An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

John Manley  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

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.

Canada Water Preservation ActPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2011 / 7:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak in support of the bill by my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis, who very kindly attended my riding of Charlottetown not very long ago. We had a very well-attended town hall on water. This is a very important issue right across the country, from coast to coast. The attendance and the participation at that town hall on water and the diversity of the discussion were testament to that. We also had a screening of the Maude Barlow documentary in my riding to fuel the discussion. This is truly a matter of national interest.

I am interested to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment take the position on behalf of the government, especially considering the stance of the government in the past and, in particular, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The government has steadfastly claimed that Canada's fresh water is already well protected from the threat of export under NAFTA. However, the governing party has not always taken that position. The current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the MP for Calgary East, when in opposition, openly argued that NAFTA failed to protect Canada's fresh water from export and that consequently the only way to safeguard Canada's water sovereignty was to reopen the agreement to include a blanket exemption for water.

Specifically, speaking to a debate on Bill C-15, which is the predecessor to Bill C-6 on boundary waters, on October 20, 2000 in the House of Commons, the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs said:

The Canadian Alliance believes that Canadians should retain control over our water resources and supports exempting water from our international agreements, including NAFTA.

He reiterated those comments during subsequent debate on Bill C-6, on April 26, 2001.

In another policy reversal, the Conservative government, after previously arguing that Canada's water was sufficiently protected from the threat of export, announced in its November 2008 throne speech that it would bring in legislation to ban all bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian freshwater basins. As an earlier incarnation of Bill C-267, already tabled as a Liberal private member's bill, the government possessed a model for its own subsequent legislation.

However, in May 2010, it opted instead to introduce Bill C-26, again to borrow the pun used by my friend, a watered-down legislation that only addressed bulk removals from transboundary waters. According to water policy experts at the Program On Water Issues at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies, while Bill C-26 effectively prohibits most bulk removals of water from transboundary rivers, it does not address the most plausible threat to Canadian water resources from inter-basin transfers.

As a practical matter, it seemed highly unlikely that Canadian water resources would be threatened significantly by proposals to remove water from a transboundary basin within Canada. The more likely scenario would be the transfer of Canadian waters from a basin that was neither a boundary nor a transboundary water into a transboundary river flowing from Canada into the United States for export to the United States. Such proposals would not be prohibited under the legislation.

Additionally, the definition of “transboundary waters” in the IBWTA, the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, is narrow. It refers only to waters flowing in their natural channels across the border. It does not include other means of accomplishing inter-basin transfers across the international border, for example, a pipeline or a canal from waters that are neither boundary waters nor transboundary waters.

While a transborder pipeline from transboundary waters would fall under the prohibitions, as a practical matter, it is difficult to conceive a scenario involving a proposal to divert water by pipeline from a transboundary river in Canada southward to the United States.

The environmental justification for this bill can really be summarized with three main arguments. In essence, this bill aims to limit the manipulation of surface water in order to protect the environment. For many, however, the question will be why we must prohibit, for environmental reasons, large scale interbasin water transfers. It is because of the Conservatives' many reversals of policy on bulk water exports. If it were a gymnast, we would be forced to give it a 10 out 10 for its skilful and repeated flips on the issue.

Ecosystems need freshwater to survive and be healthy. The International Boreal Conservation Science panel, composed of leading scientists from Canada and the U.S., has said:

Canada has the unrivalled opportunity to protect the world's largest intact freshwater ecosystem and the responsibility to enact sound conservation and sustainable development policy to safeguard the boreal forest.

A recent report by the panel stated:

...more water diversion occurs in Canada than in any other country in the world. ...with significant impacts to wildlife, the ecology and aboriginal communities.

Many argue that it is time for Canada to inventory its water resources to better gauge the amount of its renewable water supply is "surplus" and available for sale. However, this may be easier said than done.

Brian Anderson states:

Scientists have only begun to understand the complexity of the world's largest freshwater ecosystems. Interactions between man, current diversions, and the tangled web of life dependent on these ecosystems may be imperilled by large diversions of lake water.

Similarly, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs points out that the replacement rate of water reserves is impossible to calculate, making it more difficult to know how much water Canada could afford to sell abroad, putting aside the negative environmental impacts of taking water outside its basin.

In summary, the Canada water preservation act prohibits the removal of freshwater in bulk, which is defined as over 50,000 litres a day from one aquatic basin in Canada to another. The interbasin transfer of water by any means, including but not limited to pipeline, tunnel, canal, aqueduct or water bag, would be prohibited.

Basin contours would be negotiated with the provinces and territories and be included in subsequent regulations. This bill adopts an environmental approach to banning bulk water exports. It is primarily concerned with ensuring the health of ecosystems and preventing the spread of invasive species that can occur when water is transferred outside its home basin. The bill prevents water from being moved from one basin to another within Canada and eventually outside the country for export. It does not apply to boundary waters as defined under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act that I referred to earlier.

I support the efforts of my friend from Lac-Saint-Louis on this important matter. It is something that we hear frequently from our constituents about. I would urge all members of the House to support this bill as well.

Message from the SenateThe Royal Assent

December 18th, 2001 / 5:05 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

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

Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act--Chapter No. 40.

Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 32.

Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 33.

Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Republic of Costa Rica--Chapter No. 28.

Bill C-34, an act to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 29.

Bill C-36, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Official Secrets Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act and other acts, and to enact measures respecting the registration of charities in order to combat terrorism--Chapter No. 41.

Bill C-38, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act--Chapter No. 35.

Bill C-40, an act to correct certain anomalies, inconsistencies and errors and to deal with other matters of a non-controversial and uncomplicated nature in the Statutes of Canada and to repeal certain provisions that have expired, lapsed or otherwise ceased to have effect--Chapter No. 34.

Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act--Chapter No. 38.

Bill C-45, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002--Chapter No. 39.

Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs)--Chapter No. 37.

Bill S-10, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Poet Laureate)--Chapter No. 36.

Bill S-31, an act to implement agreements , conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Slovenia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Senegal, the Czech Republic and Germany for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income--Chapter No. 30.

Bill S-33, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act--Chapter No. 31.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

October 2nd, 2001 / 5:30 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-6.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / noon
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

As we all know, water represents an inestimable resource for humans. We all agree that it is vital to life on Earth. However, contrary to what was long believed, it is not an inexhaustible resource.

This is why it is important to recognize that even if the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River system accounts for one fifth of the world's fresh water resources, it is not unlimited. Moreover, in recent years, discoveries and research on greenhouse gases and on the potential risks of a rise in temperatures have increased our awareness of the fragility of our resources and of the threats to these resources.

Because of climatic risks, increased desertification worldwide, limited supplies of drinking water around the world and energy development based on this resource, the idea of exporting large quantities of water on tanker ships or of diverting rivers has emerged as a serious option in the past ten years or so in Quebec and Canada. To environmental threats to water supplies is added a new and significant threat of bulk water exports and large scale diversion of our lakes and rivers.

There is no doubt that bulk water exports offer significant economic possibilities. It is because of this potential that some provinces have examined the possibility of issuing permits to companies to allow them to consider bulk water exports.

