Transboundary Waters Protection Act

An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act

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

Sponsor

Larry Miller  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to prohibit the bulk removal of transboundary waters. Some definitions and exceptions that are currently found in regulations are transferred to the Act. The enactment also provides for measures to administer and enforce the Act. Lastly, it also makes a consequential amendment to the International River Improvements Act.

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

  • Feb. 13, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Nov. 28, 2012 Passed That Bill C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
  • Oct. 3, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

moved that Bill C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased today to rise to begin third reading debate on my private member's bill, the transboundary waters protection act.

Since its introduction just over a year ago, we have had a fulsome, positive debate at second reading and again at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. I thank all members of the House, and specifically those on the committee, for their contributions to the debate. I am hopeful that we will soon see the bill enacted.

The strong support that Bill C-383 has received thus far reflects the opinion of the vast majority of Canadians, who strongly oppose the bulk removal of water from Canada's freshwater basins. This is something I hear continuously from my constituents, family, friends and colleagues on all sides of the House.

This is an issue that I believe unites us as parliamentarians. Indeed, it is rare to have an issue that is so clearly one-sided in a country as large and diverse as Canada.

Canadians want to know that their federal and provincial governments will take the necessary steps to prevent bulk removals of water from ever happening. Why? Not only do bulk water removals pose a significant threat to ecosystems, but water is also an important component in the fight against invasive species. By removing a potential pathway for these species, we could help prevent the devastation these species' movement between basins could cause.

When I was before the foreign affairs committee in October, I commented that no bill was ever perfect. All along I have been open to ways in which this legislation could be strengthened, which is why I would like to briefly explain one amendment that was made to Bill C-383 in committee, an amendment that I believe makes it a strong bill. Here I refer to the addition of purpose clauses to the sections of the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act that contain the bulk water removal provisions. In my view these clauses clearly articulate that the purpose of these bulk water removal provisions is to prevent the potential harm these removals could cause to Canadian ecosystems and to reinforce our desire to prevent harm to the environment.

As most members know by now, Bill C-383 amends the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to bestow on transboundary waters—those that flow across the boundary—the same protections currently in place for boundary waters, those waters that straddle the border.

Speaking of that, I live on one of the Great Lakes, and that water also borders on the United States. I know exactly where we are coming from on that.

While the provinces have laws, regulations or policies in place to prevent the bulk removal of waters from their territories, our hope is that with Bill C-383 we will enhance protections at both the federal and provincial levels. Rest assured that we will continue to work with the provinces to ensure that these waters are protected.

The second amendment provided for in Bill C-383 is an amendment to the International River Improvements Act, which prohibits the issuing of a licence for an international river improvement that would link waters that are neither boundary nor transboundary with an international river if doing so would increase the annual flow of the international river at the boundary. This specific provision would ensure that an international river is not used as a conveyance or a pathway to move water in bulk outside of Canada.

This last amendment was recommended by water experts from the program on water issues at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto. In fact, testifying before the standing committee on October 25, the water experts voiced their support for Bill C-383, with one stating that:

—the goal of protecting Canada's water resources from bulk export is significantly accomplished by way of this proposed legislation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Munk School experts for their role over the years in Canadian water policy debates, and especially for the assistance they have provided to me on the bill.

Next, Bill C-383 moves some definitions and exceptions from the regulations of the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act into the act itself. As has been touched upon in previous debates, moving definitions and exceptions into the act would entrench key definitions such as what constitutes the removal of water in bulk.

These exceptions would allow for the removal of water temporarily for emergency or humanitarian purposes such as firefighting, but not for commercial purposes. These exceptions are reasonable and are not inconsistent with the purpose of the bulk water prohibition. Now that these definitions and exceptions are to be moved into the body of the act, any changes would have to be approved by Parliament. This would provide members of this House with much greater oversight.

During committee consideration of Bill C-383, there was some discussion about the definition of “bulk removal”. In the bill, “bulk removal” is defined as removing water from boundary or transboundary waters and taking it outside the Canadian portion of the water basin in which it is located. If the means of diversion include canals, tunnels, pipelines or other channels, for example, any removal is prohibited. In other words, any attempt to transfer even a drop of water outside the basin of a boundary or transboundary water using a canal or some kind of channel would be prohibited. By other means, one could not take more than 50,000 litres outside the basin per day.

Some members of the committee were concerned that this would be a potential loophole in the legislation. I want to be clear that this would not be a loophole. Even though 50,000 litres seems like a large number, it is no larger than a tanker truck or average residential swimming pool. As such, this could not be considered a bulk removal, and in fact could not be considered economically feasible.

I would like also like to address another area of the bill raised at committee regarding manufactured products containing water. As the bill states, “bulk removal does not include the taking of a manufactured product that contains water...outside the water basin...”. This includes water and other beverages in bottles or containers. This is included to ensure legitimate commerce, such as the products of breweries, soft drinks, juice, or even bottled water manufacturers, is not interfered with. My goal in introducing this legislation, and I believe it is the goal of others in this House, is to remove the threat of bulk removals of water, not prevent breweries and other manufacturers from selling their fine products around the globe.

