Canada Water Preservation Act

An Act respecting the preservation of Canada’s water resources

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Francis Scarpaleggia  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of March 14, 2012
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment prohibits the removal of water in bulk from major drainage basins in Canada.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • March 14, 2012 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured as the New Democratic Party critic for natural resources to speak to this legislation with respect to Canada's water resources. We have seen this legislation twice before in the House. We welcome the bill at second reading.

I know that many Canadians are interested in fostering the sustainable use of Canada's water resources and preventing the removal of water in bulk from major drainage basins in Canada. We know how essential water is as a resource for life, people and our planet. In many ways, water defines and distinguishes our country.

As a member from northern Ontario, my flights home to Nickel Belt and travelling around the north of this province remind me of the abundance of this resource and, equally, the importance of its safekeeping. We have in northern Ontario part of Lake Huron and all of Lake Superior. Moreover, there are numerous border crossings with the United States and joint water tributaries that remind me of the importance of good legislation to monitor and protect this resource.

New Democrats will be supporting this legislation at second reading because we want it to go committee to receive the scrutiny it deserves and to deal with several concerns that we believe need to be addressed. Among those concerns is the absence of any guidance to direct the Governor in Council in setting the definition of what constitutes a major drainage basin in the regulations. This is a crucial definition that, by and large, will determine the effectiveness or real power of this bill. Without the definition, we would talking about all or no drainage basin. If the definition chosen by the government includes none of the major drainage basin, the act could be rendered inapplicable.

We are also concerned that the act gives the government very wide regulatory powers, including the ability to redefine the scope of the expectations through regulations, as well as the ability to make regulations providing for any other expectations. These regulatory powers seem overly broad and could permit the government to rewrite the act using these regulatory powers.

Further, the prohibitions in the act appear to be limited to the removal of water in bulk through diversion, and would not apply to the removal of water in bulk via pumping of water into a ship or truck, for example. If we are to oppose bulk water exports, we need to ensure that the act covers all means of exporting our water.

Finally, this act contains an exception for manufactured water products, including bottled water and beverages, a large loophole that we believe is also worth examining at committee.

I commend the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for again introducing this legislation.

Canadians have had an interest in protecting Canada's water resources for decades, especially when it comes to the issue of bulk water exports. The NDP has always called for prohibiting bulk water exports. We believe that this should be a key component of a national water policy—something Canada does not have—that would establish clean drinking water standards, provide for rigorous environmental protection measures for water resources, and recognize water as a common right.

A number of major water diversion plans in water corridors have been proposed in the past 40 years. These corridors would have transferred considerable quantities of water from Canada to the United States. None of these projects got off the ground, for various reasons. However, this remains a possibility. We must pass rigorous legislation to counter such projects.

I have seen other precious resources in our ground mined and exported with too little regard for Canadian priorities and needs. That must not happen with our water.

This legislation before us today also calls to mind the NAFTA agreement and how it has long been considered a threat to Canada's water sovereignty.

On several occasions, the NDP has brought forward motions here in the House of Commons to protect our fresh water. In February 1999 after debate, the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion to place an immediate moratorium on the export of bulk freshwater shipments and inter-basin transfers. The motion also instructed the government to introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and inter-basin transfers and recommended that it not become party to any international agreement that compelled us to export fresh water against our will.

In that same year, 1999, the Liberal government of the day announced that it would consult the provinces and territories to develop a strategy that would prohibit the bulk removal of water from Canadian watersheds, whether for domestic purposes or export. Regrettably, the strategy did not address the trade issues and concerns posed by NAFTA, focusing instead on water protection through water management. There is a relative consensus that the Liberals' Canada-wide water accord, with its environmental focus, does not contain enough protection from bulk water export.

In June 2007, the House adopted another New Democrat motion calling for the government to initiate talks with its American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA.

We know that in 2010 the government tabled Bill C-26, which aimed to ban bulk water. The bill did not progress beyond first reading and, indeed, was quite a feeble attempt to ban bulk water exports. It actually left 80% of Canada's surface water unprotected, as it only contained a prohibition on the removal of transboundary waters and not a prohibition on the inter-basin diversion or transfer of waters into transboundary waters, which left the door open for water pipelines to be built, like those proposed in the 1990s. We also opposed that bill for not addressing statutory exceptions that permitted the export of bottled water or other beverages. In fact, the bill did nothing to address bulk water trade concerns.

We want the government to acknowledge that Canada's water resources need further protection with respect to NAFTA via negotiations leading to an agreement that excludes water from NAFTA as a commercial good. Water should instead be listed as a human right and we need an acknowledgement of our respective sovereign rights to manage water as part of the public trust.

New Democrats have a history of defending Canada's water. In both 1999 and 2007 the House adopted NDP motions instructing the government to take steps to better protect Canada's water resources, and we are urging the government to respect the intent of those motions.

We must get it right this time to genuinely protect our water. We know that an overwhelming majority of Canadians support a ban on bulk water exports. We need to ensure that Canada maintains control through both a bulk water ban and the protections offered by a national water policy.

Bulk water removal poses concerns not just for the Canadians' drinking water but also for the cumulative effects it could have on the ecosystems of our water basins and watersheds. Policy-makers should also consider issues of water consumption as well as population and economic growth.

Further, we need more study of the effects of climate change on Canada's environment, and water resources must be examined in that regard, in particular, drought and changing weather patterns. Our water resource policy should take that into account. Here I would note that residents in northern Ontario with homes or cottages along Lake Huron and Lake Superior have seen dramatic changes in the water levels of the Great Lakes. In some recent years they have been able to walk hundreds of feet on new beaches that were once under water.

Policy-makers should also consider issues of consumption, population and economic growth.

When I look around our new Parliament since the May 2, 2011 election, I see that the members elected cover an amazing seven decades in their ages. This new dynamic of intergenerational partnership reaffirms the need to pass forward-thinking legislation that recognizes that a healthy and ecologically balanced planet is the most important gift we can give to future generations of Canadians.

To do this, parliamentarians have the duty and obligation to ensure that they understand the environmental consequences of current actions on future generations. This includes acting as responsible stewards of our water resources.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the issue today is critical. Fresh water is the source of all forms of life on earth. The protection and conservation of fresh water are political issues of the 21st century. Seen from space, Canada has one of the supplies of water in the world, but on the ground the situation is very different. Our water consumption is concentrated in a specific geographic area: 60% of our watercourses flow to the north of the country, but over 90% of the population is concentrated along the southern border.

As custodians of 9% of the planet’s renewable water resources, we have a moral obligation to preserve them for our generation and future generations. Thank God this is an issue on which there is consensus. For example, in the throne speech of November 19, 2008, the government said: “To ensure protection of our vital resources, our Government will bring in legislation to ban all bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian freshwater basins.”

We had that commitment before. I spoke of the Speech from the Throne in 2008.

When I worked many years ago, as part of the previous government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, that was the last time Canada took a comprehensive look at our water resources. The federal water policy, which remains the only federal water policy passed to this date, was passed in 1987. The Government of Canada committed to a federal water policy, which included that we would ban bulk water exports. Yet we stand here, more than 20 years later, without that prohibition.

