House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nafta.

Topics

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed. .[Text]

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Carleton—Gloucester, ON

The following table lays out the sources of matching funds by category. These figures apply to projects where final agreements have been concluded. This represents 470 projects for a total CFI share of $164.5 million. Many larger projects are still being brought to the final agreement form. The total project dollars, CFI plus matching, amounts to $431.9 million so the CFI share is 38.1%. All cash values are in millions of dollars as of April 2000, the most recent figures available.

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all other questions be allowed to stand.

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent of the House to revert to motions for the purpose of moving concurrence in the 36th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I believe that all parties are in agreement and that we can proceed.

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Starred Questions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-15, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, be read a second time and referred to a committee.

International Boundary Waters Treaty Act
Government Orders

October 20th, 2000 / 12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on Bill C-15, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

Water is a most precious resource for humankind. It has become a cliché to say that. Water is the very basis of life on earth. However, despite what we have believed for a long time, we could run out of water as a resource. Recent studies show that in some areas water is practically non-renewable.

For instance, the report of the International Joint Commission, released last August, says that precipitation and underground water barely contribute 1% to Great Lakes water renewal every year. This is cause for concern.

Under the circumstances, we must recognize that even if the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River account for one fifth of all freshwater reserves on the surface of the planet, it is not a limitless resource.

Moreover, in recent years discoveries and research on greenhouse gases and the potential risks of rising temperatures have shown the acute fragility of resources and the threats facing them.

The membership and duties of this commission are defined further on. Because of climatic risks, desertification on a planetary scale, limited resources of freshwater throughout the world and energy development on the basis of that resource, the idea of exporting large quantities of water by tanker or of diverting rivers has been seriously considered in the last decade in Quebec and Canada.

Therefore, a serious threat has now been added to the environmental threats already facing our water resources, and that is the bulk export of water and diverting lakes and rivers on a large scale.

Obviously, the bulk export of water opens up tremendous economic opportunities. Acknowledging that fact, some provinces examined the feasibility of issuing licences allowing companies to study bulk water export projects.

Following a drought in California at the beginning of the 1980s, British Columbia issued export licences to five Canadian companies and one American company. Over time, the province became concerned about the possible impact of such exports on its natural resources and passed legislation to forbid the bulk export of water.

We know that other provinces have considered issuing export licences. We recently saw some headlines about Newfoundland in this regard. The province quickly changed its mind but the possibility of issuing licences still exists. This, coupled with recent legal action by Sun Belt Water Inc., a California company, against the Government of British Columbia creates fears and raises once again the issue of commercial risks associated with the export of that resource. This is the context in which the federal government has been promising to legislate for a year now. This is the background.

Now I want to talk about the federal government strategy to date. Early this year, the federal government announced that it intended to take more direct action with respect to water exports, and to present a three-point strategy.

This strategy is a follow-up to a motion passed in the House of Commons on February 2, 1999, with respect to the protection of water. It was a New Democratic Party motion, which received the support of the House, and read as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should, in co-operation with the provinces, place an immediate moratorium on the export of bulk freshwater shipments and inter-basin transfers and should introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and inter-basin transfers and should not be a party to any international agreement that compels us to export freshwater against our will in order to assert Canada's sovereign right to protect, preserve and conserve our freshwater resources for future generations.

That was the New Democratic Party motion introduced in the House.

The federal strategy consists of three elements. The first is an amendment to the International Boundary Waters Treaty, which would give the federal government authority to regulate bulk water removal from boundary waters.

The second is a reference with the United States to the International Joint Commission to investigate the effects of consumption, diversions and removals, including those for export purposes, in boundary waters.

The third is a proposal to develop, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, a Canada-wide accord on bulk water removal so as to protect Canadian water basins.

On February 10, 1995, Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission, following implementation of the 1909 boundary waters treaty. Its primary mandate is to ensure co-operation between the United States and Canada in the management of storm drainage systems along the border.

Six commissioners sit on the commission, three from Canada and three from the U.S. It is their responsibility to study the various problems arising in the management of basins. The shores of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence system are borders to eight states—Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York—and two provinces—Ontario and Quebec.

After noting a growing number of proposals to export water from the Great Lakes and other areas of the U.S. and Canada, the two countries agreed to ask the commission to study the question and make recommendations within the next year. The final report is expected in February 2001.

On August 18, the International Joint Commission submitted a preliminary report. Briefly, it recommended that, during the next six months it will need to complete its report, the federal and provincial governments and the American states not authorize any removal or large scale sale of water. It pointed out a number of things that warrant mentioning.

It indicated that there was no surplus in the Great Lakes system, that large scale removal of water could limit the resilience of the system and that information on the removal of underground water is inadequate.