Finally, I would like to take a minute to highlight the deterrence aspect of Bill C-383. Bill C-383 proposes amendments to strengthen the enforcement authorities, fines and sentencing provisions of the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

These amendments include mandatory minimum fines for designated offences and increased maximum fines for all offences. For instance, violations of this act could result in a fine of up to $1 million for an individual and up to $6 million for a corporation for a first offence. In addition, these fines would be cumulative, meaning that every day the violation occurs is considered a separate violation. Fine totals could increase very rapidly. I believe that in itself would provide a strong deterrence against even contemplating violating the terms of this act.

Added to this, there would also be the potential for further fines under this act. Bill C-383 contains provisions that would allow the courts to add increased fines for aggravating factors such as damage to the environment.

As members know, my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is nestled between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is basically surrounded on three sides by waters that would come under this act. It is an area where we have some of the greatest sources of water in this country. Coming from this part of the country, I have a deep appreciation for Canada's water resources.

Although water seems abundant and everlasting, I do not, and we should not, take this resource for granted. I understand that we, as Ontarians, and we, as Canadians, must be responsible stewards of our water. I want to ensure this resource remains protected for my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren and for generations into the future. I introduced Bill C-383 in order to play a small part in protecting Canada's water.

We all agree that potential harm to Canada's water from bulk removals is too great to ignore. I urge all members of the House to vote for this measure.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's speech. Bill C-383 is definitely a first step, but it is not enough.

For a long time the NDP has been asking for something much more comprehensive, a national water policy to address all aspects of water protection in Canada. Our party also wants a review of NAFTA with respect to bulk water exports.

I would like my colleague to comment on what else should be included in a national water policy.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member agrees with the bill in principle, that protecting our waters is the right way to go.

However, I have to respectfully point out that the member is trying to throw a bunch of different issues into the mix. This is a national bill. It covers transboundary waters. I do not want to put words in the member's mouth, but it appears he is implying we should get into provincial jurisdictions. I know from experience that if we were to try to do that, first, it is not necessary because they are covered by the provinces and territories, but, secondly, provinces like Alberta or Quebec would be the first ones to tell us to get out of their jurisdiction.

The bill covers it very well, and the member's issue is not really part of this, at all.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on my colleague's question. I would ask the hon. member what the government would do if a province lifted its current prohibition on exporting water. If, for example, a province like Newfoundland and Labrador decided to lift its prohibition and allow tanker ships to take water from Lake Gisborne to another country, would the member's bill prevent that?

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his work on this issue. We had a bit of a disagreement on how we could get to an end, but I think we both have the same purpose, and I thank him for that.

When one throws out what-ifs, what if the Ottawa River stopped flowing tomorrow? We would deal with that when it comes. The reality is, what province or territory is going to do that? Their taxpayers would be up in arms if they ever took away the controls and protections that protect their water. It is not a valid fear. That is all I am going to comment on it.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member is a great outdoorsman, a lover of God's natural resources, both fish and wildlife. He mentioned in his speech that his private member's bill might go a long way in helping to ensure protection from invasive species. I wonder if he could talk about that, plus anything else he finds pertinent.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member and I both share a very strong love for the outdoors, including fishing. Invasive species are something our government has dealt with in a number of ways. With international shipping and so forth, species have come here in the past that have done long-term damage. We have tried to create some laws and enforcement to reduce that. There is always risk with some of these, but we have to do everything we can, not just as a government but as individuals, to continue that.

On diversions and channels, which was one of the things I talked about in my speech, everyone knows about the diversion that goes out of the south end of Lake Michigan through Chicago, which eventually goes in to the Mississippi. We have been very fortunate in our country so far to keep the infamous Asian carp out of there. Those are the types of things we have to protect against, and I think Bill C-383 will do that.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak to Bill C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act.

I will start by saying that the NDP will be supporting this bill despite all its flaws.

This bill would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to strengthen prohibitions against the bulk removal of water and to enhance current protections. The bill applies to all transboundary waters between Canada and the United States, waters that flow from Canada to the United States and rivers that flow to the United States. If I am not mistaken, the Saint-François River, in the riding of Drummond, is affected by this bill.

This bill is very important to me because water is one of the world's greatest natural resources. Water is an incredible resource. It should even be a human right. The United Nations General Assembly recognized the right to water. On July 28, 2010, the General Assembly adopted, by an overwhelming majority, a resolution recognizing the human right to water and sanitation. It is a right that is essential to human survival. It is such a fundamental right that violating it can cause death in just a few days if people do not have access to drinking water.

Canada is very rich in water, in lakes and rivers of all sizes. Our country's water should be protected by a far-sighted national water policy.