I am very grateful to my friend for the introduction of Bill C-267, which ascribes in every respect to the best possible approach to how to ban the transfer of bulk water from one basin to another. I am aware, and I thank my friend, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, for a similar bill, Bill C-383. I would wish we had the ability to blend the two. However, there is no question that Bill C-267 responds to the issue in a way in which it must be responded.

The bill respecting the preservation of Canada's water resources before us this evening deals with the issue in terms of the inter-basin transfer of water. There are five major drainage basins for all of the water of Canada. If we think about it, it is very logical and intuitive. All our water drains toward larger areas. The five major drainage basins are the Arctic Ocean, Hudson Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and even the Gulf of Mexico from which our Great Lakes drain toward the south. These are the five major drainage basins and it is to these drainage basins that Bill C-267 speaks by prohibiting the inter-basin transfer of water, prohibiting the massive transfer of water in bulk.

This is critical because Bill C-383 is quite similar to a previous government legislation, Bill C-26. It dealt only with boundary and transboundary water. It is important for us to remember that when we are looking at boundary and transboundary water, we are looking at 10% of Canada's water resources. In other words, 90% of Canada's water resources are found in basins that could not be defined as boundary or transboundary water. As such, the acts we will be looking at later in this session, the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvement Act, are certainly laudable, but fall far short of what we need, which is why if it were possible to include the provisions of both bills together, we would have stronger legislation.

I do not have quite the same concern as the hon. member for Nickel Belt about the fact that it is left to regulations to describe a drainage basin. There is no question, however, since there really are five drainage basins for Canada and they are well known and are a matter of scientific fact, that it certainly would be wise to include them when the bill goes to committee and comes to amendment. That would leave no wiggle room for some sort of political fix that would deny the hydrogeology of Canada's land mass to try to say that there was something other than five major drainage basins. It is a scientific fact that is what there is.

We have always had the threat when we look at the transfer of basin water from one to the other. The most grandiose of these schemes was put forward repeatedly in the early 1980s. The grand canal scheme was the idea that we would move water from one basin, the Hudson Bay drainage basin, and put it into pipelines to ship down to the U.S. That grand canal scheme would not be at all affected by private member's Bill C-383, which deals with boundary and transboundary water. However, it would be completely caught by Bill C-267, which speaks to the key issue, and that is the removal of water in bulk.

Under the interpretation and definition section of the bill, it states, “removal of water in bulk” means the removal of water, whether it has been treated or not, from the major drainage basin in which the water is located by any means of diversion that includes a pipeline, canal, tunnel, aqueduct or channel”, which is a perfect way of ensuring the grand canal scheme never happens, “or by any other means of diversion by which more than 50,000 litres of water per day is removed from major drainage basin”.

This speaks to ecological realities. It is not a political statement of a boundary. It speaks to the key issue, which is how do we ensure that we do not commit a serious and egregious error in which Canada's water is moved from one basin to another. We think we are a water-rich nation, but the reality is we only have 9% of the world's renewable water, the U.S. has 6%. We are roughly in the same territory. For all the water we have, what we have is precious and we have to protect it.

The other reason for this legislation does not come from an ecological threat. It comes from the reality of NAFTA. We have a situation where under the North American Free Trade Agreement, should we allow a single transaction of the shipment of water in bulk from one drainage basin to the other, particularly from one drainage basin in Canada for sale in the United States, we would then have turned a tap on and would be simply impossible under the terms of NAFTA to turn off.

The reason one could say that water is not covered under NAFTA is that water in its natural state in natural water bodies and water courses is not a good in trade. The minute we make that a good in trade, then the taps are open everywhere.

It is critical that Canada protects our water sources by prohibiting the transfer of water in bulk, prohibiting its sale, prohibiting water in its natural state from ever being seen as a good in commerce.

One last reason why the legislation is essential is we may feel awash in water, but the impact of the climate crisis, as the previous member has mentioned, will have its primary initial impact on reducing our access to water, its quality and its quantity. That is why I am so very proud to stand as the member of Parliament for Saanich—Gulf Islands and as the leader of the Green Party of Canada to speak, to plead that the House lives up to the commitments that were made in 1987 in the federal water policy and to the commitment of the current Prime Minister in the Speech from the Throne of 2008 to ban bulk water exports.

We need to take precautionary measures now. I plead with all members of the House to ensure that Bill C-267 lives up to the promises of generations to protect our fresh water in our country.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I support the bill introduced by the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, which is a step in the right direction.

We New Democrats have long been calling for a law that bans bulk water exports. On February 9, 1999, the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion to impose an immediate moratorium on bulk freshwater exports and interbasin transfers. We thank the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his work on this issue, which is important all across Canada.

At present, any proposal for the bulk export of water from Canadian basins or the Great Lakes would create a precedent, a situation that the Canadian authorities could not subsequently call into question. At what point does water from a river or an aquifer cease to be a common good like air or sunshine and become merchandise? If bottled water manifestly constitutes merchandise, can water in all of its forms then be considered nothing but a commercial good?

NAFTA has long been considered a threat to Canada’s sovereignty over water resources, but fortunately, there is still time to act. We can correct the problem before it is too late.

Under NAFTA, articles 315 and 309, it states:

—no country can reduce or restrict the export of a resource once the trade has been established. Nor can the government place an export tax or charge more to the consumers of another NAFTA country than they charge domestically.

Exports of water would have to be guaranteed to the level they had acquired over the preceding 36 months. The more water exported, the more water required to be exported. Even if new evidence were found that massive movements of water were harmful to the environment, these requirements would stay in place. That is something we cannot enter into. We truly have to protect this precious resource.

In other words, in the event bulk freshwater exports were to begin, the United States would be the owner in perpetuity of a share of Canada’s water resources. Exported volumes could not be reduced unless the water were rationed in the same proportion for Canadian consumers and companies. The issue of bulk water exports in North America remains an explosive topic of debate, but the great majority of Canadians recognize the value of Canada’s water resources and are ready to ban the large-scale removal of water.

In late 2004, according to the EKOS firm, close to 66% of Canadians would have refused the idea of selling water to their American neighbours. Even though the Americans are our friends, we have to impose certain limits on that friendship. Water is a good place to start. Public reaction seems to be motivated by the fear of seeing Canadian sovereignty done in by the United States and multinational companies. Consequently, the concerns of critics, academics, environmentalists and economists have not been allayed in recent years. It is time to put an end to the uncertainty and to protect our water resources properly.

My hon. colleague's constituents in Lac-Saint-Louis are neighbours to my constituents in Vaudreuil—Soulanges. Our ridings are separated by some of the most important and historic waterways in the country. The St. Lawrence River, the Ottawa River, Lac des Deux Montagnes, which is a sacred lake to the Mohawk people, and Lac Saint-Louis separate the communities in our two constituencies, but they also bring us together in the sense that these water systems are integral to the collective identity and memories of all the communities along their shores. In short, these were the historical communication routes of our early country.