In the early eighties, following a drought in California, British Columbia delivered such permits to five Canadian companies and one American one. However, over the years, the province changed its position and, concerned about the possible impact of such business on B.C.'s natural resources, it passed legislation to prohibit bulk water exports.

We know that the possibility of issuing similar permits was examined by other provinces. The case of Newfoundland recently made headlines. The province quickly gave up the idea, but the possibility remains. This, combined with the recent lawsuit by the California-based company Sun Belt Water against the Government of British Columbia, raises concerns and brings back the issue of trade risks associated with exporting this resource. In this context, the federal government has been promising to legislate for the past year

It is in this context that the Minister of the Environment introduced Bill C-15 in the last parliament. Bill C-6 is therefore an exact replica of it.

Permit me to provide a little background. On February 10, 1999, Canada and the United States gave the International Joint Commission, or IJC, the mandate to study the matter. After noting a growing number of proposals to export water from the Great Lakes and other areas of the United States and Canada, the two countries agreed to ask the commission to study the issue and make recommendations within the following year. A preliminary report was tabled on August 18, 2000, and the final report of the IJC was tabled on February 22, 2001.

In its preliminary report, the International Joint Commission recommended that, during the next six months it would need to complete its study, the federal, provincial and state governments prohibit bulk removal or sale of water. It emphasized a number of points worth mentioning here.

It indicated:

—there is never a surplus of water in the Great Lakes system, that bulk removals of water could reduce the resilience of the system, and that there is a lack of adequate information about withdrawals of groundwater

There is a problem here, because groundwater can have a major impact on the integrity and quality of ecosystems. The report also points out that it is impossible to forecast the demand for water. Moreover, the possibility of climate change and all sorts of natural factors make it impossible to evaluate with any degree of certainty the level and rate of flow of the Great Lakes over the next few years.

The final report includes these three conclusions:

The waters of the Great Lakes are a nonrenewable resource; on average less than 1% of the waters of the Great Lakes is renewed annually.

If all interests in the Basin are considered, there is never a surplus of water in the Great Lakes system. Every drop of water has several potential uses.

International trade law obligations—including the provisions of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)—do not prevent Canada and the United States from taking measures to protect their water resources and preserve the integrity of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem.

Canada and the United States cannot be compelled by trade laws to endanger the waters of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

In early February, the federal Minister of the Environment proposed to his provincial and territorial counterparts a Canada-wide accord to prevent bulk water removal from watersheds.

The response of the provinces was rather lukewarm. Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan said they would indicate their positions later, while the government of Quebec dissociated itself, saying that it found the accord premature and felt that its Bill 73, an act to protect water resources, was sufficient. It said it would await the public hearings of the BAPE before defining its comprehensive water strategy.

We should note, however, that Quebec established a moratorium on the issue of new licenses to pump underground water.

Three major problems may be raised in connection with the bill before us today, namely, the definition of watershed, the extensive powers accorded the federal minister in connection with exceptions and with licensed activities and the usefulness of the bill we are looking at.

Because of these three, Bill C-6 goes beyond federal areas of jurisdiction and encroaches on provincial jurisdictions.

The fact that the concept of watershed is not defined in the bill is of obvious concern, but the fact that it is the governor in council who defines it by regulation and on the recommendation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs will not be readily supported. This concept is, clearly, very risky for the division of jurisdictions and for the ownership of natural resources, which is essentially provincial.

In a document dated February 10, 1999, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade indicated clearly what constituted a watershed, and I quote:

—a land area draining into a common watercourse. Often called a catchment area, drainage basin or river basin.

Examples of watersheds in Canada include Atlantic (including the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River), Hudson Bay, Pacific and Arctic. A single watershed can cover a relatively large section of the Canadian landscape. For example, the Great Lakes waters are not restricted to the lakes themselves but include the many rivers and their tributaries that ultimately flow into the Great Lakes.

Why not specify this in the bill? Why not specify what a watershed, or catchment basin, is? The definition given in the regulations has a strong likelihood of being the same as the one set out in February 1999, and thus will directly encroach, and with force of law, on provincial jurisdictions in this area.

This is very serious. The powers given to the Minister of Foreign Affairs are considerable. From granting permits to selecting the types of projects that may be eligible, and including practices that may be exempt from application of the law, the minister is, in our opinion, padding the responsibilities conferred upon him by the Constitution.

The amendments made to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act might enable the Minister of Foreign Affairs to interfere in the management of Quebec's natural resources. Yet these provisions are clearly contrary to established law and the division of powers between the provincial and federal levels. Section 109 of the constitution awards incontestable property rights to the provinces. This, in conjunction with sections 92.5, 92.13 and 92A, elicited from Senator Gérald Beaudoin, in his work on the Canadian Constitution, the following comment in respect of the provinces, that they have:

broad powers relating to land development, acquisition and management, natural resource development and sales; what we are thinking of here specifically is the development of Quebec's hydro-electric resources... As well, according to the jurisprudence, the expression “lands” in section 92.5 also extends to waters and to mines.

Thus, these are flagrant encroachments into areas of provincial jurisdiction. As well, the pertinence of this bill bears questioning.

To protect water resources from the disastrous effects of unlimited trade, Canada, Mexico and the United States declared in 1993 that “the NAFTA creates no rights to the natural water resources of any party”. The federal government is therefore saying that, given the existence of this joint statement, as long as water is not considered a good or a product or is in its natural state, it does not come under the provisions of trade agreements, including NAFTA and WTO. But nothing could be less certain.

Such a statement, even if it is jointly issued, would not stand up under arbitration because, as provided for in the 1969 Vienna convention on the law of treaties, the context, factors outside the scope of an international treaty or convention, cannot be used to interpret it unless the text itself remains obscure and the parties agree on the relevance of the outside factors.

Since the United States made it very clear on the very day this joint statement was issued that nothing in it in any way changed NAFTA, it is therefore legitimate to say that water might become a good within the meaning of the various international trade agreements. In fact, from the moment that Canada exports this resource, it becomes a good within the meaning of NAFTA and GATT. Even if it were not legally considered a product, it could be the object of proceedings under chapter 11 of NAFTA on investments, services, and under the national treaty.

Furthermore, it is clear that if the federal government issues export licences, water will henceforth be considered a marketable commodity within the meaning of these trade agreements.

In short, the federal government boasts that its bill is consistent with its constitutional responsibilities and with Canada's international trade obligations. We do not agree. Contrary to what it says, the government, through Bill C-6, is overstepping its constitutional jurisdiction with respect to boundary waters, is interfering in Quebec's jurisdiction with regard to drinking water, and is, in reality, offering no satisfactory guarantees as to the impact of this bill on international trade agreements.

Although the protection of water resources is vitally important, as it stands, Bill C-6 strikes us as risky and contrary to the way jurisdictions are divided between the federal and provincial governments. In fact, it has considerable potential of encroachment on provincial areas of jurisdiction, while not providing any additional protection against bulk water exports. The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the principle underlying Bill-6.