After a series of promises from the Conservatives, this bill is before us at last. However, it does not address the most likely threat to Canadian waters: the interbasin transfer of water. Those are neither boundary nor transboundary waters, but they could be linked to international waters that flow from Canada to the United States and then exported to the United States.

While Bill C-383 is a step in the right direction, it clearly does not ban all bulk exports of water. My colleague mentioned in his question that the bill has some serious weaknesses that could lead to bulk exports of water. We will continue our fight to reach our objectives. The NDP is completely opposed to bulk water exports.

Thus, we want to ensure that all surface water is protected, that any eventual water exports by tanker ships are regulated, and that NAFTA's threats to our water supply are opposed. What is needed is a coordinated plan by all provinces to establish measures that ban the removal of water in bulk. We must call for the signing of bilateral agreements that would prevent the United States from acting unilaterally to import water and would address the issue of the exemptions under the act that allow the export of bottled drinking water and other beverages.

As we can see, this would not be just a little bill about boundary waters. We want it to have a much larger scope. It would truly be a national water policy. In order to accomplish this, we need a government that really understands the importance of water to Canada. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is not demonstrating such an understanding at this time. The Conservatives prefer to act through little bills and little actions. We see that such actions are not part of a vision. The Conservatives do not have much of a vision.

When we were talking earlier about the railways, it was the same thing. It lacked vision. This bill shows that the Conservatives have no vision.

In the NDP, we have a real, overall vision of what a national water policy to prevent bulk water exports should be.

NAFTA defines water as a product. That is why that agreement has long been considered a threat to Canada's sovereignty over its water resources.

On February 9, 1999, the House of Commons adopted an NDP motion calling for an immediate moratorium on the export of bulk freshwater shipments and interbasin transfers. The motion also called on the government to introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and interbasin transfers. Furthermore, the motion asked that the federal government not be a party to any international agreement that compels Canada to export freshwater against its will.

It should be clear to everyone that the NDP has been working on this issue for a long time and working in this field for a long time. For many years, the NDP has called for a ban on bulk freshwater exports. The NDP has been the leading voice in this. We even have an idea for a national water strategy, which is very important.

I would also like to talk about a recent report by the Commissioner of the Environment, Mr. Vaughan. The report was released last week. And I would like to thank Mr. Vaughan again for the excellent work he has done for Canadians. He has done an excellent job as environment commissioner.

In his recent report on the environment, he said that the federal government has not done its job when it comes to shale gas. According to Environment Canada, Health Canada and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, it is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that health and the environment are protected against chemicals.

At present, the federal government does not require mandatory disclosure of the chemicals used by shale gas companies. This is very serious, in spite of what they would have us believe. Every year, about 600 shale gas wells use the equivalent of 360,000 Olympic swimming pools of water, all mixed with 900 Olympic swimming pools of chemicals. When they say it is just a bit of chemicals seeping into the ground and into our environment, they forget to mention that it is mixed with a huge quantity of water, and that this amounts to a huge quantity of chemicals. The federal government, the Conservative government, is failing to protect our water, because it does not require mandatory disclosure of the chemicals used in the shale gas industry.

I am very proud of the position taken by the leader of opposition, who is calling on the Conservative government to require mandatory disclosure of these chemicals. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is resting on its laurels and doing nothing about it. This is a threat to the environment and to people’s health.

In fact, the environment commissioner said that it is a violation of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which includes the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle goes like this: when you are not sure, when you have doubts, and when there is a risk of a threat to health or the environment, you have to take precautions. If the Conservative government at least required disclosure of the chemicals, an appropriate analysis could be done and proper rules made and standards established for shale gas so that it is done in a way that is not harmful to the environment and human health. At present, we are in a complete vacuum.

I have talked a lot about shale gas in this regard because I care a lot about it. My hon. colleague’s bill does not mention this national water policy, but it is necessary. What is missing is a more comprehensive vision, a broader vision. Water is a human right recognized by the United Nations. We have to have a strong national water policy that we can use to protect our environment and human health.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to announce that the Liberal caucus will support this bill.

We will support it mainly because we pushed for the government to introduce measures regarding the water export threat. I admit that this is more of a future threat than a current one since, right now, there is not really any great threat to the export of Canada's fresh water. This threat will grow in the future.

We urged the government to introduce measures consistent with those proposed by the University of Toronto's Munk Centre, namely, an approach that is mainly environmental in nature that would prohibit water diversions from one watershed to another in Canada. Without this prohibition, it would be possible to export water. In order to conduct large-scale water exports, the water must leave one watershed and go through several others to get to another country, namely, the United States.

We will support this bill because we want to make it clear that we are against the idea of exporting fresh water outside Canada.

That being said, this bill has many shortcomings. In response to the question I asked earlier, the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound said that we should not dwell on hypothetical situations. I raised the idea that an entrepreneur could want to export water from Gisborne Lake in Newfoundland to another country using tanker ships.

