Canada

Harris asked to apologize for Walkerton tragedy

Ontario Premier Mike Harris is facing mounting pressure to apologize for the Walkerton E. coli outbreak

Opposition politicians say Ontario Premier Mike Harris owes the people of the province an apology for his government's role in the Walkerton E. coli outbreak.

The call for an apology came a day after Ontario's former chief medical officer of health accused Harris of turning his back on public health.

Harris will go to Walkerton on Friday to testify in front of the public inquiry looking into the deaths of seven people last May.

On Monday, the former chief medical officer for the province told the inquiry he was worried about the downloading being carried out by the Harris government.

Dr. Richard Schabas thought the cuts threatened public health in Ontario. But Schabas said Harris turned his back on those concerns.

Opposition leader Dalton McGuinty asked Harris to explain why, and asked him to "for the first time apologize for turning your back on public safety."

Harris told the legislature now is not the time to answer that question. He says he'll wait until Friday, when he testifies.

"We support the process. We want answers to the tragic events at Walkerton," said Harris.

In Walkerton, one of Harris's former environment ministers testified on Tuesday.

Brenda Elliott told the inquiry that her government cut almost half of the Environment Ministry's budget between 1995 and 1998, in spite of warnings from senior bureaucrats.

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