Our constituents are demanding that we protect these public goods from unrestrained exploitation and exportation. That is understandable. We do not understand how important something is until we lose it. I know the residents in Kirkland realized how important water was when their water resources were jeopardized. I realized it in my riding of Vaudreuil. When people do not have access to clean water, they realize how important it is.

This is a perfectly reasonable, not radical, request. The private member's bill in its current form does not give guidance to what constitutes a major drainage basin, which in my view is one of its shortcomings. A major drainage basin could be defined as every water basin in our communities or none of them. The strength of the bill depends on getting that definition corrected. I would encourage all the members to debate this point in committee so the bill will not one day be rendered inapplicable.

The prohibitions in the bill appear to be limited to the removal of water in bulk through diversion and would not apply to the removal of water in bulk by pumping water into another vehicle, which then would cross international borders. This should be clarified in the committee as well.

I will reiterate my support for this bill so it can be discussed further in committee to fix the aforementioned concerns regarding the strength of the bill. What is the official definition of a major drainage basin and what kind of loopholes does the bill provide for future exportation of water?

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House of Commons today to talk about the bill introduced by my colleague and neighbour, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, Bill C-267, An Act respecting the preservation of Canada’s water resources.

Canadians have been interested in protecting our country's water resources for decades, particularly with regard to bulk water exports. The NDP is in favour of sending this bill to a committee that could address the wording problems in the bill.

The purpose of this bill “is to foster the sustainable use of Canada’s water resources and, in particular, to prevent the removal of water in bulk from major drainage basins in Canada”. This bill has three components: first, the prohibition of the removal of water in bulk; second, the exceptions to this prohibition, for example, water that is removed for bottling and for producing beverages for commercial purposes, and water that is removed and used on a short-term basis, for example, for emergency situations or humanitarian purposes; and third, the enforcement provisions.

Canada has a large quantity of the planet's fresh water. It is true that this is a great resource and we must protect it and ensure that it is distributed fairly and equitably. It is a natural treasure that must never be taken for granted.

Water is vital to human health and life. In Canada, we do not have a national strategy to respond to urgent problems and, unfortunately, the Conservatives are not providing any federal leadership in terms of conserving and protecting our water. I hope that the Conservatives will do something about this situation soon and that, like us, they will vote in favour of this bill, which the hon. member has courageously introduced a number of times in order to protect Canada's water. It is a resource that we must not neglect.

The federal water policy is over 20 years old. It is very outdated, and this situation must quickly be remedied. We are facing more and more challenges with regard to our water supply, including contamination, shortage and pressure to export our water to the United States by pipeline or water diversion, for example. Other hon. members spoke about this at length earlier. I am wondering what the Conservatives are waiting for to take action. This is really urgent. Imagine if there were a pipeline allowing our water to be exported directly to the United States. It would be absolutely terrible.

The NDP is in favour of introducing a national water policy. It is an important and noteworthy undertaking.

Let us look at a bit of history. NAFTA has long been regarded as a threat to Canada's sovereignty over water. In 1999, following a debate, the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion to place an immediate moratorium on bulk water exports and interbasin transfers. The motion also asked the government to “introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and interbasin transfers and not be a party to any international agreement that compels us to export freshwater against our will...”. Unfortunately, nothing has been done since that motion was adopted in the House of Commons.

In June 2007, the House passed another motion from the NDP—which is very proactive when it comes to protecting water—asking the government to begin talks with its American counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA. And what did the Conservatives do? Nothing.

En 2010, the Conservative government tried something, but it was not enough and it was inadequate. It introduced Bill C-26, which sought to ban bulk water removals. However, this bill had a number of flaws, including a major one. Indeed, under that legislation, 80%—that is right—of surface waters in Canada were not protected, because the protection only applied to transboundary waters. It makes no sense at all to think that this tiny bill, this tiny measure could have a real impact on the export of Canada's fresh water in bulk.

This legislation paved the way for the construction of water pipelines, such as the one proposed in the 1990s, which did not make any sense. That is utterly shameful. That is Conservative inaction. That is a lack of action in this area.

Currently, there are growing water shortages all over the world. As I said, the NDP has always asked that bulk water exports be banned. This is a critical component of a national water policy, which does not exist in Canada, but which could set standards for clean drinking water, which could also provide strict environmental protection measures for water resources, and which could recognize water as a common right. It is really important to recognize water as a common right. So, this is a good plan and it is a plan proposed by the NDP.

As we said, water is essential to life, but it is not an infinite resource, far from it. Even in Canada, which is rich in water—and hon. members may not know that, but I am going to tell them—one quarter of Canadian municipalities have faced water shortages. That is a real concern. One third of them depend on groundwater, on which we currently have very little information, to meet daily needs. A national water policy must create a comprehensive conservation strategy and invest in research and in the monitoring of that resource.

I am going to talk a little about my riding of Drummond, where people are really concerned and have expressed grave misgivings about water. Three municipalities in my riding face water problems, whether in terms of quality or quantity. The municipalities of Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, Saint-Majorique-de-Grantham, and Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover are well aware of the importance of access to quality water in sufficient quantities. Every time that I visit these municipalities, the residents regularly ask me when the water problems are going to be addressed. I am currently lobbying for a national water policy to be a key priority in Canada, so that such problems do not recur in my riding’s municipalities, or elsewhere in Canada. Two of these municipalities are currently entering into an agreement with the city of Drummondville. I am really happy about that. It is good news, but it is not enough. There are still problems in the municipality of Saint-Cyrille-de-Wendover, and the federal government must have a policy to help these municipalities.

There are other concerns regarding water in my municipality and the millions of litres of water necessary for the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas. This is currently the subject of a major debate in my riding, and I initiated a Canada wide petition to protect our water from the shale gas industry.

Six hundred shale gas wells in Quebec would consume the annual equivalent in water of 360,000 Olympic swimming pools. An Olympic swimming pool contains 20,000 litres of beautiful clean water. This water would be mixed with the equivalent of 900 Olympic swimming pools of chemicals. You can imagine the slop, the chemical laden mud, the dreadful, soupy mix that we would end up with, when we really need beautiful clean water.

The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks of Quebec stated in a report that there would be a shortage of underground water in a section where wells would be required to mine shale gas, and that there would not be enough water to meet all the needs. At some point, the choice has to be made between the public and the shale gas industry.

I am going to conclude by saying that water must be a human right. Moreover, on July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of the human right to water and to sanitary facilities, and for this to be an essential right to the survival of human beings.

In closing, it is truly important for my riding of Drummond that we vote in favour of my colleague's bill, and that we go still further and develop a national water policy that protects our municipalities, so that we can be sure that they have quality water in sufficient quantities.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-267, a bill to promote the sustainable and mindful use of water in Canada, and more particularly to prevent the removal of water in bulk from Canada’s major drainage basins. To begin, I would note that we support the bill in principle and we believe it will be possible to remedy certain flaws in the bill in committee.

