House of Commons Hansard #177 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Just a small one. It is going to be so small that by the time I hit I am up again.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, just to clarify, I thank the minister for that. It has also been posted to the Health Canada website. In other words it is on the Internet. I would just like assurances that it has been removed from there as well.

I accept the minister's apology and thank him for that.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Could the hon. Minister of Health address himself to the point on the website?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will direct that it be removed from the website and put in the appropriate place.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Good. This matter is settled and I will not have to rule on it.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to clarify an answer I gave yesterday to a question by the member for Wild Rose. May I be permitted to continue?

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

If it is clarification, it has to be very short. It is not debate so make the clarification now.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a question was raised by the member for Wild Rose regarding two cases involving sentencing of aboriginal offenders. I stated that these two cases were on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada when in fact there are two other cases. There was confusion in terms of the cases that were before the supreme court under section 718.2(e). One of these cases, R. v Gladue, has been heard and is on reserve. The other, R. v Wells, also involves conditional sentencing and has not yet been heard.

I want to also put on record that the sentencing judges clearly stated that although they considered the offenders' aboriginal background, this was not a factor that affected the sentences that were ultimately imposed.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Shame.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I think we have got to the point where the hon. member has made her clarification. The rest is debate.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and the amendment.

Supply
Government Orders

February 9th, 1999 / 3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, of all the defining issues of the next century, indeed of the next millennium, water has to be the most important one.

As our pulse beats every 60 seconds we lose 50 hectares of forests around the globe. That means every year we are losing 30 million hectares of forests or well over twice the size of Nova Scotia. As a result the desert is gaining ground at the rate of 10 million hectares per annum or almost the size of Nova Scotia.

The environmental organization UNEP, United Nations Environmental Program, has shown through its statistics that if we were to add the desertified lands of the world together we would have a surface in deserts equal to North America and South America combined. This gives us an idea of the immensity of the water challenge.

Our forests are disappearing. The desert is gaining ground at an exponential rate. Our rivers are silting and drying up. Our groundwater is being depleted again at a huge rate. For all these reasons a country's water resources have become its most precious asset, its most valuable resource.

Many of us live under the comfortable but false assumption that our water resources are so immense as to be inexhaustible.

But it must be remembered that our freshwater resources represent only a fraction of the planet's total water resources. In fact, 97% or more of the planet's water resources are salt water. Only 3% are freshwater. And of these, the freshwater resources visible to us, our lakes, our rivers, the waterways that seem so never-ending to us, represent only a tiny proportion of the total freshwater resources, the great bulk of which lie beneath the earth's surface to form the water table.

The fact of the matter is that, in many American states today, particularly in the West and Southwest, the water table has been seriously depleted.

The more the water resources of certain American states dwindle, the more the U.S. has its eye on our resources in Canada. Certain companies, even in this country, see this as a golden business opportunity.

Thus pressure grows for Canada and its provinces to sell our water resources for commercial reasons and for profit. Those who would sell and buy our water resources would argue that we are blessed with water resources which are among the world's most prolific. This is true. Indeed the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes basin alone accounts for something like 20% of all surface fresh water of the globe.

I think we should put this in perspective. May I take the example of the same Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin to show how much we use, overuse and abuse our water. Every day out of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence we draw 655 billion gallons of water or 2.5 trillion litres of water. This is equivalent to putting water into 19 million jumbo tank cars each 65 feet long and with a capacity of 34,000 gallons. If we strung them together one after another they would stretch for 237,000 miles or 9.5 times around the earth at the Equator.

These mind-boggling statistics give us an idea of how much we have abused and used, day in and day out, the resources of just one water basin.

We should reiterate that of all our natural resources water is by far the most precious. I back the remarks of my colleague from Davenport that NAFTA has nothing to do with that. NAFTA provides for water in bottled form. We should not be constrained by ideas that we have to ask the Americans for permission to protect our water resources.

I congratulate the mover of the motion. We cannot at any price sacrifice our water resources for export whether on a large scale, medium scale or small scale. As parliamentarians and as Canadians we must send strong signals to the Americans and anybody else, to those who would sell our water for profit, to those who have grand designs for grand canals and small canals and bulk exports to make money, that our water and our water heritage are not for sale. They are not for sale at any price, not now, not tomorrow, not the day after, not the day after that or at any time thereafter.

This is why I agree with the motion. We must move without delay to protect our water resources. This is why I will support the motion when it comes to the vote.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville‚ÄĒEastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, my question is for the hon. member and his colleague from Davenport for whom I have tremendous respect for their work on the environment committee.

He is saying that we do not have to be concerned over the NAFTA when it comes to bulk water shipments or sale of our water. We recently lost a court decision. Actually we did not lose it. In our perspective we caved in to the MMT decision and gave the Ethyl Corporation $13.5 million U.S. We were unable to ban within our borders what is known as the manganese additive in gasoline which is a neurotoxin.

Is he and his party that confident in terms of the current court case in California against the British Columbia government? I am assuming from his projection that they will not be successful in the courts in suing British Columbia or the federal government in their prevention of bulk water shipments from British Columbia.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, there is a very significant distinction between the MMT case as it was adjudicated in the internal provincial-federal trade tribunal. The gist of the case was the banning of interprovincial trade in MMT which was found by this particular tribunal to be invalid.

In the case of water it is very clear that this issue does not arise. It is also clear that NAFTA, as my colleague from Davenport underlined, does not refer to water except for bottled water. The very fact that it mentions bottled water and no other water means that the design or the intention of the drafters was not to cover other water resources than bottled water.

It would seem to be begging the question to try to introduce into NAFTA something that is not there in the first place. Also it is such a huge issue for us, far larger than any other, that we should move forward. We should produce legislation. We should challenge the Americans with the fact that this is our natural heritage. It is our water. They are our water resources. We have every right in the world to protect them and we will. I really believe our resolve should be there.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate our colleague, whom I had the pleasure of working with on the national marine park bill. His contribution was a constructive one.

I would like some clarification from him with respect to municipal, provincial and federal jurisdictions. As I see it, there is no issue more important to the province, the nation, or the continent than the issue of freshwater.

Would he comment on the issue of respecting jurisdictions? This is an issue that should lead to a very close partnership.