That is not a hypothetical situation. It happened. I believe a local entrepreneur in Newfoundland may have even signed a contract with another country to do exactly that, but the provincial premier at the time, the hon. Brian Tobin, stepped in and declared a moratorium thereby cancelling the contract.

The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound said that, if ever a province decided to lift its moratorium on the export of water, there would be a public outcry and people would rail against the government.

Yes, I believe that that is what would happen today, but one never knows what might happen in the future. If a province is short on revenue and decides that it would be a good idea to export water and use the returns to fund its education or health care system, public opinion could change.

I would like to add that the president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec, whose name escapes me right now, is in favour of exporting water from Quebec to fund the health care system.

Public opinion can change, based on the type of campaign used to promote an idea.

I will set that aside for a moment to say that there are a number of flaws in this bill. My colleague from Drummond just mentioned a few.

The bill does not prohibit bulk water exports using tankers. It does not exclude the possibility of exporting water from rivers that flow into coastal areas, as is the case in British Columbia. This water could be exported using tankers or floating bags.

Even though my colleague would say the opposite, I doubt that this bill would prohibit the export of water to the United States via a pipeline.

The government claims that since this bill, which applies primarily to transboundary rivers, prohibits exports from these rivers, it therefore prohibits exports via a pipeline.

I am not sure that is the case. I would like to quote an expert, J. Owen Saunders, who works with the Munk Centre and who was involved when the centre presented the framework for a bill, which became my bill, to prohibit inter-basin water diversions in Canada.

Here is what Mr. Saunders said in committee:

I would say that when you're talking about pipelines or canals, it is a grey area of international law. I assume the government is aware of that and is prepared to defend it under NAFTA. But certainly the argument can be made that the water has been captured when you put it into a pipeline. I take that point.

That leaves the door open for a province to one day decide to lift its moratorium and sign a contract with an American company, and together the two could try to invalidate this aspect of the bill introduced by my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. It could happen, and that is one of this bill's flaws.

I would like to address the point that the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has made on numerous occasions. His point was that my bill, which was voted on in the House and was defeated by the government, based on the work of the Munk Centre and the work of people such as J. Owen Saunders, was somehow unconstitutional because it was infringing on provincial jurisdiction. That is not the case. I asked Mr. Saunders that question in committee and he was quite categorical on that point. Preventing massive diversions of water from one water basin in Canada to another is a matter of national concern and fits within the peace, order and good government provisions of our Constitution. Therefore, I do not think that is a valid point.

I think that it would be a bigger challenge to work with the provinces on issues such as this. This is the kind of challenge that a federal government that really cares about our water security would want to take up with the provinces. If a federal government wants to get anything done in this very complex federation, it has to have the courage to sit down with the provinces and work it out. However, it is much easier not to do that and to pass something that is much more limited and may have some holes in it.

I was hoping that we could have had more than one or two committee hearings on this issue. I was hoping that we could explore the issue of water exports within the context of NAFTA because this is where the issue gets complicated. This is why the hon. member has brought in the bill and why I brought in my bill. It is because there is still a lot of dispute as to whether our fresh water in its natural state is protected from the rules of free trade that are under NAFTA. It would have been good to explore that whole issue in committee. We might have drawn some conclusions about what more needs to be done to protect ourselves against the free trade provisions of NAFTA as they might apply to water.

If ever there is a dispute on this issue and there is a Canada-U.S. tribunal struck under NAFTA, do not expect the American members of that tribunal to take the same point of view we have, that water is not part of NAFTA. In the United States, water in its natural state is a commodity. Therefore, we know where they stand on this issue.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join the debate on Bill C-383, the transboundary waters protection act.

First, I would like to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for bringing this important legislation forward. The support that the bill has received so far is a testament to his efforts and reflects the position of Canadians from all regions of this country on the need to protect Canada's waters.

Bulk removals of water would pose a significant threat to Canada's environment. The protection of this resource is of vital importance to all Canadians. That is why, in 2008, our government made a commitment in the Speech from the Throne to put in place stronger protections to prevent the bulk removal of water. It is also why we introduced Bill C-26, which unfortunately died on the order paper with the 2011 election call.

Thanks to the work of the member from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, we have this bill before us. The time has now come for the House to pass the legislation, which would ensure Canadian waters are protected from bulk removals. I am glad to see that Bill C-383 is supported by the government and by members of all parties.

As my colleague mentioned, the transboundary waters protection act would amend two acts: the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. Amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would prevent the bulk removal of water from transboundary waters, waters that flow across borders. Boundary waters that straddle the border, such as the Great Lakes, are already protected under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and its regulations. With the changes found in Bill C-383, all of these waters under federal jurisdiction would be protected from the bulk removal of water to outside the country.

