,” Moddejonge said.

“What that means is I’m not going to sit here and tell you how we’re going clean First Nations drinking water. I’m going to tell you we’re going to work with First Nations communities so this problem can actually satisfied. This has been going on for far too long and there are far too many people without drinking water.”

Conservative Linda Rydholm said like the other parties, her party is fully on board to end the boil-water advisories under party leader Andrew Scheer.

“Clean water is an essential element of life and it’s good that a start has been made for these First Nations communities,” Rydholm said. “The Conservative Party of Canada has committed to continuing with that process, a collaborative process, for each individual community, whatever is the best way for them.

Andrew Hartnell, a Rainy River, Ont. town councillor seeking the seat under the People’s Party of Canada, said the best way to pay for the cost to end boil-water advisories is to end corporate welfare across the country.

“We can take that money, that’s given to big, rich corporations that they hand out all the time … and work on our people first. It’s a crime that in this day and age that we even have boil-water advisories in this country. I understand it takes time, it takes money, it takes a lot of stuff, but it can eventually get done and that’s part of our platform,” Hartnell said.

Clean drinking water in Indigenous communities was one of several topics discussed at Wednesday’s debate, held at Confederation College. TBNewswatch will bring you answers from several other questions in the coming days.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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