Canada has the most abundant freshwater resources in the world. It is estimated that 8% of the world’s freshwater reserves are concentrated in Canada. That abundance prompts some people to advocate exporting it to the southwestern United States. In 2008, for example, members of the Montreal Economic Institute proposed that Quebec export 10% of its renewable freshwater in return for $6.5 billion per year. That is simply irresponsible.

In order to measure how lucky we are, we have to consider that the planet’s water stocks are 97% saltwater. The remaining 3% are virtually inaccessible, because they are locked in the polar icecaps, in glaciers or in deep water. In total, it is estimated that less than 1% of water stocks exist in the form of accessible freshwater. We must therefore manage this resource wisely. It is our duty to humanity, somewhat as Brazilians must manage the Amazon rainforest, which is described as the lungs of our planet.

This bill has been made necessary by the fact that NAFTA apparently does not adequately protect Canada’s sovereignty over its water resources. Even though the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico jointly declared in 1994 that NAFTA did not apply to water in its natural state, some people believe that surface water and underground water in their natural state are subject to NAFTA obligations and water could therefore be commercialized.

So the critics’ concerns have not been assuaged by the statements made by the three trading partners. It must be said that, were it not for the vigilance of civil society, certain bulk water export projects might well have materialized. I am thinking in particular of the Nova Group project, which in 1998 obtained authorization from the Ontario government to export 600 million litres of water per year from Lake Superior. People on both sides of the border had to mobilize to get the Ontario government to back down.

I remind you that, in an attempt to correct the problem, in February 1999 the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion to impose a moratorium on the export of bulk freshwater shipments and inter-basin transfers.

The motion also called for the government, and I quote, to “introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and inter-basin transfers and”... “not be a party to any international agreement that would compel us to export water against our will...”.

The Liberal government subsequently announced that it would consult the provinces and territories in order to develop a strategy that would prohibit the bulk removal of water from Canadian drainage basins for domestic purposes or for export. However the strategy did not address the trade issues raised by NAFTA and focused mainly on water management.

In June 2007, again on the initiative of the NDP, the House adopted a motion calling for the government to initiate talks with our southern neighbours to have water excluded from the scope of NAFTA. The Conservatives, like the previous Liberal government, did nothing. This was a great surprise.

In 2010, the Conservative government did in fact table Bill C-26 to ban the bulk removal of water, but the bill died on the order paper because of its many deficiencies. The Conservatives’ bill addressed only a small portion of fresh water, for it left 80% of Canadian surface water unprotected, as the prohibition applied to transboundary waters only.

Nothing in that bill would have banned the construction of pipelines and other forms of exploitation of bulk water by truck or ship, for example. We have long been calling for the prohibition of bulk water exports, and view this as a key element of a national water policy which would establish standards for safe, potable water and solid environmental protection measures for Canada’s water resources.

We support the principle of the bill before us, but are critical of some of these flaws which, with a little goodwill, could be corrected in committee.

For example, we note that there is no guidance to the governor in council as to the definition of what constitutes a major drainage basin, in the regulations. In our opinion, the effectiveness or strength of this bill depends on that definition. If the definition adopted by the government includes none of the major drainage basins, the bill might then be considered inapplicable.

We note as well that Bill C-267 grants the government very wide regulatory powers, including the capacity to redefine the scope of the exceptions and to establish new exceptions by regulation. These powers seem disproportionate, and could lead the government to exercise them as a way to rewrite the act. As we know, faced with a government that is environmentally delinquent, it is best to be prudent and to set clear limits on its regulatory power.

We understand that the prohibitions are limited to the bulk removal of water from major basins through diversion. We shall attempt in committee to ensure that bulk exports by truck or ship are also prohibited.

My last observation is on the issue of bottled water. The bill creates an exception for manufactured products such as bottled water and beverages. This is a major loophole. We believe this issue needs very close review in committee.

I would like to take advantage of the time I have been given to speak to the bigger issue. Instead of thinking about exporting water, I believe we need to be thinking about our habits in order to reduce the pressure to commercialize water. For example, we know that 70% of the fresh water consumed is used in agriculture. That number may not decrease, considering that the governments of Canada and the United States are encouraging corn crops for the production of fuel. It is the same thing for extracting oil from the oil sands. It is estimated that two to five barrels of fresh water are needed to extract just one barrel of oil. That does not even include the water contaminated by the so-called holding ponds.

More than ever, we need to become aware of our dependence on non-renewable energies and their effects on our environment and the depletion of fresh water. Although this government is determined to drive out those it calls environmental radicals, one day it will have to take into account the effects of climate change on the environment and Canada's water resources. Instead of cutting science budgets, the government should be investing in research in order to study types of drought and meteorological changes and to ensure that our water resources policy takes these things into account.

In closing, I would like to commend the associations, unions, NGOs, citizens and local authorities around the world who are gathering next week in Marseilles for the Alternative World Water Forum in order to discuss the various challenges of water management. Like them, I hope governments the world over, starting with the Canadian government, will work on better protecting our water resources. We have to ensure that water is recognized as a fundamental human right and as a public good, to be protected from corporations that far too often pollute it or exploit it for profit.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

March 8th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's opposition to Bill C-267 is puzzling because it amounts to a reversal of its previous public commitments on the issue.

In the 2008 election campaign the Conservatives said that they agreed with the principle of a federal ban on bulk water exports through a prohibition on interbasin transfers of water within Canada. This was in response to the then recently published recommendations of the Canadian Water Issues Council working in collaboration with the program on water issues at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. These recommendations were incorporated in the earlier version of Bill C-267, which I introduced in the House of Commons prior to that election.

In the November 2008 throne speech which immediately followed the election, the government clearly committed to introducing legislation like Bill C-267. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment said in her speech that water is a resource and as such it is a matter of provincial jurisdiction.

Water is not a resource like any other. Water is not oil or copper or nickel, resources that are locked in the ground and not part and parcel of living ecosystems. Oil may be the lifeblood of the economy, but it is far from the lifeblood of the environment.

What is more, natural resources like oil are static. In their natural state they do not move across provincial and international boundaries, either above ground in rivers or underground in aquifers like water does. If they did, they might likely have been designated a shared federal-provincial responsibility, or even an exclusive federal jurisdiction in the manner of another well-known resource that moves freely through Canada's natural environment without regard for political borders, namely fish.

My colleague also said that there is no constitutional justification or rationale for federal “incursion” into the matter of prohibiting bulk water exports, that for example, the federal role does not accrue in this case under the federal residual power of peace, order and good government. However, it is not necessary to invoke this residual power to justify a federal role in limiting water transfers and exports.

If the federal government has the power to prohibit activities harmful to the environment, such as pollution, it is not because it was granted this power under a Canadian Constitution that predates the word “environmentalism”, nor is it because of the federal residual power of peace, order and good government. Rather, it is because the court has ruled that society has evolved and that environmental protection in the political and economic context of the late 20th century is a matter worthy of Criminal Code protection.