There are other elements found in Bill C-383 that would strengthen protections against bulk removals. For example, proposed amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would bring the enforcement authority fine schemes and sentencing provisions of the act in line with those found in the Environmental Enforcement Act, which delivers on the government's commitment to bolster protection of water, air, land and wildlife through more effective enforcement.

Provisions found in Bill C-383, which would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, closely follow the regime from the Environmental Enforcement Act, in terms of the fine schemes. I must remind everyone again of these penalties. Sentencing provisions and enforcement tools would be available. These provisions would include mandatory minimum fines for designated offences and increased maximum fines of all offences under prosecution and conviction.

In addition to higher fines, the act would set out fine ranges that vary according to the nature of the offences and the type of offender, such as individuals, small revenue corporations and corporations. Each of these categories of offender would face stiff fines for violations. For example, individuals could face up to $1 million in fines and a corporation up to $6 million for the first offence. For a second or subsequent offence, the applicable fine range would double. Fines for contravening the law would be cumulative, meaning that a violation that continues for more than one day would be seen as a separate offence for each day that it continues.

Further, the court must order an offender to pay additional fines if the court determines that the offender obtained any property, benefit or advantage from the commission of the offence. Courts also must consider increasing fines if the offence caused damage or risk of damage to the environment. As with the other federal environmental statutes that were amended through the Environmental Enforcement Act, the bill includes other provisions that would enhance the goals of deterrence, denunciation and restoration, which are the fundamental purposes of sentencing.

This legislation contains provisions aligned with the publication of information about an offence committed and the punishment imposed as well as provisions requiring that corporate shareholders be notified in the event of a conviction. The objective is to encourage compliance, given the importance of public opinion to corporate success.

As we can see, this legislation provides strict consequences for violation of the act. The goal is quite simple: to deter anyone from attempting to violate the bulk removal of water prohibitions found in the act.

Bill C-383 would also move certain definitions and exceptions from the regulations for the International Boundaries Water Treaty Act into the act itself. This would make it more difficult to change these definitions or exceptions at a later date and would provide Parliament with a stronger oversight role, should changes ever be considered.

I would also like to take a few minutes to speak about the provision in the bill that would amend the International River Improvements Act. The purpose of the International River Improvements Act is to ensure that international rivers are developed and used in the national interest. International rivers are waters that flow from any place in Canada to any place outside Canada. The International River Improvements Act requires proponents that would like to construct improvements, such as dams, canals, obstructions, reservoirs or other works that would significantly alter the flow or level of any international river at the international boundary, to apply for a licence. This act allows the federal government to ensure that all such works are constructed and operated in a manner that complies with the Canada-U.S. boundary treaty.

Bill C-383 would amend the act to prevent the use of international rivers to transfer large quantities of water across the border. As mentioned in previous speeches and during committee consideration of this bill, some water experts see the use of international rivers as a potentially efficient pathway for transferring water in bulk. To prevent this from happening, Bill C-383 would amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit licences for linking waters wholly in Canada with international rivers and then using those rivers to move water in bulk across the border. This amendment to the International River Improvements Act would add another layer of protection against the bulk removal of water from Canada. It was endorsed by experts from the Munk School of Global Affairs during the recent standing committee consideration of Bill C-383.

I would once again like to offer my thanks to the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for introducing this legislation. As we have seen, the bill is roundly supported by members of the House. I urge all members to support this legislation when it comes up for a vote.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill introduced by the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. Our party intends to support this legislation, and I commend my colleague opposite for bringing it forward. However, I particularly want to thank all the activists in Canada who have been urging the government for several years to protect our most precious resource, namely our water.

Bill C-383 amends the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to strengthen the prohibitions against bulk water removal and to improve current protections. It targets all boundary waters between Canada and the United States, the waters flowing from Canada into the United States, and the rivers flowing into the United States.

In my opinion, this is an important piece of legislation that would help protect our resources. As a member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, protecting Canada's waters is a major concern of mine. Therefore, I appreciate this opportunity to debate the bill, to stress its positive aspects, and to also discuss its limitations.

First, it is important to point out that the bill proposed by the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound is quite similar to the legislation presented by the Conservative government in 2010. Indeed, a bill was introduced following promises made by the Conservatives in the 2008 and 2009 throne speeches to introduce legislation to ban bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian freshwater basins.

As hon. members know, the bill presented by the Conservatives was never passed because it never went beyond first reading stage. Of course, it was not a government priority. The reason I am discussing the similarities with the old legislation is not just to underline the Conservatives' inaction to this day, but also because one of the positive aspects of Bill C-383 is that it addresses a major flaw that existed in Bill C-26. Indeed, the latter did not protect Canadian waters from its most serious threat, that is transfers from a water basin that is neither a boundary nor transboundary water body from Canada into the United States.