Far from us the idea of questioning the need to protect Canada's water resources and to support bulk water exports. The IJC's preliminary report sounds, and rightly so, the alarm and it reminds those who are in favour of an aggressive marketing approach of the need to deal with these issues with greater insight, while also giving more importance to the protection of our ecosystems.

However, natural resource management is the provinces' responsibility. Through Bill C-6, the federal government is grabbing the power to eventually get involved in provincial jurisdictions. We are thinking here of the all important hydroelectricity sector.

It goes without saying that indepth studies on the development of our water supply are essential. Before considering marketing this resource, it is vital to fully understand the whole issue, so as to ensure that decisions take into account the well-being of Quebecers and of future generations.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 11:40 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lethbridge for kindly allowing me to share his time.

Bill C-6 is extraordinary in that it deals with a substance that we cannot live without. Millions of people live without love. We can live without food for a month, but we will die within a week if we do not have water. As an ancient poet said: “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”. It is not quite that bad but we have some significant problems.

As my colleague and others have mentioned, the bill is very important in terms of securing our water resources. Canada has 9% of the world's freshwater. This is a significant issue from an international perspective and is one which I will address later in my speech.

The bill does a good job of guarding our water but much more needs to be done. Ninety-seven per cent of the water in the world is salt water, which is made up of 3% solids and 97% freshwater. Therefore, only 3% of all the water in the world right now, if we exclude salt water, is freshwater in various pockets and pools. Extraordinarily enough, the amount of water we have today is the same as we had at the beginning of time. It just changes and flows through the hydrological cycle throughout the world, which is quite fascinating. However, we are abusing it. With our burgeoning population, increasing demands and urbanization, we are putting extraordinary stresses on the world's water systems.

My colleagues mentioned the stresses on the Great Lakes system, such as acid rain, acidification of waters, the damming of waters, the changing of the hydrological cycle, the modifying of it, pollution, mercury and cadmium, the latter of which has caused significant health problems in a number of populations around the world, including Canada. In the St. Lawrence system, the content of carcinogenic and teratogenic substances in the meat of beluga whales is so high that a dead beluga whale would be considered toxic waste. That is the result of the elements and pollutants in the water.

Internationally, more than one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. In North America we are prolific users of water. We use a lot of it, waste a lot of it and pollute a lot of it. Internationally the impact upon water has been significant. In the Dead Sea the water level has dropped by about 10 metres. In China more than 80% of the rivers do not support fish anymore. That is extraordinary and is a growing problem all over the world.

Pollution, desertification, the damming and wasting of our waters is having a significant effect. I had hoped that the bill would have had something to say about these important issues.

As I mentioned before, we are prolific users because we do not value water. The cost of water in North America is far less than its value. Some places in the United States have about $500 worth of subsidies per acre on some lands, which greatly exceeds the value of those lands. Some farmers pay about 3% of the value of the water they receive.

What can we do to preserve it? Domestically, we have to ensure that the cost reflects the value. Australia has done some very exciting work in terms of having a market oriented approach to water. This has greatly improved its ability to conserve water, reducing consumption by about 40% with no effect on the GDP.

We also have to conserve more. In Asia they are using pour toilets instead of flush toilets, saving between six and sixteen litres of water per flush. Australia and the Middle East specialize in new and better irrigation systems where they can use salt water for certain crops or use desalinization processes which are becoming more efficient.

Internationally, more than 300 river systems are transboundary. They will have a massive effect on the future as our population grows. We fear that countries will fight that over water. None of us can survive without water. Thomas Homer-Dixon, Robert Kaplan and many other authors have repeatedly and quite eloquently warned that in the future, water is what we will fight over.

When one looks at the Middle East as an example, people are fighting over land, land which is by and large desert. It is land where the aquifers are so low that in the future there will not be any water there at all. The wars which are taking place right now will wars over pieces of land which will be largely uninhabitable in the future, yet nobody really talks about that.

Internationally, we have to look at other countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sudan and Egypt and many other areas where water will be a potential area of conflict. Part of Canada's role in the future will be looking at ways to conserve and improve water not only at home, but also internationally by researching and developing new methods of water conservation, finding new ways to use salt water, such as desalinization procedures which would be more efficient, and finding ways to stop polluting our waters.

This has been a significant problem. We saw the tragedy in Walkerton. We have seen the effect of acid rain. We know that many of our lakes and rivers have been completely destroyed. The fish are toxic. As a country it behooves us to take responsibility for our water systems. What we do to our water systems not only affects us but affects people in other countries too. The House of Commons and the government has a responsibility to all Canadians to ensure that the very essence of life, which is water, will be preserved in some way.

Ways of doing that would be by decreasing demand, looking at new conservation tools and spreading them widely across the country, having new pricing mechanisms so that the value of water is truly reflected in its cost and making sure that existing conservation mechanisms are more efficient.

A lot of exciting work is being done all over the world demonstrating the ways we can preserve and conserve water. I hope the government works with its provincial counterparts to do that.

Speaking now on the international scene, there are a lot of water borne diseases. Malaria can be considered a water borne disease. Bilharzia, which is spread by snails and affects almost 200 million people, is expanding dramatically and is having a profound impact on people. This disease can kill. I remember treating a 20 year old woman in Africa who bled to death as a direct result of being infected by this parasite. Her veins in her esophagus burst and we could not stop the bleeding.

This is not an academic exercise at all. This issue affects people all over the world. In Canada we have seen the effect of the Walkerton tragedy and our inability to secure our water system. Canadians have a deep seated concern. There are boiled water warnings. I do not have the exact figures but they are quite significant. From Newfoundland to British Columbia, boiled water advisories are out because we have been unable to secure our water resources and ensure that safe, potable water is the right of all Canadians.

At the present time none of us see adequate leadership on this level. I hope the federal government will work with its provincial counterparts to develop a national strategy to secure our water resources. The bill is good in terms of ensuring that we will not damage our water resources or impede or damage the water resources that go to other countries. It is very important that we ensure that the water within our borders is secure. It is important that we ensure that Canadians have access to potable water so we do not have further tragedies such as Walkerton.

There are two basic elements in what we should do beyond this. There are domestic issues in terms of conservation, dealing with the pollution of our water systems and new irrigation methodologies which can be very efficient. Internationally, it is important that our Minster of Foreign Affairs work with other countries and point out that water is a potential flash point for conflicts in the future and things have to be done to ensure that this is dealt with.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to follow my colleague from Davenport. He has been a constant source of inspiration and guidance for all of us who have been working on the issue for the last number of years.

The bill is a good first step. It is not complete but it is a start. The challenge we will have in dealing with the whole issue of water security over the next 10 to 15 years is inextricably intertwined with the same challenges our neighbours to the south will face.

As the member for Davenport said near the end of his speech, if Bill C-6 is to be effective there must be a mirror of the bill in Washington. As legislators that is where our biggest challenge will be.