I refer the parliamentary secretary to the 1997 Supreme Court decision in the case of Regina v. Hydro-Québec, where the utility challenged Ottawa's authority to use an interim order under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to stop the provincial utility from depositing toxic substances into a watercourse in Quebec. Hydro-Québec argued that Ottawa's interim order could not be justified either by virtue of the federal criminal power or as a matter of national concern under the peace, order and good government residual power in section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The Supreme Court, however, held that the interim order and its enabling legislation, CEPA, were valid because the protection of the environment is a major challenge of our time that constitutes “a wholly legitimate public objective in the exercise of the criminal law power”, and that “the stewardship of the environment is a fundamental value of our society and that Parliament may use its criminal law power to underline that value”. I believe the court would view Bill C-267 in very much the same light.

The Supreme Court decision was close, five to four. The dissenters held that Ottawa was not authorized to act in the matter because CEPA's purpose is to regulate, not prohibit, and that regulation is not a matter of criminal law which is normally aimed at prohibiting a deleterious action.

I would submit that Bill C-267 is not intended to regulate water removal but rather to prohibit it outright. This legislation would pass muster at the Supreme Court. In any event, the intent behind the bill is to have Ottawa engage and work with the provinces to make the current national consensus against bulk water exports watertight into the future.

In conclusion, Canadians want a government of courage and character prepared to assume federal leadership when it counts. They do not want a federal government that shrinks from involvement with the provinces on matters of profound national concern, like Canada's water sovereignty and security.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put my bill and the debate we are launching tonight into some context by referring to a couple of facts and a couple of quotes from eminent individuals.

While there are alternatives to oil, there are as yet no reasonable alternatives to water. That is fact number one.

Fact number two is that Canada holds 20% of the world's fresh water. The United States, on the other hand, has--

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start over. I would like to put my bill and the debate we are launching tonight into some context by referring to two facts and quoting two eminent individuals.

The first fact is that, while there are alternatives to oil, there are as yet no reasonable alternatives to water. The second fact is that Canada holds 20% of the world's freshwater. The United States has one-tenth of Canada's water but nine times our population.

At a conference in Peterborough not long ago, Robert Kennedy Jr. said, in reference to the United States:

We are in the midst of a water crisis that has no end in sight, and the place people are looking to solve it is Canada.

If you talk to the engineers and the planning and policy makers in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Phoenix and Las Vegas...they'll say, “Well we don't have to worry about this because we'll just get the water from Canada”.

The second quote is from Citi Bank chief economist, Willem Buiter, who declared in July 2001 his belief that the water market would become larger than the oil market in this century. He said:

I expect to see in the near future a massive expansion of investment in the water sector, including the production of fresh, clean water from other sources (desalination, purification), storage, shipping and transportation of water. I expect to see pipeline networks that will exceed the capacity of those for oil and gas today.

Water is not oil. It is a unique natural resource because of its life-sustaining qualities for humans, the environment and the economy. Water drives our economy, whether it be agriculture or the modern products of the computer age. Water is in high demand to allow those industries to grow and prosper.

I think a little history is in order to give a little more context to my bill.

The first proposals for exporting Canada's freshwater date back to the 1950s and 1960s. These involved the grandiose schemes for redirecting the natural flow of some of Canada's rivers toward the United States and other parts of Canada. In fact, in 1951, the U.S. bureau of reclamation undertook an extensive study called, “United Western Investigation”. The goal was to expand irrigation through the diversion of North American rivers.

In 1959, the GRAND Canal project proposed to build a dyke across James Bay to separate it from Hudson Bay, turning the resulting reservoir into a freshwater lake whose water would then be pumped southward into the Great Lakes and parts of the United States and Canada.

In 1964, the North American Water and Power Alliance project proposed damming the major rivers of Alaska and British Columbia to divert water into the Rocky Mountain Trench to create a 500 mile freshwater lake running the length of British Columbia.

In the 1990s, a series of more modest water export proposals made surprising and significant headway in three provinces, namely, British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, before being halted by governments responding to negative public reaction.

Despite the reversals of earlier attempts to sell Canada's water abroad, and in the face of public opinion that today still solidly opposes bulk water exports, calls to export Canada's freshwater have not subsided, surprisingly. Rather, they may be said to have increased, at times backed by studies by respected think tanks, I would add mostly conservative think tanks, that often combine the language of the human right to water as a means of adding moral impetus and justification to the traditional economic reasons for favouring bulk water exports.

I will give an example. In 2008 the Montreal Economic Institute published a report called “Freshwater exports for the development of Quebec's blue gold”. The report claimed:

Fresh water is a product whose relative economic value has risen substantially and will keep rising in the coming years. It has become a growing source of wealth and an increasingly worthwhile investment opportunity.

In June 2010 the Fraser Institute released a report entitled “Making Waves: Examining the Case for Sustainable Water Exports from Canada”. The report concluded that the myriad of federal and provincial statutes and regulations effectively banning water exports should be eliminated.

That is obviously the tenor of some of the reports that have come out of conservative think tanks in the last few years. We see a trend. We have the grandiose schemes of the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these are not particularly practical because of the cost and the damage to the environment. Then we see, in the second stage, in the 1990s, more modest projects involving tanker ships, projects that actually gained the support of three provincial governments. Then following prohibitions on water exports in the provinces, we still see think tanks proposing the idea and backing up their proposals with economic analysis.

In order to fully explore this issue, we have to refer to the North American Free Trade Agreement. It, of course, changed the trading environment in North America and raised questions about whether water would some day be traded within that common market. In order to fully grasp the implications of NAFTA for Canada's ability to control its fresh water, it is necessary to focus on three principles that are in the agreement: the principle of national treatment, the principle of investor rights, and the principle of proportionality. These principles govern and constrain the actions of signatory countries to the agreement.

National treatment could mean, depending on interpretation, that the consumers of one country must have access to the same goods or products as consumers in the other country. In other words, one country may not ban the export to the other country of goods or products already being traded within its domestic market.

The notion of investor rights means that a country cannot directly expropriate the interests of a foreign investor or take actions such as regulations that effectively diminish the earnings from and, hence, the value of an investment, actions that would be considered tantamount to expropriation.

Let us take the example of a hypothetical foreign corporation with a permit to ship water within Canada. If this were to occur, it could argue that a prohibition on shipping water to the United States devalues its investment. Afterward, an arbitration tribunal might agree and invoke the rights of U.S. consumers of water, for example, American farmers and consumers of farm products, to benefit from Canada's water in the same way as Canadian farmers and consumers of agricultural products do.

I would like to digress before explaining the meaning of the principle of proportionality by mentioning that the federal Conservative government made a very unwise decision recently in regard to a case brought to a NAFTA tribunal by AbitibiBowater, which is a Canadian firm incorporated in Delaware with sizeable U.S. assets.

The firm closed its pulp and paper mills in Grand Falls, Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador, and then wanted to sell its assets, including certain timber harvesting licences and water use permits. As the House will recall, the Newfoundland government moved to re-appropriate these rights as they were originally contingent on production. AbitibiBowater sidestepped the Canadian courts and challenged the Newfoundland government under NAFTA's investor protection provisions.