As for Bill C-383, it proposes to amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit the issuing of permits for projects that link non-boundary waters to an international river when the purpose of such projects is to increase the annual flow towards the United States. This is an important change that would prohibit the issuing of a permit to build, operate or maintain a canal or pipeline transporting Canadian water to an international river.

Like its predecessor, Bill C-383 has one major flaw: it does not prohibit all bulk water exports. That is why the NDP believes the legislation needs to go further. It must provide greater protection to this precious resource, water. We are hoping for legislation that provides for the protection of all surface water in Canada, the development of a plan coordinated with the provinces to implement the ban on bulk water removal, and the signing of binational agreements that would prevent the United States from acting unilaterally to import water.

Finally, the NDP especially wishes that the federal government will commit to addressing the threat posed by NAFTA to the sovereignty of Canada's water resources.

For those who may not know that, under NAFTA, Canadian water is both a service and an investment.

NAFTA defines water as a product. The definition of water as a good could weaken or invalidate provincial and federal legislation and regulations on the protection of our water.

In this regard, the Council of Canadians reminded us of the worrisome example of California's SunBelt Corporation. In 1990, SunBelt entered into an alliance with Canadian company Snowcap Waters to export bulk water from British Columbia to the United States.

On March 18, 1991, the Government of British Columbia imposed a moratorium on water exports. That moratorium was followed by the provincial government passing the Water Protection Act, which banned water exports for good.

After the British Columbia government passed this legislation, SunBelt filed a lawsuit against Canada under NAFTA provisions and demanded $10 billion in compensation.

At last report, the matter was still unresolved.

In order to deal with such threats, former NDP MP Bill Blaikie introduced, in 1999, an opposition motion that led to the moratorium on bulk water exports. The motion, which was adopted by the House, also tasked the government with introducing legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and interbasin transfers. Furthermore, the motion stated that the federal government should not be a party to any international agreement that would compel Canada to export freshwater against its will.

The day after the motion was adopted, the Liberal government of the day announced a strategy to prohibit bulk water removal, including exports, in Canada's major basins. However, as was the case with many other grand Liberal announcements, the government did nothing tangible.

Needless to say, the NDP has not given up on its efforts to protect water. In June 2007, the NDP member for Burnaby—New Westminster moved a motion asking the government to initiate talks with the U.S. and Mexican governments to ensure that water is excluded from NAFTA. The motion was adopted by the House, but the government has not yet had serious discussions with these countries.

Always mindful of protecting Canadians' interests, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster did not abandon the cause. In 2011, he tried again by once again introducing his motion calling for a national water strategy, Motion No. 5:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should develop and present a comprehensive water policy based on public trust, which would specifically: (a) recognize that access to water is a fundamental right; (b) recognize the UN Economic and Social Council finding, in General Comment 15 on the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights (2002), that access to clean water is a human right; (c) prohibit bulk water exports and implement strict restrictions on new diversions; (d) introduce legislation on national standards for safe, clean drinking water; (e) implement a national investment strategy to enable municipalities and aboriginal communities to upgrade desperately needed infrastructure without resorting to privatization through public-private partnerships; (f) oppose measures in international agreements that promote the privatization of water services; and (g) commit to ensure water does not become a tradable commodity in current and future trade deals.

I would like to commend the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for showing the type of practical steps that must be taken. We must do what is necessary to make it law.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, although this speech addresses the risks associated with exporting massive quantities of water and how opposing that is an essential part of the national water policy, I will focus on why the public is concerned about the emergence of economic initiatives that commercialize the abundant water resources in our country's remote regions.

In light of the country's current political climate, the situation with industrial development and the commercial value attributed to our country's natural resources, I truly hope—and I hope this is being recorded—that the Conservative government is paying this lip service today, about how there is no commercial value associated with water as a product, with the best of intentions and not as part of a plan to hoard this resource for a future sale, once its value has reached international highs.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members' Business

February 8th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I probably will not take the whole five minutes on this wintry day in Ottawa and let everybody get out of here, but I do want to have a last chance to thank all the members for their past support on the bill. It has been unanimous support up to now. I am not taking anything for granted, but I certainly hope that continues.

Regarding a couple of the members' comments today, I have to point out that they seem to want to interfere with and go into provincial jurisdictions. Then on the next breath they admit that would probably not be a very wise thing to do. I will leave you to speculate, Mr. Speaker, as to why they continue to do that. The bill would do what I want it to do and what most Canadians would want it to do. It does not cross boundaries, whether it is legal issues or provincial jurisdictions, and I think that is the wise approach on this.

With that, I wish everyone a good weekend and I would appreciate their support next Wednesday on the third and final vote.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members’ Business

October 1st, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is pleased to rise in the House to support Bill C-383.

I would like to thank all of the Canadian activists who have been pushing for years to ensure that we do not have water exports or interbasin water transfers. Canadians across the country have been concerned about this.