My riding is on Lake Ontario. I have a Great Lakes riding. It is no secret to everyone in the House that the Great Lakes governors of the United States signed a deal this summer with the Great Lakes premiers. If 10 years from now the midwest governors or legislators found themselves in desperate shape in terms of water, the geopolitical reality is that those legislators would outnumber our Great Lakes legislators and we would have a challenge. The leaders to the south would not sit there unable to function in terms of water requirements while we sat here pretending we were an independent operation. It would not work.

The words of my colleague from Davenport, who has been my environmental mentor for the 14 years I have been here, are important. He said we must have a mirror of the legislation in Washington.

There is another problem. At the foreign affairs committee in May we heard from witnesses who talked about the Great Lakes. Some of them said we must preserve the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes.

Who would argue with that? We all know that levels are down and that with climate change the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes is at risk. We share them with the United States, so what will we do? Will we look the other way? In my humble opinion we must examine every option within our water inventory to preserve the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes.

As much as I respect the bill and say it is a good first step, it is only the tip of the iceberg. It is for this reason that I have been trying for a long time to interest leaders of all parties in a committee that would look into the comprehensive nature of dealing with water security.

My first speech to the House of Commons in 1988 was about water and the free trade agreement. I gave the speech because I went to school in Houston, Texas, at the University of St. Thomas. Houston is the home of Clayton Yeutter, chief negotiator for the United States during the free trade agreement talks.

Clayton Yeutter did a doctoral thesis on North American water management at the University of Nebraska. His entire life has been devoted to water. He worked for Congressman Jim Wright as a young assistant. Congressman Wright, as we all know, wrote the book The Coming Water Famine . When a man who has spent his entire life dealing with water becomes the chief free trade negotiator I cannot believe his interest in water and the free trade agreement are separate. I have always held that view.

I appealed to then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to attach a one page protocol letter to the free trade agreement saying that water would be excluded. I never got the letter but Hansard will show that I asked for it.

I think most people would agree that I am not a person who scares easily. However I am deeply concerned because the issue of water security is complex and involves economic realities with our neighbours. The U.S. has incredible leverage over us in terms of our economy.

The bill before the House today should be used as a first step to lever our complex discussions, hearings, investigations and relationships with legislators in the United States in such a way that North American water policy will ensure sound water management and the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes. These issues will affect not only our citizens but ultimately all citizens of the United States.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 10:50 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

Like so many of these issues that come up, they are very interesting to me because I was here when the Conservatives were on the other side of the House and the Liberals were on this side, and of course the argument was completely reversed.

In that case it was very vocal. The Liberals were adamant that we must ban all bulk water exports from Canada. They were adamantly against us and raised a huge furor in the House about it during the free trade debate in 1988-89. Now all of a sudden they have come in with this half-baked half measure of a bill to protect some of our water, the water closest to the United States border but not the water in the inland provinces, such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, only those waters that straddle the borders.

This is a complete reversal of their position in 1988-89 when they were most eloquent and forceful in their arguments about banning all bulk water transports. They were fearmongering about all the things that were going to happen, that all the bulkwater was going to be transferred and sold. Now what do they do? They come up with a half-baked, half measure program to ban some waters, put in some rules and put on some restrictions but it in no way addresses the needs and feelings of Canadians and the actual issue at hand.

It is absolutely amazing to hear the Liberals now stand and defend their position when just a few years ago they were on this side demanding far more measures. In fact, we have had events in Canada that increase, not decrease, the sensitivity and the demands for protection. The Liberals are slipping and going the other way instead.

Some of the things we have talked about in the House recently really focus on the need for the protection of our water. One obviously was the Walkerton issue involving safety. The other more recent one was the terrorist acts in the United States which involves security. However, both involve potential demands and potential threats to our water.

Since the Walkerton case, there have been many more examples of contaminated water as we become more sensitive to the issue, which means our water is even more important than ever. The future and safety of our water is far more important than it was even 10 years ago. We have had changes in reporting and in identifying the contamination and the sources of contamination of water. We have had complete changes in the responsibility and accountability for the safety of water right across the country. Probably every single member of parliament in the House has had reports of contaminated water since Walkerton because the standards are so much higher and our sensitivities are so much more focused on our water.

The recent terrorist acts in the United States present tremendous security issues for huge amounts of water. There is now speculation that some terrorists have planned to contaminate water using spray planes. Some of these discussions and plans appear to have occurred in Canada and could involve Canadian waters. However, whether it is in the United States or in Canada, if any water is contaminated through natural sources or through man-made initiatives, it would mean an increased demand for water in North America, which would also mean an increased demand for our water and increased pressure on us. If we do not have the legislation to prevent bulk water transfers we will be under a lot of pressure. As the last speaker said, the effects of global warming and droughts will put increased pressure on our water supplies.

This is not a time for half measures and half-baked actions like Bill C-6. Any of the three issues I have talked about could create a large shortfall in the water supply in Canada and in the United States, which will put increased demands on our Canadian water and demands for access to Canadian water.

Those of us involved in foreign trade recently have had just a sample of the strength and the power of the Americans and the tools they use to access our resources. In the case of softwood lumber, they have used laws, legislation, political influence, the administration, the media and every possible angle to prevent access to our softwood lumber by the U.S. and to gain access to our raw materials in the softwood lumber industry. They leave no stone unturned. They apply extreme pressure. If there is a shortage of water in the U.S., their efforts to access our water will be even more focused and more intense.

We require legislation to ban all exports, not just some exports, not just the export of water in the 300 lakes and rivers that straddle the border between the United States and Canada.

We have thousands of lakes and natural reservoirs. They must all be protected from bulk exports, not just those that straddle the border. Now is the time for strong legislation on this, not after the horse is out of the gate, not after the fact.

Many people predicted that it was just a matter of time before terrorist acts took place in the United States but no one reacted or prepared for it. I predict that it is just a matter of time before North America has a strong demand on our water. I do not know where it will come from or what the reason will be, but I predict that we will have increased demands on our water, even above the projected increased demands by demographics, which predicts a 40% increase in demand on water in Canada and a large explosion of growth in the world's human population. Many millions of people already have no access to water. As the population grows the demands will be more and more.

Bill C-6 does not meet current realities. It does not meet potential threats. It does not impose conditions on provinces. Even if Bill C-6 passes, bulk sales of water are still possible. If the bill is not amended we will be subject to demands on our water, and when the pressure does come, it will be enormous.

I hope that somewhere in the bowels of government there is a group of people drafting further legislation or amendments to the bill that would ban all water exports. As I have said, it is just a matter of time before the demand for our water will be unbearable.

So often a government tries to react on issues but this government, in particular, reacts after events have happened even though they were clearly predicted in advance. One that comes to mind is the one in my area close to Burnt Church where everybody predicted there would be a problem with the fishery when the judgment came down. The government was not prepared for it and is having a huge problem now trying to react to it. It is trying to manipulate the rules. It is trying to work with the natives and the non-natives and the lobster fishery. It has been a disaster and is continuing to be a disaster.

The government had lots of warning but it did not act. It has lots of warning now on the water issue and it is not acting. It has brought in this half-baked bill to protect some of the water but none of the water on Prince Edward Island especially. It is imperative that the government move quickly to bring in a full ban on all bulk water exports.