In this particular instance, a foreign company asserted its right to Canada's water and the matter was headed toward deliberations in a NAFTA tribunal. The Conservative government settled out of court and gave the company $130 million and essentially created a private right of a foreign corporation to Canada's water.

Now, there are already foreign claims on water. That makes it more likely that a corporation could argue that its investor rights are being infringed upon if that corporation is not allowed to do what it wishes with the water for which it has a permit.

Finally, I wish to speak about the principle of proportionality. If we were ever to export our water in bulk, it would be difficult to prohibit those exports once they had begun. Proportional sharing means that if we were to apply an export tax or levy, for example, on a product that is sold outside Canada, thereby reducing the amount of exports of that product, we would have to take similar action in Canada to proportionately reduce the domestic consumption of that product or natural resource.

It is interesting to note that two types of natural resources were exempted under NAFTA by the previous Mulroney Conservative government. One of them unfortunately is not water. The Mulroney government did not have the foresight to exempt water from the proportional sharing clause in NAFTA. Timber and unprocessed fish were exempted. Proportional sharing does not apply to those two natural resources, but unfortunately it applies to water.

We have a problem. There is a great deal of uncertainty about what NAFTA means with respect to Canada's right to control its water sovereignty. Nine of our ten provinces have laws for the time being that prohibit the export of water from their jurisdictions. New Brunswick does not have a law but does have a policy against bulk water exports from its jurisdiction.

If NAFTA were to be superimposed on the complexities of the Canadian federal system, that uncertainty would continue because any one of those provinces could lift their ban on bulk water exports at any time. If more pressure builds from think tanks and interest groups or entrepreneurs in different provinces, one could see a day come when there would be pressure to lift those bans.

We need what is called federal backstop legislation and that is what my bill is. It is called the Canadian water preservation act. Its primary goal is to prohibit the removal of fresh water in bulk from what one aquatic basin in Canada to another, and I define bulk as over 50,000 litres per day. The interbasin transfer of water by any means would be prohibited, including but not limited to, pipeline, tunnel, canal, aqueduct or water bag. The basic contours of the basins would be negotiated with the provinces and would be the object of regulations.

What I am saying is that if we cannot take water from one basin and bring it to another and another, and so on until it crosses the American border, then we cannot export Canada's water and we are protecting the environment at the same time.

The bill would not apply to boundary waters because the Chrétien government had the foresight and the wisdom to protect boundary waters such as the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and Lake of the Woods from bulk water removal and bulk water exports, in 2001 when it amended the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has a federal water policy that has been in place since 1986 calling for the banning of bulk water exports. It is the only one we had so it must be still in place.

The most recent statement on the matter was made in the Speech from the Throne in 2008 when the current government, in its minority form, pledged to put forward legislation to ban bulk water exports.

Does the hon. member expect the support of the government in ensuring that this important legislation gets passed? As he noted, under NAFTA, if we let any water get exported to the United States, we can never turn that tap off again.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the 1987 water policy that was put forth by the Conservative government of the day clearly stated that Canada should bring in legislation to prevent bulk water exports. The government then, in its throne speech in November 2008, said it would do so, that it would prohibit exports by prohibiting interbasin transfers. It did not follow through on its own throne speech promise because it introduced watered-down legislation that did not ban interbasin transfers, as it had promised in the throne speech.

I would very much like the members on the other side to see the wisdom of this legislation, to see that it is consistent with their own statements, and support the legislation. However, I am not that optimistic.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do and in other regards, not only in terms of how CETA would apply to potential future exports. It is very difficult to know what is in CETA because the government is not telling us what it is negotiating, so I will not be very specific in my answer.

When it comes to CETA, I am more concerned about the fact that, if Canadian municipalities decide to give a contract for the management of their municipal drinking water systems, they would be forced to allow foreign water companies to bid on those contracts, whereas now they can invite a foreign company to bid, but they are not required to have a European water company bid. I am a little concerned that we could be giving up control of municipal water systems to European multinationals. I am very concerned about CETA, but again, the government has not told us what it is up to.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-267 seeks to prohibit the removal of water in bulk from major drainage basins in Canada. Unfortunately, the bill is fraught with redundancies. I will spend my time today discussing why. I will start by giving the House a sense of the federal role in the shared management of our waters as it applies internationally and domestically. It is a role that is designed to respect both federal and provincial jurisdictions.

Canada's Constitution makes it a province's responsibility to manage natural resources within its boundaries. However, it does not explicitly assign responsibility for water management to either the federal or provincial government. Therefore, traditionally we have shared this role.

At the federal level, we have a long history of bilateral co-operation with the United States to manage boundary and transboundary waters through a set of treaties and agreements that have been mentioned here tonight, like the Boundary Waters Treaty. This treaty, with the International Joint Commission that it created, has successfully promoted co-operative solutions to shared water issues with the United States for more than 100 years.

Under the Boundary Waters Treaty, the federal government supports the International Joint Commission by providing expert technical and engineering staff to oversee the flow of water in these basins. The commission also engages experts from other levels of government from both sides of the boundary. It creates the structure for the federal, provincial and state agencies to work together in the best interests of the people from both countries.

Additionally, when Canada, the United States and Mexico ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement, they declared that it created no rights to water in its natural state.

Beyond the international dimension, the federal government also takes an appropriate role with the provinces in overseeing the apportionment of water that flows from one province to another, such as with the Prairie Provinces Water Board. The federal government acts as a neutral third party in making sure that the terms of the master agreements on apportionment are followed.

I would also like to note, and this has been discussed here previously tonight, that the federal government has already undertaken specific action to ban bulk water removals from waters that are within our jurisdiction.

Specifically, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the administration of the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. For over a decade, that act has prohibited bulk water removals from the Canadian portion of the boundary water basins. These are basins that contain the lakes and rivers that form or run along the international boundary.

In putting in place these protections, the federal government has always been mindful that it is a provincial responsibility to manage water within a province's territorial boundaries and this is as it should be. In keeping with these shared responsibilities, it is important to underscore how active our provincial and territorial partners have been in putting in place the measures to be sound stewards of our water resources. Over the last 10 years, all the provinces have put in place laws, regulations or policies that prevent the transfer of water between basins, or outside their boundaries, and in some cases, both.

Therefore, the bill is an unnecessary incursion into provincial jurisdiction.

The former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, has questioned the constitutionality of this legislation at committee, a significant issue that is associated with the bill.

Bill C-267 would place the issue of bulk water transfers, domestically and internationally, wholly within federal jurisdiction. This is a departure from the federal government's traditional jurisdiction and raises constitutional issues. In particular, there are concerns whether it can be supported by a federal head of power, particularly given its focus on waters other than transboundary basins.

Similarly, it is unlikely that Parliament could rely on peace, order and good government to legislate in this case. The bill does not meet the national concern part of this test. In particular, there is no provincial inability to address the issue.