This point causes problems, because underground waters can have a considerable effect on the integrity and quality of ecosystems. The report pointed out as well that we do not know—and this is a very important point—what the demand will be for water in the future. We must never forget that other generations will follow us and we have the job of ensuring these future generations are not penalized by our decisions.

Also, because of the possible climate change and other natural considerations, it is impossible to assess with any degree of certainty what the level and the flow of the Great Lakes will be in the years to come.

Last week, the federal environment minister submitted to his provincial counterparts a Canada-wide agreement banning bulk water removal from watersheds. The response was rather timid, since Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan indicated that they would make their position known at a later date. Quebec withdrew from the discussion, stating that it found that the agreement was premature and that its Bill 73, the Water Resources Preservation Act, provided temporary measures prohibiting the transfer outside Quebec of surface water or groundwater taken in Quebec until December 31, 2000.

Quebec, however, kept the right to divert large quantities of water to produce electric power, keeping in mind the Churchill Falls project where it is looking at diverting the river to be able to produce electric power in the Labrador region.

The Quebec government considers that its legislation is adequate. It also stated that it will wait for the results of the public hearings of the BAPE and of the Quebec environmental assessment panel, before developing a comprehensive water strategy. New Brunswick, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and the Yukon have all endorsed the agreement.

The only missing element of the three-pronged process is the changes to federal boundary waters legislation. Bill C-15 completes the federal strategy announced last February.

I will give a brief summary of Bill C-15. Bill C-15 derives directly from the federal government strategy announced in February 1999 and it fulfils its desire to regulate the removal of water from transboundary waters. According to the federal government, the purpose of this bill is to pave the way for the implementation of the treaty relating to boundary waters and questions arising along the boundary between Canada and the United States.

As such, the proposed amendments prohibit bulk water removal from boundary waters out of their natural water basin. The proposed amendments will also require persons to obtain licences from the Minister of Foreign Affairs for water related projects in boundary or transboundary waters that would affect the natural level or flow of water on the United States side of the border.

Thus, the federal government wishes to add clauses 10 to 26 to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. Clauses 11 and 12 deal with the licences that have to be obtained for any project which uses, obstructs or diverts boundary waters in a manner that affects the natural level or flow of the water. Both clauses indicate that the licences do not apply in respect of the ordinary use of water for domestic or sanitary purposes.

Clause 13 of Bill C-15 seeks to prevent the removal of water from the boundary waters to take it outside the water basin, notwithstanding clause 11. General clauses 14 and 15 of the bill provide that sections 11 to 13 do not apply in respect of projects in existence immediately before the respective coming into force of those sections, unless their impact lasts after their coming into force.

Clauses 16 to 20 list the powers of the minister and summarize his capacity to issue and revoke licences and to impose penalties. Clause 21 deals with the regulations that can be made under the legislation and that will be a guide for ministerial decision making. The bill indicates, for example, that the governor in council, on a recommendation by the minister, will be able to define the concept of water basin, under paragraph ( b ) and identify exemptions to sections 11 and 12 under paragraph ( c ).

Under this paragraph, the department has already raised possible exemptions like humanitarian uses over a short period of time or the use of water to produce food and drink. An example that comes to mind is bottled water. Paragraph ( d ) deals with the prescription of classes of licences and paragraph ( j ) with the prescription of cases where no licence can be issued, and so on and so forth. Clauses 22 to 25 determine the punishment for offences.

The general public recognizes that our water resources should be protected, but it is far from obvious that Bill C-15 will result in better protection. In fact, a legitimate question concerning Bill C-15 is whether the Liberal government is taking advantage of the panic over water resources created by events in Ontario to grab powers outside its jurisdiction. Again this government is showing that it wants to interfere in areas under provincial jurisdiction.

I am forced to say today that the government never changed its tune during the three and a half years of this mandate, which will soon come to an end. It always declared that it respected provincial jurisdiction. But when the time came to put those words into action in the bills it introduced, we saw the true nature of this Liberal government. Liberal values were not reflected in the bills.

The Liberals said that they respected Canadians from all provinces, from Ontario, from Manitoba, from Saskatchewan, from British Columbia and from the maritimes. But that kind of language can be very deceiving because, when they introduced bills, we saw the opposite. They are two-faced: they say one thing, but their actions day in and day out go against the interests of the people and the provinces. They should provide services to allow individuals to have real courses of action and they should give some money back to the provinces for the environment, because it is a very important issue.

I have noticed that what the government and the Minister of the Environment say, beyond the rhetoric, is a drop in a sea of indifference.

The minister ought to have put billions of dollars more in his mini-budget. He gave us crumbs. The government has ignored the environment.