We will reluctantly support the bill even though it is a half-baked measure. However, we will continue to press the government for the proper legislation that bans all exports of bulk freshwater from Canada.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in the existing treaty, as I read it, that prevents water from being dumped in that way. In that case the water is highly polluted and would flow north into Canada. However, there is nothing in the treaty that would prevent the United States, and I believe it is the state of Minnesota, from doing that. The amendments being proposed in Bill C-6 would also do nothing to prohibit a U.S. state from doing it or, in the converse, a Canadian province from doing it.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's speech on bulk water and on Bill C-6. I find it somewhat parallel to the culture issue with which I deal on a daily basis.

As critic for culture and heritage for the New Democratic Party I constantly hear parallel assurances that culture, which is another valuable commodity, is protected within our trade agreements. I get that kind of assurance from the foreign affairs department. I hear that there will be carve-out clauses and that there is work afoot to protect culture. However, when the rubber hits the road, I do not see that language in NAFTA or in GATS.

Therefore we have to be very vigilant about language and about what is to take place at the table when some kind of claim is made against our valuable commodities.

I guess we have to talk about water as a commodity, but what provisions would my colleague say we need in the bulk water act to make this precious commodity truly sacred and protected from trade challenges?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have made clear in the past, the bill would not meet the commitment made by the government and the entire House in February 1999 when it declared to Canadians that it would introduce legislation to prohibit, and I emphasize prohibit, bulk freshwater exports and interbasin transfers. Bill C-6 would not do that. It is a failure with regard to that commitment.

At the same time that commitment was made the NDP put forth a motion in the House that was unanimously adopted and supported by all parties. The motion stated that Canada:

--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.

Bill C-6, which is before the House today for debate, fails to address the vital concern that we would be compelled by international agreements to export our water.

It is appropriate to set in context the pressure Canada is under with regard to conserving and preserving its fresh water. I draw to the attention of the House two issues that are very current.

First, the whole issue of climate change and specifically climate warming could have a potential impact on our fresh water and our freshwater reserves and supplies.

Second, flowing in part from that and in part from a number of droughts around the continent has been pressure to export water to other parts of North America and the world to deal with drought conditions elsewhere. Statistics show the pressure the international community is under with regard to supplying fresh water to its citizens. We must play a leading role in dealing with the problem.

However the export of bulk water from Canada is not the answer. As I pointed out during second reading, I found it somewhat odd that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Environment led the debate on the bill instead of the Minister for International Trade. I was surprised because the bill is to a great extent about trade and, more specific, the failure of the government to protect our fresh water from trade challenges.

As I noted previously in debate, the bill is about trade. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said Bill C-6 is “consistent with Canada's international trade obligations”. That is the problem. Bill C-6 represents the government's continued failure to keep our freshwater resources off the international bargaining table and safe from the unfair trade deals it has negotiated. During debate on Bill C-6 earlier this week the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra stated in the House:

Canadian governments have full sovereignty over the management of water in its natural state, and in exercising this sovereignty are not constrained by trade agreements, including the NAFTA.

The reality, contrary to what the member and those in his government claim, is that the strategy of the Liberal government is not necessarily NAFTA proof. Bill C-6 is part of a water strategy designed more to protect NAFTA than to protect Canada's water.

The 1993 joint statement on which the government's argument is primarily based is not legally binding. That statement was made by the three NAFTA partners and their governments, namely Canada, the United States and Mexico. However, the way NAFTA works, under the investor state procedure investors have the power to challenge Canadian water protection laws.

In fact we have seen that. We have the outstanding challenge by Sun Belt Water Inc. against the province of British Columbia that is still pending. We have seen the ability of a private company to come forward and make that challenge, specifically on fresh water.

That joint statement was not agreed to by the investor sectors. There would be no way of doing that. Therefore it offers no protection whatsoever against claims made directly by investors.

We could say to the governments of the United States and Mexico that they agreed to this, but we cannot say it to Sun Belt Water Inc. because it was not at the table and is not bound by the letter exchanged among those three levels of government.

It is important to look at the history under NAFTA because international trade tribunals, and I should not just say under NAFTA but under a number of other international agreements that we have entered into, have been very willing to strike down environmental protection laws if they are simply disguised as trade barriers. That is open to very wide interpretation, as we have seen.

For example, a GATT tribunal rejected Canada's ban on the export of unprocessed fish even after it was redrafted. We went through it and we lost. We redrafted it and focused it exclusively on environmental conservation, and we still lost.

Simply stating that a bill is motivated by environmental rather than trade concerns will not likely be enough to withstand a trade challenge. The fish case is a clear precedent in that regard.

The bill is fairly limited in the geographical area that it covers. The strategy of the government has been to say this is what it would do and this is how it would do it. As I have indicated, that is nowhere near sufficient. It does not do anything to prohibit a province from exporting bulk fresh water.

I would assume any province that wishes to seek a financial opportunity in that regard is in no way prevented from doing so.

The bill, if it becomes law, would not be binding on the provinces. We could change that. Enough jurisdiction has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in this area indicating that we could do that as a legislature at the national level. That is what we need to do. We need to provide a legislated ban that would be binding on all provinces that would prohibit the export of bulk water. This is not a fancy. It is not something out there in the ozone. Newfoundland is currently looking at the export of bulk water.

My next point concerns NAFTA. It was raised when the bill was before the foreign affairs committee. One of the witnesses suggested much more forcefully than I did how questionable the interpretation was and how out of touch the government was with the reality of how we saw NAFTA functioning.

There are very strong legal opinions that the bill would not protect us from a NAFTA challenge. The government, therefore, should not be so confident that its approach would withstand those challenges. What it should be doing is looking at how to fix NAFTA, how to incorporate into NAFTA the real protections we need, because that is where we need them and not in this type of legislation.

We have heard explanations from the government on how the bill would work if it became law. The government is saying that the bill contains a ban, but there is also a licensing provision to allow for the diversion and export of water. We are hearing that there are regulations, which we have not seen, that would define more extensively when that licensing would be allowed.

I say to the government and to the House that we should take the government and the minister at face value in that they would not allow for this type of licensing for the diversion or export of water.

What about the next minister? What about the next government, whether it be this party or some other? Rather than putting into place an absolute ban, what it has done is left the door open to what could very easily be major diversions of our water and abuse of our environment in that regard.

I will make one point with regard to the amendment, and I want to give the foreign affairs committee an acknowledgement in this regard. As originally drafted, the bill did not contain a provision that recognized there would be no derogation to treaty rights of the first nations. As a result of a motion made on behalf of my party at committee stage the committee recognized the necessity of including that, and it has been incorporated into the bill. I acknowledge the work done by the committee and its willingness to respond to that type of amendment.

The NDP is not willing to support Bill C-6. We would not be protected from the NAFTA provisions with this bill. It would not apply to the whole of the country and would not be an absolute bill. For those reasons we will be voting against the bill.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 10:15 a.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to continue with debate on Bill C-6 for 17 minutes.

I would of course be tempted to provide a brief summary of my first 23 minutes. I had thought of asking you to provide one, but the person in the chair has changed, so I cannot do that.