On this point, federal incursion into water management wholly within provincial boundaries, as proposed by the bill, would be duplicative and an intrusion on provincial jurisdiction. It would also imply that, without additional federal government oversight of the provincial protections already in place, the provinces would open the floodgates to bulk water diversion projects. This simply does not align with all the evidence to date of strong provincial actions to prohibit such removals, contrary to the alarmist nature of the member opposite's speech.

Additional redundancies relate to a law passed by the United States that explicitly prevents the removal of water from the Great Lakes basin.

This brought into force a political compact that was developed by the eight Great Lake states in 2008. When this occurred, the governments of Ontario and Quebec also signed a side accord with these eight states which adopted the same principles.

Let me conclude by summarizing the key flaws and redundancies contained in the bill. Bill C-267 would place the issue of bulk water transfers, domestically and internationally, wholly in federal jurisdiction. This is a departure from the federal government's traditional jurisdiction and raises significant constitutional issues. We do not want to federalize every drop of water in Canada, nor should we. We respect the role and the jurisdiction of the provinces with regard to the sustainable management of our water resources.

Robust protections already exist at the federal and provincial level to prevent the removal of water in bulk and there is, therefore, no justification for the federal government to act in prohibiting the transfer of water within the territory of a province. Also, we look forward to continuing the long-standing co-operative relationships we have established with our provincial, territorial and U.S. colleagues to continue our shared efforts to sustainably manage our water resources. As such, I encourage members not to support this bill.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will keep it pretty short because other colleagues would like to speak to this bill.

The member for Lac-Saint-Louis should rest assured the NDP will support this bill to get it to committee because it is really important for us to discuss some key issues.

The NDP has been strong on water issues for quite a long time. In 1999 we had a fantastic motion banning bulk water exports, and it passed this House with debate. We have a long history when it comes to water issues.

I appreciated my colleague's explanation about NAFTA and proportionality and how it is linked to exportation. That cleared up a lot of questions I had.

At committee I would like to hear from some folks about a few issues.

First, one thing about the bill is it appears that bulk water removal is limited through diversion only and would not apply to removal by, say, pumping water into a ship or a truck. Therefore, I want to ask questions, explore that issue and hear from witnesses about that.

The other piece that is interesting, and is missing, is the fact that there is a specific exception for manufactured water products, including bottled water, so it would be great to explore that at committee. I would like to see what the implications would be of having that exception specifically written into the legislation.

A technical detail that I would like to explore with witnesses is the fact that the bill gives government very wide regulatory powers and it includes the ability to redefine the scope of exceptions through regulations and make regulations for other exceptions. I feel that is overly broad. That could allow the government to rewrite the act through regulatory powers. We would want to see if in fact this broad regulatory scope does not actually undermine the legislation. If we find that it does, perhaps we could introduce some amendments.

The final piece I would like to discuss at committee is the fact that there is actually no definition, or guidance given to the governor in council on what constitutes a major drainage basin. The effectiveness of the bill, or the power of the bill absolutely depends on what is the definition of a major drainage basin. In theory, the governor in council could write a definition such that none of our waterways or drainage basins constitute major drainage basins. I would like to hear what witnesses have to say about it.

Those are things we can deal with at committee. That is why we have committee. That is part of the exciting legislative process here in Parliament. I look forward to voting for this bill. I hope it does get to committee so we can explore those issues.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-267, An Act respecting the preservation of Canada’s water resources, put forward by my good friend and colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

I believe that all too often we take water for granted. It is something that is all around us, easily accessed, and few of us give it a second thought. Last week, in the face of the ongoing state of emergency in Attawapiskat, my party brought forward a motion calling on the government to take immediate action to ensure safe and clean running water for all Canadians and, in particular, on first nations reserves.

In this year's government-commissioned national assessment of first nations water and waste water systems, a national roll-up report, it was revealed that after examining 97% of all first nations water and waste water systems, 73% of all water systems on reserves were either a high 39% or a medium 34% risk to human health. Thankfully, that motion received unanimous consent of all parties in the House and we now wait impatiently for it to be acted on.

Not only must we keep water safe, but it is essential that we preserve this precious resource. Canada holds 20% of the world's fresh water. To place that in perspective, as was indicated by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, the United States has one-tenth of our fresh water resources with almost nine times our population. The United States and the rest of the world covet our water supply.

There are those in Canada, industry and otherwise, who simply lack the necessary commitment to the conservation of our water supply. The false notion that water is an entirely renewable resource is far too prevalent and we need more awareness of the issue. Even our Great Lakes system is seen as an endless water supply. Few realize that only 10% is renewable.

Climate change is not only diminishing our own fresh water supplies but creates shortages in countries without the same natural resources as Canada. Take, for instance, countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India that face water depletion issues every day. Since the 1950s, proposals to export our fresh water to the United States have abounded, making bulk water exports an issue of profound national concern.

The Liberal Party believes the issue of bulk water exports is one of profound national concern and I am disappointed, as are most Canadians, that the Conservative Party does not, as expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, and has proven that its former commitments to end bulk water exports are merely more hollow words.

We need to take action and this bill brought forward by my colleague takes appropriate, much needed steps to keep water in its home basin or in its ecosystem. This bill would also have the coincidental result of effectively prohibiting the wholesale movement of water to areas outside Canada's borders by, without limitation, tunnel, canal, pipeline, water bag or aqueduct.

It is especially timely as the calls to export Canada's water have increased in recent years. A previous Conservative government failed to secure Canada's right to preserve its fresh water within its national boundaries under both the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement and then the subsequent North American Free Trade Agreement, and we can only imagine what is secretly being done under CETA.

The present government has not, by any measure, shown it is willing to fight for Canadian natural resources as it kowtows to U.S. protectionism and gives away our competitive advantages, like the Canadian Wheat Board, and puts our supply management at risk.

The proposed Canada water preservation act is a necessary measure to backstop our fresh water. The bill would prohibit the removal of fresh water in bulk from one aquatic basin to another by any means. The bill would also accomplish another environmental goal, insofar as it would prevent the spread of invasive species from ecosystem to ecosystem. Take, for instance, the ravages caused by invasive species like the zebra mussel or the Asian carp. Moving water from one basin to another takes species from their natural basin and introduces them into a foreign environment, often with surprising consequences.

While all the provinces currently prohibit the export of water in bulk by establishing a national treatment for the issue of water exports, we signal not only that this is a vital pan-Canadian issue but also that it addresses the political realities of changing governments, province to province.

This bill builds on earlier efforts by a previous Liberal government to ban the export of water from the Great Lakes and freshwater bodies under joint federal-provincial jurisdiction.

We on this side hold steadfast Canada's water sovereignty, more so in the face of growing calls from conservative-minded bodies to export our fresh water. This is precisely why my colleague, working with the program on water issues at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, has tabled this legislation to close the door to bulk water exports. The time to act is now. Already, conservative think tanks are advocating for the privatization and corporatization of water.

In August 2008, the Montreal Economic Institute published a report that states:

Fresh water is a product whose relative economic value has risen substantially and will keep rising in the coming years. It has become a growing source of wealth and an increasingly worthwhile investment.

