Walkerton victims get compensation deal

Everyone in Walkerton, Ont., could receive at least $2,000 as part of a tentative deal to settle a class-action lawsuit against the Ontario government.

In exchange, the provincial government won't admit to any wrongdoing in connection with the poisoning of the town's water supply which left seven people dead and more than 2,000 sick.

There is no cap on the amount of compensation paid. And if people continue to suffer health problems years down the road, they can apply for more money.

The agreement also calls on the courts to supervise further compensation for people whose relatives died or went through serious illness from the E. coli contamination.

Thursday's deal still has to be approved by a court.

The people of Walkerton will get their say at a public meeting scheduled for March 19.

Anyone who doesn't like the deal can reject it and go to court on their own.

Insurance companies will cover the first $17 million. The Ontario government will be responsible for the rest but it's not clear how much that will be.

The no-fault settlement would eliminate the need for the courts to decide who was to blame.

"This settlement in effect ends all civil litigation in the Walkerton affair," said lawyer Harvey Strossberg, representing Walkerton victims in their class-action suit.

Strossberg said he was delighted by the deal and strongly endorsed the plan.

The provincial government likes the deal too.

"Nothing can compensate the people of Walkerton for the pain they have suffered," said Attorney General Jim Flaherty.

Still, he said, "We are pleased the court has recognized the merits of our Walkerton compensation plan."

A judicial inquiry is investigating the tainted water disaster last May.