What I said, in substance, as my introduction, was that water, like air, is a vital and essential element that we should in no way compromise.

Water is such an essential element that having too little is as bad as having too much. When there is none, things dry up, and when there is too much, things drown. A balance must therefore be maintained, both in quantity and in quality.

I referred to several past experiences which related to water or which had taught me more about it. I said that I was quite quickly introduced to the concept of a water basin involving a good many people.

I spoke of the rights and obligation, again in terms of quantity and quality, each person has toward his neighbours, both upstream and downstream. I also referred to the rights and obligations the municipalities and regions have toward each other, not to mention countries, such as Quebec and Canada.

I also said that we tend to think that the water level in lakes and rivers stays the same. This is, however, completely wrong.

We need only consult my illustrious and eminent colleague from Terrebonne--Blainville on this. A great fisherwoman, she has told me of catching fish whose bellies showed the effects of having to swim on the bottom to keep themselves submerged.

I also touched briefly on the entire problem concerning water and the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

On average, barely 1% of the waters of the Great Lakes is renewed annually by precipitation, surface water runoff, and inflow from groundwater sources. Under the circumstances, we must recognize that, while the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River system represents one fifth of the earth's fresh water, this resource is not unlimited.

Because of climatic risks, increased desertification worldwide, limited supplies of drinking water around the world and energy development based on this resource, the idea of exporting large quantities of water on tanker ships or of diverting rivers has emerged as a serious option in the past ten years or so in Quebec and Canada.

To the list of environmental threats to water supplies is added the new and significant threat of bulk water exports and large scale diversion of our lakes and rivers.

After a quick overview of Bill C-6, I of course came to the issues involved in this bill. I mentioned that, while most people agreed that water resources need protection, it is far from clear that Bill C-6 ensures their increased protection.

Is the Liberal government not using the current panic over the issue of water protection to grab powers that are beyond its jurisdiction? That is a legitimate question.

We identified three major problems that could be raised in connection with the bill we are looking at today. The first relates to the definition of a water basin. The second concerns the many powers given the federal minister in connection with exceptions and with licensed activities. The third relates to the usefulness of the bill we are looking at.

Because of these three elements, Bill C-6 goes beyond federal jurisdictions and infringes on provincial ones.

The fact that the notion of watershed is not defined in the bill is of course a source of concern, but the fact that it is up to the governor in council to define it by regulations, on the recommendation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is hardly acceptable. This is undoubtedly very dangerous from a jurisdictional point of view and regard to the ownership of natural resources, which essentially belong to the provinces.

In fact, in a document dated February 10, 1999, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade clearly indicated what a watershed is, and I quote:

A land area draining into a common watercourse. Often called a catchment area, drainage basin or river basin. Examples of watersheds in Canada include Atlantic (including the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River), Hudson Bay, Pacific and Arctic. A single watershed can cover a relatively large section of the Canadian landscape. For example, the waters of the Great Lakes include not only the lakes themselves but also the many rivers, and their tributaries, that ultimately flow into the lakes.

Why not make this clear in the act? Chances are the definition that will be proposed through regulations will be the one found in the February 1999 document and will therefore directly infringe, by law, on relevant provincial jurisdictions.

The second point concerns the powers given to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. These powers are considerable. From issuing licences to selecting the types of projects that may be eligible, not to mention the practices that may be exempted from the application of the act, the minister's responsibilities under the constitution are being greatly expanded.

It is true that, under the 1909 treaty, projects directly affecting boundary waters already require a review and the approval by the parties concerned. In case of a dispute, it is up to the IJC to settle the issue. Under the treaty, Canada cannot take any unilateral action that would change the level and flow of waters on the American side of the border.

In that sense, the bill only formalizes the already common practice of requiring a licence to build a dam, for example, or to install works that obstruct waters.

However, article VIII of the 1909 treaty sets out the three possible uses of water in order of precedence and, as long as there is no conflict among these uses, the contracting parties have equal and similar rights in the use of the waters.

The various uses of water provided for are as follows: uses for domestic and sanitary purposes; uses for navigation; uses for power; and for irrigation purposes.

In Bill C-6, only the ordinary use of waters for domestic purposes, the concept can be stretched, for uses are not necessarily that clearly defined, and for sanitary purposes is expressly excluded. There is no reference to the use of water by the provinces for power purposes.

The provinces' energy choices could be ignored, especially since, with a broad definition of water basin, the extent of waterways affected by Bill C-6 could be greater.

Amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act could allow the Minister of Foreign Affairs to interfere in the management of Quebec's natural resources. Yet these provisions clearly violate established law and the division of powers between the provinces and the federal government.

Section 109 gives indisputable property rights to the provinces. It is this section, taken together with sections 92.5, 92.13 and 92A, which prompted Senator Gérald Beaudoin to say, in his book on the Constitution of Canada, that the provinces have:

--broad powers with respect to the use, acquisition and management of lands, and the development and marketing of natural resources.

What comes to mind here is the development of the extensive hydroelectric resources in Quebec. Jurisprudence has also established that the expression “lands” in section 92.5 also extends to waters and mines.

What we have here therefore are flagrant, I would even say reprehensible, encroachments on provincial jurisdictions.

Finally, we must also question the relevance of the bill.

To protect water resources from the perils of unlimited trade, Canada, Mexico and the United States declared in 1993 that “NAFTA creates no rights to the natural water resources of any Party to the Agreement”. The federal government is thus saying that, given the existence of this joint statement, as long as water is not considered a good or a product, and is in its natural state, it does not come under the provisions of trade agreements, including NAFTA and WTO. However nothing could be less certain.

Such a statement, common or not, would have no value whatsoever before an arbitrator because, as the Vienna convention on the law of treaties stipulates, the contexts, the elements external to a treaty or international convention, cannot be taken into consideration in its interpretation if the text itself remains obscure and if the parties agree on the pertinence of these external elements.

Since the United States has clearly stated, the very day of the joint statement, that nothing in it changes the NAFTA treaty in any way, it is therefore legitimate to state that water is subject to consideration as a good within the meaning of the various international trade agreements.

In fact, from the moment that Canada exports this resource, it becomes a good under NAFTA and GATT. Even if not legally considered a product, it could be the object of proceedings under NAFTA chapter 11 on investments and services, and under national treatment. In addition, it is clear that, if the federal government issues export permits, water will henceforth be considered a commercial good within the meaning of these trade agreements.

However, should a province decide to issue a licence, this appears to be applicable only within its own jurisdiction, within one territory, according to the department, and I quote:

--the fact that certain projects have been approved does not in any way indicate that future bulk water removal projects must also be approved. Canada's federal and provincial governments retain full sovereignty over Canada's water.

Officials have indicated that:

Any precedent due to the approval of a water export project would be limited to the province concerned and linked to the legislation that allowed the water to be exported, not to trade agreements.

Despite these statements by the government, a reading of the trade agreements, NAFTA in particular, does not leave one convinced of this. We cannot know what the outcome might be of court proceedings entered into by private investors against Canada or a province if an export permit were issued to a foreign company. In addition, the IJC states that certain observers make reference to Canada's tariff listing to conclude that all waters must be considered a good and that this stance is incorrect.

