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.


John Manley  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.

Natural ResourcesOral Question Period

May 9th, 2001 / 2:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, what Canadians want is a full public debate. Bill C-6, now before parliament, licences water exporters and its sister bill, Bill C-10, will establish where the water will be taken through cabinet order.

Why is the government not telling the people who live along the Great Lakes that it is setting the stage to allow the selling of their water in bulk?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2001 / 5:50 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 3:50 p.m.
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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I make honourable amends, even though I am not honourable. I was a minister but at other level of government. What the Minister of the Environment said was:

The International Joint Commission concluded that the Great Lakes require protection, given all of the present and future stresses and uncertainties.

He forgot to say that the main stress and uncertainty are related to the trade agreements. Who is negotiating the trade agreements, if it is not the same government?

He adds:

Recommendations for action were made to all levels of government in Canada and the U.S.

All the international joint commission's recommendations dealing with the measures to be taken regarding removal, consumptive use and conservation concern the provinces and northern states of the U.S., which, since 1985, are signatories to a non-binding charter that promotes co-ordination, under which provinces and states are obliged to carry out general consultations on issues stipulated in the charter, especially the issues addressed here.

The International Joint Commission set up under the treaty whose implementation act the government wants to amend makes recommendations to the provinces and the states. Let me quote some of these recommendations. First, on the issue of removals.

Without prejudice to the authority of the federal governments of the United States and Canada, the governments of the Great Lakes states and Ontario and Quebec should not permit any proposal for removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin to proceed unless the proponent can demonstrate that the removal would not endanger the integrity of the ecosystem of the Great Lakes Basin and—

This is followed by a series of conditions. It goes on:

States and provinces shall ensure that the quality of all water returned meets the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Recommendation II reads as follows:

Recommendation II. Major New or Increased Consumptive Uses

To avoid endangering the integrity of the ecosystem of the Great Lakes Basin, and without prejudice to the authority of the federal governments of the United States and Canada, the governments of the Great Lakes states and Ontario and Quebec should not permit any proposal for major new or increased consumptive use of water from the Great Lakes Basin to proceed unless—

This is also followed by a series of conditions. Recommendation III, under the heading “Conservation” reads “In order to avoid endangering the integrity” and so on.

Recommendation IV states:

Provinces and states should set standards—

Then follows a series of recommendations involving the federal governments:

—federal, state, and provincial governments should move quickly to remedy water use data deficiencies.

The Canadian and American federal governments are involved in research. The same thing applies to underground water. The federal government is involved.

Let me go back to existing institutions and mechanisms. What does the International Joint Commission, established by the boundary waters treaty between the United States and Canada, have to say? This is what it says:

To help ensure the effective, cooperative, and timely implementation programs for the sustainable use of the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin, governments should use and build on existing institutions to implement the recommendations of this report. In this regard, the governments of the states and the provinces should take action, with respect to the implementation of the Great Lakes Charter—

Let me go back to the statement by the Minister of the Environment. I will not make the mistake of naming him. His statement shed a different light on the recommendations. Nowhere does the International Joint Commission recommend that the federal governments change the dynamics of existing relations and enact legislation.

We cannot help but ask ourselves why the federal government is so keen on trying to pass legislation that is, and I repeat it because it is important, an amendment, not to the treaty—because this would be done between the two countries—that was signed by Great Britain and the United States in 1909 and implemented by an act but to the act.

Is it normal that an amendment to a treaty implementation act should change the conditions under which the treaty is implemented, but above all that it should increase the federal government's powers by trickery? One can understand that the government would go this way if what it wanted was to increase its powers.

Constitutionally, the powers—as read, for example, by the NAFTA commission for environmental co-operation with regard to the Canadian legal framework on the environment—are as follows:

In Canada, the implementation of an international treaty is usually effected by the initial ratification of that treaty by the federal government and the adoption, where necessary, of appropriate statutes as part of the internal law of the country—

In Canada, the Canadian Constitution is silent as to the power of any level of government to make treaties.