This is an issue that has been raised in the House repeatedly, certainly since I first came here in 2004. There were throne speeches in 2008 and 2009 that raised the issue. When the Conservatives were first elected, they committed to this action and brought forward a bill. As members know, even though they brought forward a bill, they did not actually do anything to bring it to the House for consideration. They tabled it, did some spin and paid some lip service to this extremely serious issue, but they did not do anything.

The fact that this private member's bill is coming forward now I think is indicative of the pressure that so many Canadians have put on the government over the last few years. There has been a very strong public response. Canadians are saying that the government should not be playing around with the water resources that we have. As a result, I think it is fair to say that we now have Bill C-383 before us for consideration.

NDP members do a lot of the heavy lifting here and we are very proud of that. I would like to pay tribute to two former members of Parliament who have done a phenomenal job of raising this issue both in the House and in the public domain.

The Hon. Bill Blaikie raised this issue while he was a member of Parliament for many years. The member for Winnipeg Centre is quite right to applaud Bill Blaikie's work. In 1999, Bill Blaikie brought forward an opposition motion that led to a moratorium on bulk water exports. At the time, he had a key role in both the federal moratorium as well as the actions of Canadian citizens right across this country.

Provincial governments from time to time, such as British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, sought to move forward on bulk water exports. However, it was the work of activists on the ground who made a difference. They pushed back on what was a very clear intent by those non-NDP governments to promote water exports.

Another NDP member who raised the issue of bulk water exports and interbasin transfers was Catherine Bell, the former member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North. She very eloquently raised concerns around bulk water exports.

These are two former NDP MPs who have played key roles. Also, the member for Parkdale—High Park, myself and a number of NDP MPs have also played key roles in raising this issue. Finally, after many years of promises, although it is in the format of a private member's bill, we finally have some action from the government. Of course, we support the bill because it is a phenomenally important issue.

I think David Schindler, the noted water expert from the University of Alberta, put it best when he said that even though Canada has about 20% of the world's freshwater resources, it is like a bank account that has a very small interest rate. The interest rate, or the renewable percentage of that fresh water, is only about 5%.

Therefore, we have 20% of the world's freshwater resources locked in northern Canada in the muskeg and in our lakes, which cannot be renewed once depleted. The 5% renewable rate, which is actually the extent of renewable freshwater resources in this country, is equivalent to the freshwater renewable rate in the United States.

We know about the chronic water shortages now occurring in the United States. We are aware of the fact that changes have to be made by our American friends and neighbours because, ultimately, with the depletion of the aquifers, with the depletion of the freshwater available in the United States, they simply cannot continue to misuse the water in the way they have been. Canada has relatively the same percentage of renewable fresh water. If we ever went the route of bulk water exports or interbasin transfers, we would find ourselves in a similar situation extremely quickly.

It is simply not appropriate. It is simply not responsible, with our water resources, to envisage bulk water exports or to envisage interbasin transfers. To think that we will solve the problems that are occurring now worldwide by the simple act of transferring more water out of our country is simply not true. When we talk about this issue, we are talking about a fundamentally important one for the stewardship that we have over that incredible resource.

There is no doubt this legislation falls short of what we would like to see. We are looking to see amendments when the bill moves to committee.

The issue of interbasin transfers, which I mentioned earlier, is included in the bill. One issue that is not included though, and one that is extremely important and was raised both by Bill Blaikie and Catherine Bell and many NDP MPs in the House, is the issue of bulk bottled water. The difference between bulk water exports and smaller container bulk water exports is a thin one.

This is a relevant and pertinent issue given the world water shortages that we are seeing. It is something that we would expect to see amended when the bill is sent to committee. There is no doubt that would make a difference in completing the bill. The bill is good enough for us to support it at second reading, but there is no doubt that improvements could be made.

There is also the issue of the technical amendment that has been raised by the Canadian Water Issues Council, and this is something that we would also seek to see amended at committee.

The bill is a good first start but this is certainly in no way the end of the consideration that it should be given.

More important is the issue of how the government will react to the passing of the bill, assuming that it has support from both sides of the House. We support sending it to committee where we will propose the kind of strong and reasoned amendments that we always move but it may not surprise the House to know that sometimes our strong and reasoned and thoughtful amendments are not received by the other side. We hope this will not be the case this time because of the work that we have done on this issue. We have been doing all the heavy lifting. We are pleased to be joined by at least one Conservative colleague now. We intend to carry that heavy lifting right through the process.

The other issue is a greater issue as the House is well aware and that is the issue of water in general. This is something that I addressed in a bill that calls for a comprehensive water strategy. I would just like to touch on that before I conclude.

We are looking to have the government develop and present a comprehensive water policy based on the public trust, which would recognize that access to water is a fundamental right. It would recognize the UN Economic and Social Council finding in “General Comment No. 15” on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that access to clean water is a human right. My bill would prohibit those bulk water exports and implement strict restrictions on new diversions.