It goes on to say that this list “merely indicates that, when water is classified as a good, it enters into a specific tariff category”. According to a number of observers, we do not know with any certainty whether water could be considered a good, and the BAPE itself could not settle this.

It would be safer to be sure of the situation before passing such a bill. For now, it appears completely inadequate and clearly threatens the jurisdiction of the provinces over their natural resources, in this case, water.

The federal government is clearly using opposition to water exports to justify, in the eyes of the public, its interference in the form of Bill C-6. However, this legislation appears inadequate, and the effect it would have on international trade is uncertain.

Furthermore, the important issue of groundwater, despite the fact that it was clearly raised in the IJC's preliminary and final reports, is not even mentioned. Yet this issue is directly linked to flow maintenance and to both the level and quality of the Great Lakes waters. The federal government is silent on this issue.

The Speaker has indicated that my time is running out as swiftly as the spring runoff. I will therefore wrap up quickly.

The government, through Bill C-6, contrary to what it says, is overstepping its constitutional jurisdiction with respect to boundary waters, is interfering in Quebec's jurisdiction with regards to potable water, and is, in reality, offering no satisfactory guarantees as to the impact of this bill on international trade agreements.

There is a fairly quick solution to the problem, since we know quite well that a sovereign country has complete control in negotiating its own treaties. If procedure will allow me, I would like to make a proposal. In order to sign its own treaties, Quebec must become sovereign if it wants to continue to have water that is good in terms of both quality and quantity.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / 10:10 a.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there has been consultation among parties, and again I want to thank hon. members for their co-operation. I think if you would seek it, you would find consent to the following. I move:

That the amendment to Bill C-6, standing in the name of the hon. member for Athabasca, be deemed withdrawn and that the House resume consideration of the main motion thereto.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

I will conclude for now, Madam Speaker. When the House sits next time, we will look again at the three elements I have just defined, namely, the catchment basin, the many powers granted the federal minister to determine exceptions and activities requiring permits and the usefulness of the bill under study.

In revealing these three well defined points, it will no doubt be clear that the Bloc Quebecois does not support Bill C-6. Water, as I said earlier, is vital.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

No, it is not important, it is relative. If one weighs 300 pounds, it is 92%; if one weighs 100 pounds, this should be about the same, unless the person is drying up.

In terms of the water that we use directly, that we drink, this would represent, according to analyses, less than 1% of the water required for domestic and hygienic uses. We see then that the water we use, whether in the industrial or the institutional sector, and for all the other domestic uses, including washing clothes and dishes, cooking, using the toilet, showering, bathing, there is less than 1% left for drinking. There are also exterior uses, that is, for watering the grass and the garden, washing the car and cleaning the yard. It is often in domestic uses that people are being asked to be careful about the amount of water they use.

So, it is always people who are being asked to make some efforts, but it is rarely industries, institutions, and probably even less people who would think about selling water. We know this could be quite a lucrative business.

For example, concerning water treatment, we get water for free. Of course, infrastructures have been built; 27 kilometres of pipes represent major infrastructures. There is no value to add at this stage, but there is a treatment cost of about 30 cents per cubic meter. So I figure that some people would be tempted to sell bulk water.

Still in my introduction, I would also just like to inform members of the House about a small example of an environmental disaster, of a troubling situation in the Aral Sea, and I quote:

The problem of the vanishing Aral Sea has become a serious ecological problem, a national catastrophe even. The origin of the problem dates back a very long time, but it has taken on a new dimension in recent decades.

The construction of irrigation systems throughout central Asia, and particularly the development of water supplies for major residential and industrial sites, has causes a terrible ecological catastrophe: the death of the Aral Sea.

Not long ago, governments were still boasting about the new irrigated lands recovered from the desert and the steppes, forgetting that the water used had come from the Aral Sea and its two sources. Today, the entire area around the Aral Sea has been affected by this ecological disaster. Between 1911 and 1962, the depth of the Aral Sea was 53.4 metres. The water volume was 1,064 cubic kilometres and the sea's surface 66,000 square kilometres. At that time, the sea played a central role for transportation, industry and fishing, and also regulated the climate.

Around 1994, the water depth dropped to the 32.5 metre level, from 53.4 to 32.5. Its volume was less than 400 cubic kilometres—as opposed to 1,064 it had dropped to 400—while the surface had been reduced to 32,500 square kilometres—a drop from 66,000 to 32,500.

This is a true ecological disaster. Judging by the great thirst some in North America have for the water of Quebec, the water of Canada, the water of the Great Lakes, there is a potential risk of ecological disaster here as well.

As we know—despite the rain outside at the present time—we tend to think of the water levels in lakes and rivers staying the same. This is absolutely wrong. The levels of the seas are rising, constantly, while the levels of lakes and rivers is dropping, and rapidly at that. This is not even taking into account all the analyses that could be done on water tables and the impacts of industry and agriculture, and particularly of high population densities in a given area, requiring heavy demands for water to be met.

There is runoff water. When a drop takes I do not know how long to reach a river after falling on earth, it is purified, contributes to the water table and goes down the river. It could take a fairly long time. Now, a drop falls on the sidewalk, on the ashphalt and reaches the river in a few minutes or hours.

This is a sort of introduction, to describe my involvement in matters involving water.

Let us move on now to setting the context of this whole issue of water and the treaties on boundary waters.

As I said earlier, water is a limited resource, despite what we might think. For example, the report prepared by the International Joint Commission in 1999 provided that:

Although the total volume in the lakes is vast, on average less than 1 percent of the waters of the Great Lakes is renewed annually by precipitation, surface water runoff, and inflow from groundwater sources. Under the circumstances, we must recognize that, while the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River system represents one fifth of the earth's fresh water, this resource is not unlimited.

Furthermore, in recent years, discoveries and research on the greenhouse effect and the potential risks of increased temperatures have made underscored the great fragility of the resource and the pressure it is under.

Because of climactic risks, increased desertification worldwide, limited supplies of drinking water around the world and energy development based on this resource, the idea of exporting large quantities of water on tanker ships or of diverting rivers has emerged as a serious option in the past ten years or so in Quebec and Canada.

So, to environmental threats to water supplies is added a new and significant threat of bulk water exports and large scale diversion of our lakes and rivers.

There is no doubt that bulk water exports offer significant economic possibilities. It is because of this potential that some provinces have examined the possibility of issuing to companies permits allowing them to consider bulk water exports.

In the early eighties, following a drought in California, British Columbia delivered such permits to five Canadian and one American companies. However, over the years, the province changed its position and, concerned about the possible impact of such trade on B.C.'s natural resources, it decided to prohibit bulk water exports through provincial legislation.

We know that the possibility of issuing similar permits was examined by other provinces. The case of Newfoundland recently made headlines. The province quickly gave up the idea, but the possibility remains. This, combined with the recent lawsuit by the California-based company Sun Belt Water against the government of British Columbia, raises concerns and brings back the issue of trade risks associated with exporting this resource.