Meanwhile, last June the Fraser Institute called for a complete elimination of the provincial statutes and regulations prohibiting the bulk export of water. We should be frightened.

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians put it very well when she noted in her book Blue Covenant:

Imagine a world in 20 years in which no substantive progress has been made to provide basic water services in the Third World; or to create laws to protect source water and force industry and industrial agriculture to stop polluting water systems; or to curb the mass movement of water by pipeline, tanker, and other diversions, which will have created huge new swaths of desert.

I have said many times in the past that at the dawn of civilization, battles were fought over wells. I am afraid that in the future, if we do not act now, wars will be fought over lakes, and these wars will be much more devastating.

In October, I was pleased to attend in my riding of Guelph a launch for the Wellington Water Watchers' “Walk for Water”. The Wellington Water Watchers are not only doing a great job with the preservation, conservation, and restoration of our water resources, but they are tireless advocates and work diligently to increase awareness of the issues surrounding what many would consider our most precious resource. They know very well that water is among the most multi-faceted of public policy issues. It is ubiquitous and cross-jurisdictional. Water touches every aspect of life and society, including the economy. All levels of government are involved in protecting and managing this most precious of our resources.

Water is clearly a fundamental human right. This is a moral fact. No human being can live long without potable water. Contaminated drinking water kills over two million people annually around the world, the majority of them children. A lack of water for sanitation also undermines human health throughout the developing world.

It is our duty to ensure that our fellow human beings, wherever they may live, have affordable access to the water they need. This can be achieved only through conservation and by protecting the quantity and the quality of our water. Among the most complex of all water issues is the recognition and codification in international law of the human right to water.

We are today at the beginning of the road toward meaningful recognition of the right to water. The non-binding resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010 was a crucial step toward the goal of establishing a human right to water that hopefully can result in all people around the world having access to water that they require for survival and dignified living. Unfortunately, Canada abstained.

Having one of the largest supplies of fresh water in the world, we must accept our place as a leader on the issue of water conservation and be mindful of the need to protect this valuable resource. Canadians have a real need to preserve our water and respect its place in the environment. Doing nothing leaves us with a clear and present danger of the wholesale movement of water. Protection of our natural resources is imperative.

I urge all my colleagues on both sides of the House to make the preservation of our water resources paramount and to support the bill when it comes to a vote.

Canada Water Preservation Act
Private Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-267, the Canada water preservation act.

This private member's bill seeks to foster the sustainable use of Canada's fresh water, and in particular, to prevent the removal of bulk water from major river basins in Canada.

Canada's New Democrats have long called for a ban on bulk water exports, which we see as a key component of a national water policy that would establish clean drinking water standards and strong environmental protection for Canada's freshwater systems.

While there are parts of the bill which I believe should be addressed and possibly amended at committee stage, I support the bill passing second reading. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the House to do the same.

It is time for Canada to adopt a ban on bulk water exports. Water is a precious, renewable resource, but this resource has its limits.

While many Canadians may believe that Canada has an overabundance of water, this is a common misconception. If one actually looked at Canada's renewable water supply, one would see that Canada holds 6.5% of the world's renewable fresh water, not the 20% figure that is often touted. Furthermore, Canada ranks well below Brazil and Russia and has approximately the same amount of supply as Indonesia, United States and China.

Over one-quarter of Canadian municipalities have faced water shortages in recent years. While 72% of our country's population is concentrated within 150 kilometres of the United States border, most of our major river systems flow northward, creating a further disparity between supply and demand.

Furthermore, we know that the very real threats posed by climate change will only compound the challenges of managing Canada's renewable fresh water.

Indeed, the time is now for Canada to formally ban bulk water exports and to firmly oppose the notion that water in its natural state is a tradeable commodity.

For too long our federal government has left the door open to bulk water exports.

Looking back, 1993 was a significant year in the debate over water management. The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, fundamentally changed Canada's ability to control domestic water policy. For example, under chapter 11, foreign businesses have the ability to sue for damages when they believe they have been harmed by local rules. This is exactly what happened in British Columbia after the provincial government, a New Democrat government, I might add, implemented legislation in 1995 prohibiting the bulk export of water. As a result, under chapter 11, a California-based company filed a claim for $10.5 billion in damages.

This case highlights the threats posed to Canadian communities, and even democracy, when Canadian water is regarded as a tradeable commodity.

Water has often been up for negotiation under the security and prosperity partnership. There is a strong push toward North American energy integration, which includes water.

In 2007, Canadians were infuriated to learn their government was planning to undertake secret negotiations with the United States on the issue of bulk water exports. Because of the public outcry the government backed down on the negotiations, and the then minister of the environment, the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean, stated:

The Government of Canada has no intention of entering into negotiations, behind closed doors or otherwise, regarding the issue of bulk water exports.

I hope this remains the case today, because Canadians are still overwhelmingly opposed to Canada allowing bulk water exports. In fact, 66% of Canadians expressed support for a ban on bulk water exports. This is why in 1999 the House of Commons adopted a New Democrat motion to place an immediate moratorium on bulk water exports and to introduce legislation to formalize a ban.

In 2007 the House adopted an NDP motion calling on the federal government to initiate talks with its American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA.

In 2010 members of the House will recall that the government introduced its own legislation to ban bulk water exports under Bill C-26. While the bill was inadequate for a number of reasons, it did not progress beyond first reading.

Again, Parliament has an opportunity to formally adopt a ban on bulk water exports. As I have already stated, the time is now. By continuing to leave the door open, we leave our environment, our economy, and most important, our people vulnerable to unnecessary risk.

As Andrew Nikiforuk stated in a 2007 publication, “Exporting water simply means less water at home to create jobs and less water to sustain ecological services provided by rivers and lakes necessary for life”. He talks about the concept of virtual water, which is the water used to support the export of other Canadian products, such as cattle, grain, automobiles, electricity, wood, and of course, oil.

In addition to industrial uses of water, Canadians' personal use must also be taken into account. Unfortunately, Canadians rank as one of the highest per capita users of water in the world. While Canadians have an individual responsibility to limit wasteful consumption of water, this alone is not enough.

As I previously mentioned, over one-quarter of Canadian municipalities have faced water shortages in recent years. Many aboriginal communities in particular have faced immense challenges in securing stable, sufficient access to safe drinking water.

This week the member for Timmins—James Bay drew national attention to the state of emergency declared three weeks ago by the Attawapiskat First Nation. Access to clean drinking water is one of the many grave issues this community faces.

Canada cannot afford to be negotiating the export of our water. It is time to start taking care of Canadians first. This means adopting a national water policy that protects our water from bulk export, that sets clean drinking water standards, and that establishes strong environmental protection of Canada's fresh water.

I call on the government to respect the will of Parliament as expressed in 1999 and 2007, and to respect the opinion of the majority of Canadians by lending its support to the legislation banning the bulk export of water.

Canadians recognize the value of fresh water and are not prepared to allow water to be traded away, as we do with other resources.

I will be voting in support of Bill C-267. I urge all members of the House to do the same, so that it can be given a thorough examination by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.