The bill also talks about introducing legislation on national standards for safe, clean drinking water and implementing a national investment strategy to enable all of those municipalities, and first nations communities particularly, to upgrade the infrastructure that they need around water. Those are considerations that we will bring forward at a later date in the House.

Needless to say, the NDP will continue to work to ensure that the water resources in this country are, as a human right, made accessible to all Canadians.

Transboundary Waters Protection Act
Private Members’ Business

October 1st, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is a wonderful opportunity for me to express a number of concerns regarding waterways and the impact not only in Canada but, more specifically, in the province of Manitoba.

Whenever we see legislation of this nature there is a bit of hope generated. There is a huge concern in Manitoba, particularly in Winnipeg, with regard to our waters. A lot of it deals with the exportation and also the sheer volume of water that comes into our province every spring, particularly from the United States. There is this huge expectation that different levels of government are trying to deal with the whole issue of water management, which is so critically important to our country. Specifically for me, in the province of Manitoba, given the amount of water that we have, with our hundred thousand plus lakes and rivers, there is a great deal of concern from many different stakeholders, whether environmental groups or just young students in classrooms.

I have had the opportunity over the years to have wonderful exchanges dealing with the whole water management issue. It is an issue that comes and goes. It really comes to a peak when the Red River starts to peak in the springtime. We get so much water coming into the province of Manitoba, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people who start looking at what we can do to somehow funnel that massive amount of water and minimize the environmental damage.

There are a number of concerns that we have with Bill C-383. At the end of the day, we suspect that it will be sent to committee, so we need to look at the possibility of amendments. It is important to recognize that the Liberals were one of the first to appoint a critic in this area, because we see the value of water.

Bill C-383 is a reaction, I would suggest, from one of my colleagues. It is a bill that we had explored and we had discussions regarding the whole idea of the water basin transfer and many other aspects. We applaud the government for looking at what the members of the Liberal caucus have been saying. I suggest that other political parties inside the chamber would do well in recognizing the need for Liberal critics and more attention being given to the water file.

In Manitoba, we have a huge concern that has been brought to the government's attention year after year, not only here in Canada but also in North Dakota. It has made it to Washington. Presidents and prime ministers have been involved. Obviously the premier of Manitoba has been involved and many others. That is the whole Devils Lake project in the United States.

The amount of water that flows from the states to Canada is a great concern in terms of how we can minimize the environmental damage by coming up with some sort of screening method to provide filtration to a certain degree and minimizing the amount of manure and fertilizer on farms that ultimately seeps into our waterways. When we get serious flooding, the amount of foreign fertilizers and other mixtures that end up in Lake Winnipeg is really quite profound.

Lake Winnipeg is of critical importance not only to the province but, indeed, to our country. When we look at the cutbacks with respect to the Experimental Lakes Area project, there are a good number of Manitobans who believe we cannot afford to lose the technology and research being done there because of the impact it has on water quality, whether in our lakes or rivers. There has been a very high level of interest in the cutbacks that are taking place there. We need to ensure that research council remains truly independent and, most important, that it continues to do the type of research that is of critical importance for preserving and improving the quality of our water tables and the health of our rivers and lakes.

I have had presentations presented to me showing the types of impacts on fish populations when we are not doing the right thing. Some of the work that has been done on acid rain is amazing, for example, and the other types of nutrients that ultimately end up in our lakes and waters and why it is so important for us to understand the impact of that. Our aquatic system is very important. Something that happens on the land does have a direct impact on it. Flooding plays an important role in how we can control flooding and minimize its negative impacts.

When I was in the Manitoba legislature I recall another issue that we talked a lot about was the exportation of water. There has been a great deal of concern about how we will do that. Freshwater is in huge demand and it is expected that the demand will continue to grow. Many industries across Canada are very interested in how that will occur and what types of regulations and laws Canada will put in place to protect our water supply to ensure that we will not just be shipping freshwater down south or into other communities without some sort of controls or mechanisms. That is one of the issues that will be talked about in the years ahead as different levels of government come together to come up with agreements on what is and is not appropriate.

I would suggest that the most important thing must be our water management strategy. We do need to have both interprovincial and international water strategies that put water quality first and, obviously, the impact that has on the environment.

The second issue is what we do with the vast amounts of freshwater that Canada has. There will be an increasing demand on that water. Citizens as a whole are concerned that the government has been neglecting that particular file. It is interesting to note that this is a private member's bill. Where is the government itself on trying to develop that international-interprovincial water strategy that deals with the environment, water quality and the whole issue of the exportation of water? The federal government does have a stronger role to play in that area. It needs to work with the provincial governments. Some governments have a stronger vested interest in the issue.

I would suggest that the Prime Minister have talks about issues such as the impact of Devils Lake and the exportation of water. He should work with the provinces and follow the lead of the Liberal caucus in recognizing the importance of this issue to the degree that we now have a Liberal member taking on the role of water critic.