In this context, the federal government has been promising to legislate for the past year. But what about the federal strategy so far?

The federal government announced in early 2000 that it intended to act more directly in the matter of water export and introduced a three pronged strategy. That strategy follows from a motion on water protection passed by the House of Commons on February 9, 1999.

There are three parts to the strategy: first, changes to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in order to give the federal government regulatory power over the bulk removal of boundary waters; second, a joint reference, with the United States and the IJC, to investigate the effects of consumption, diversion and removal of water, including for export purposes, in boundary waters; and third, 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, 1999, Canada and the United States appointed the IJC. After noting a growing number of proposals to export water from the Great Lakes and other areas of the United States and Canada, the two countries agreed to ask the commission to study the issue and make recommendations within the next year. A preliminary report was tabled on August 18, 1999 and the final report of the IJC was tabled on February 22, 2000.

In its preliminary report, the International Joint Commission recommended that during the next six months it would need to complete its study, the federal, provincial and state governments prohibit bulk removal or sale of water. It emphasized a number of points worth mentioning here.

First, it indicates that there is no surplus in the Great Lakes system and that bulk removal of water could reduce the system's resiliency, or resistance to stress.

Second, information on removal of underground water is definitely inadequate. There is a problem here, because underground water can have a major impact on the integrity and quality of ecosystems.

The report also points out that it is impossible to forecast the demand for water. Moreover, the possibility of climate change and, more recently, all sorts of natural factors make it impossible to evaluate with any degree of certainty the level and rate of flow of the Great Lakes over the next few years.

In its final report entitled “Protection of Waters of the Great Lakes” of February 2000, the IJC concluded that the Great Lakes needed to be protected, especially in view of cumulative uncertainties, pressures and repercussions of removals, of consumption and of demographic and economic growth, as well as of climate change.

The report includes the following conclusions: first, the water of the Great Lakes is a critical resource. On an average annual basis, less than 1% of the water in the Great Lakes system is renewed.

Second, if all interests in the basin are considered, there is never a surplus of water in the Great Lakes system; every drop of water has several potential uses.

Third, International trade law obligations, including the provisions of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, WTO agreements, and the GATT, do not prevent Canada and the United States from taking measures to protect their water resources and preserve the integrity of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem, to the extent that decision makers do not discriminate against individuals from other countries in implementing these measures. Canada and the United States cannot be forced by trade laws to jeopardize the waters of the Great Lakes' ecosystem.

Let us have a look at Bill C-6 and examine the context briefly. This bill is the direct result of the strategy the federal government made public in February 1999. It concerns its will to regulate the removal of water in boundary waters.

The federal government says that the intent of this bill is to facilitate the implementation of the boundary waters treaty, a treaty that also deals with other issues arising along the border between Canada and the United States. Thus, the amendments prohibit water removal and the transfer of boundary waters out of their watershed.

Also, under the proposed amendments, activities affecting the flow and the natural level of water on the American side of the border would depend on the delivery of a license by the foreign affairs department.

So the federal government suggests adding sections 10 through 26 to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

Sections 11 and 12 deal with the licences required when boundary waters are used, obstructed or diverted in a manner that affects the natural level or flow of the waters. These two sections specify that such licences do not apply in respect of the ordinary use of waters for domestic or sanitary purposes. The licensing allocation plan would not apply either to the traditional uses, like the removal for agricultural or industrial uses within the basin.

In the same way, no person could, except in accordance with a licence issued under section 16, construct or maintain any remedial or protective work or any dam or other obstruction in waters flowing from boundary waters, or in downstream waters of rivers flowing across the international boundary, the effect of which is or is likely to raise in any way the natural level of waters on the other side of the international boundary. This provision would not apply in respect of the exceptions specified in the regulations.

Section 13 prohibits any bulk removal of boundary waters from the water basins. The general provisions of this bill specify that sections 11 to 13 do not apply to projects undertaken before the coming into force of these sections, unless the effects are still perceived after their coming into force.

Clauses 16 through 20 set out the minister's powers and provide an overview of his ability to issue and revoke permits and to charge penalties.

Clause 20 states that the minister may, with the approval of the governor in council, enter into an agreement or arrangement with the government of one or more provinces respecting the activities referred to in sections 11 to 13, although not specifying what such an agreement would be.

Clause 21 addresses the regulations under the act which would guide the minister's decisions. Among other things, it states that the minister could, with the approval of the governor in council, make regulations defining water basins, specifying exceptions, and unlike the old Bill C-15, the government can identify exceptions from clause 13(1), which is the heart of the bill, prescribe classes of licences and determine persons eligible to hold such licences, and the form such applications and licences must take.

What are the issues involved in Bill C-6?

Although the entire population acknowledges that water resources need to be protected, it is far from obvious that Bill C-6 will actually protect them any better. In fact, one would be justified to wonder whether the Liberal government is not taking advantage of the panic situation about protecting our waters to grab powers that are outside its jurisdiction.

There are three major problems that must be raised in connection with the bill we are looking at today. The first relates to the definition of water basin. The second concerns the number of powers assigned to the federal minister in connection with exceptions and with licensing activities. The third relates to the pointlessness of the bill we are looking at.

Because of these three, Bill C-6 goes beyond federal areas of jurisdiction and encroaches on provincial jurisdictions, including those of Quebec, of course.

How much time do I have remaining, Madam Speaker?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I am particularly pleased to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

I will not be telling those listening anything new if I say that water, like air, is a vital and essential element which we should in no way compromise. Water is such an essential element that having too little is as bad as having too much. When there is none, things dry up, and when there is too much, things drown. A balance must therefore be maintained, both in quantity and in quality.

I would like to back up a bit and talk about when I was a municipal councillor in Sherbrooke for 12 years. During that time, I had the pleasure of chairing the CHARMES management corporation. This was a corporation that looked after the Saint-François and Magog rivers in Sherbrooke. I was therefore quite quickly introduced to the concept of a water basin involving a good many people. Everything that comes from upstream and everything we send downstream has repercussions everywhere. I quickly understood that we were responsible for the quality of the water that flowed past us downstream, just as we had rights with respect to the water that flowed to us from upstream.

I remember when I was about ten years old swimming in the Saint-François river under the supervision of the recreation committee and the water was of impeccable quality. When I began working with the CHARMES management corporation, we could not really swim in the Magog river. It was necessary to take specific action to improve the quality of that river's water.

For 12 years, therefore, the importance of water in terms of both quantity and quality was brought home to me. In Sherbrooke, I was also responsible for water and water treatment services. To all intents and purposes, the municipality of Sherbrooke supplied water to approximately 130,000 people—even though the city had only 78,000 inhabitants. The amount of water we drew from a reservoir, Lake Memphrémagog, 27 kilometres from Sherbrooke, was considerable: approximately 60,000 cubic metres daily, or 21.9 million cubic metres a year.

We know that this water is used by industry, by institutions and by municipalities, either for domestic or for sanitary services. When it comes to the importance of water, what is surprising is that life—we all know that the human body is almost 92% water—