An interview with Jim Smith, ODWAC

OMWA interviews Jim Smith, chair of the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC)

Jim Smith, ODWACWhat is the mandate and role of the ODWAC?
The broad mandate of the Council is to provide advice and make recommendations to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change on drinking water quality and testing standards, as well as other drinking water matters deemed appropriate to merit the attention of the Minister.

Can you give us a brief history?
On May 23, 2002, Justice O’Connor, in the Part Two Report of the Walkerton Inquiry, recommended the establishment on an “Advisory Council on Standards” for drinking water, as well as making five specific recommendations with respect to the Council.

On May 12, 2004, The Minister of the Environment announced the establishment of the Ontario
Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC), known formally as the “Advisory Council on Drinking-Water Quality and Testing Standards” in the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002.

Enabled under Section 4 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, the Council is “to consider issues relating to standards for drinking-water quality and testing and to make recommendations to the Minister” of the Environment, which are to be “taken into consideration in establishing and revising standards under this Act for drinking-water quality and testing.”

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OMWA: Celebrating Fifty Years

Nineteen sixty-six: fifty years ago. The year the Beatles released their Revolver album. President Lyndon Johnson committed the United States to fight South Vietnam until Communist aggression ended. The Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan both begin operation. The Toronto Transit Commission opened the Bloor-Danforth Subway line. The CBC became the first Canadian television network to broadcast in colour.

And in October, the Ontario Municipal Water Association was formed.

It began with a simple resolution to create an organization “…with respect to area water supply comparable to the Ontario Municipal Electrical Association.” Fifteen participating municipalities from southwestern Ontario all signed it.

A month later, the first constitution was adopted, and in March, 1967, the first annual meeting drew 185 delegates from municipalities from across Ontario and one from Quebec. C.J.F. Ross QC, vice chair of London Public Utilities Commission, was elected as the first president of OMWA. Jim Craig was appointed executive director.

The Ontario Municipal Water Association is unique in Canada: a political organization advocating for municipally-owned water systems. It has no competing interests, allowing OMWA the autonomy to take political positions in the best interests of its membership, and petition government to act accordingly.

In 1969, the first meeting of a new Ontario branch of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) – the forerunner of today’s OWWA – attracted 102 delegates. The new branch opened talks with OMWA to host a joint conference, beginning in 1971. The two organizations also held their first joint annual meeting in 1971.

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