We had ministers who were not able to stand up to their cabinet colleagues and say that it was time to take action.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Deputy to the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.

Accordingly the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

And being returned:

International Boundary Waters Treaty Act
The Royal Assent

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate Chamber the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission—Chapter No. 28.

Bill S-26, an act to repeal an act to incorporate the Western Canada Telephone Company—Chapter No. 29.

Bill C-24, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, a related Act, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, the Budget Implementation Act, 1998, the Budget Implementation Act, 1999, the Canada Pension Plan, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Employment Insurance Act, the Excise Act, the Income Tax Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act—Chapter No. 30.

Bill S-25, an act to amend the Defence Production Act—Chapter No. 31.

Bill C-27, an act respecting the national parks of Canada—Chapter No. 32.

Bill C-14, an act respecting an agreement with the Norway House Cree Nation for the settlement of matters arising from the flooding of land, and respecting the establishment of certain reserves in the province of Manitoba—Chapter No. 33.

Bill C-41, an act to amend the statute law in relation to veterans' benefits—Chapter No. 34.

Bill C-45, an act respecting the provision of increased funding for health care services, medical equipment, health information and communications technologies, early childhood development and other social services and to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act—Chapter 35.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-15, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

International Boundary Waters Treaty Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the hiatus, the people watching our debate may have forgotten what I was saying about Bill C-15.

I would like to recap and remind the House what the purpose of this bill is. I also want to describe the government strategy I was referring to when we had to leave for the other House.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the leader of the Bloc Quebecois for appointing me critic for the environment. I think that we held some very important debates during the last three years and a half and that we considered some major issues.

One need only look at the legislation on the environment and on endangered species. The government wants to pass a bill to protect endangered species, but apart from the environment minister's fine words, what is it doing? I do not disagree with the minister's words, but we are still waiting for him to act.

It is too bad, because I reached out to him on a number of occasions, including the endangered species bill, the Environmental Protection Act, and even the debates on pesticides. There was no unanimous report, since Reform dissented because they are pro-business.

Currently, there are two different visions in this parliament: the ordinary people's vision, represented by the Bloc Quebecois, and the vision of the Liberal Party and Reform. I still call them Reform because they have not changed; it is still the same old Reform Party. They have not changed a whit. Their vision is still short-sighted. According to their vision, big business is to be in charge of everything that has to do with the environment.

I have denounced with all my strength this vision of the Alliance and the Liberal Party, which is to highjack provincial jurisdictions.

Once again we caught them red-handed, this time with Bill C-15. This government cannot help trying to control everything, be in charge, be the king of the castle, as it were.

I am proud to report that, today in Jonquière, a minister of this government, accompanied by the member from Chicoutimi who crossed the floor—we call them turncoats—was to announce an investment. Earlier the government House leader talked about Bill C-44, an act to improve the Employment Insurance Act.

Twice in two weeks, workers in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean told the revenue minister, the minister who represents our area, that we were quite capable of looking after our own administration.

Government members do not represent their constituents properly. It is going to blow up in their face, as we say.

This morning, the revenue minister was unable to give his press conference. He was told by people in our area to go back where he came from, through the Parc des Laurentides. We have been having quite a debate in our area. We would like to invest in the infrastructure, but the federal government has made cuts in road upgrading programs.

We have taken part in every debate, saying that 26% of the money they hold is Quebec's. A substantial portion of this money should go to my area. The minister was told to go back where he came from, because the kind of change he made to the employment insurance program is not worth the paper it is written on.

I applaud those people. They have shown all of Quebec and all of Canada that they were capable of standing up for themselves, of stating that the fund is theirs. The government has no business using it as it pleases; it is for us to administer, with the workers and the employers. We are the ones to have the say, as the gap keeps widening for seasonal workers thanks to the government.

The government makes the directives, but makes no financial contribution. It has been raiding the fund. Bravo to the people of the Saguenay and Lac Saint-Jean. I hope that all Canadians will stand up for themselves like the people in my area did this morning, and will continue to do so throughout this election campaign.

I will conclude my speech by saying that, although the Bloc Quebecois is well aware of how vitally important it is to protect our water resources, the bill as it stands strikes us as useless and is not in keeping with the division of jurisdictions.

It has a huge potential for encroachment onto provincial jurisdictions, without providing any additional protection against massive water exports.

We ought therefore to be opposed to the principle of the bill. I wish the Minister of the Environment, and whoever his successor is after the election, to know that we, the representatives of the Bloc Quebecois, will never accept interference in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to salute you and to thank you for all your well-chosen words and for the professionalism you have brought to the House as deputy speaker. I will always have very pleasant memories of you. I wish you the best of luck in the future.