Section 132 of the Canadian Constitution refers only to the treaty-implementing power of Canada as a part of the British Empire.

Canada has since become an independent member of the international community and, as such, has the authority to enter into international agreements.

However, the federal government does not appear to have the authority to bind any of the provinces. Unless the courts were to hold otherwise in the future, nothing can force a province to perform, through legislation, the obligations set by a treaty signed by the federal government.

Therefore, the obligations given to the provinces by the treaty were implemented through the Great Lakes charter. I stress the fact that the federal government is using an excuse to extend its powers.

This approach is all the more intriguing, troublesome, because the Minister of Environment, in recalling that the international joint commission said, following its study, that the Great Lakes basin must be protected because there is only 1% of this enormous expanse of freshwater that is renewable—the rest is not renewable, being what was left behind after the glaciers melted—says that it is the greatest freshwater basin in the world.

He also said:

If the international joint commission considers caution is the watchword for the management of water in the Great Lakes basin, is it not equally so for the smaller bodies of water or ecosystems across Canada, wherever they are located?

He will deal with Newfoundland. He adds:

I would also like to take this opportunity to address the trade implications of Canada's policy approach. A number of persons and groups have called on the federal government to use an export ban.

He says the main problem is this:

—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.

He says Canadian governments when he should have said the provinces. He goes on:

Canada's views on this matter has been supported by a wide range of expert opinion. The international joint commission came to similar conclusions in its final report.

He also forgot to mention that the international joint commission believes it is likely that freshwater before removal will not be part of trade deals but that, given the rulings made by the WTO—and to put it more simply, given the fact that its regulations ensure that the Tower of Pisa keeps leaning the same way—there is no absolute guarantee that freshwater before removal will be excluded from future trade agreements.

We have before the House a bill that is supposed to protect our water resources from the threat of trade deals. Who negotiates trade agreements for Canada if it is not the same government that is refusing to let the provinces take part in the negotiating process? Is that government not a bit schizophrenic? It is using the potential consequences of any future trade deal to warn us that we need an act prohibiting bulk water exports, removals and diversions.

With the bill, the government is grabbing some new powers. Pursuant to the bill, the government will now have the authority to make regulations defining what a water basin is. It will be able to determine through regulation what river or affluent is part of the basin when it is clear, as my colleague pointed out earlier, that the treaty does not deal with this issue. With the bill, the government is going further than the treaty and is ensuring that it can act through regulations.

In reality, this seemingly technical bill boils down to the fact that the Canadian government, instead of relying on the process that has been in place since 1985 and that can respond quickly to the International Joint Commission's recommendations, wants to have its own infrastructure.

From now on, a federal licence will be required to build a dam on a river which is not necessarily part of the water basin but which would be defined as being part of it under the regulations. For example, if Quebec decides to build a dam, the federal government will have the authority to prevent it from doing so.

Members know that Quebec is the largest consumer of hydroelectricity. In environmental terms, this means that Canada's output of pollutants is lesser than if Canada did not include Quebec. Quebec has definitely chosen hydroelectricity over nuclear energy. Of course, it had mighty rivers to harness and it did it even though it had to correct a few things here and there.

In closing, I would like to read the BAPE conclusion, which is not about Bill C-6. This conclusion explains why we will strongly oppose Bill C-6 and why we will speak out against the illegitimacy of the bill.

It concludes:

As was mentioned over and over at the hearing—

This is the BAPE speaking.

—water is an element essential to life, an element for which there is no substitute. The policy's first priority should be the health of aquatic systems, a prerequisite for human health. Because it is associated with the rights to life, access to water in Quebec must be considered a right. Access to waterways and bodies of water in a manner yet to be undefined. Access to quality drinking water, and free and universal access for the needs inherent in human life. How rates are set must not interfere with this essential right to water of anyone living in Quebec.

The constant and driving search for quality is the common vision, the overriding focus and the ethical foundation for the management of water and aquatic environments.

This is what the joint commission is saying. The BAPE goes on:

This is why the principle of precaution must guide decisions which ultimately affect biodiversity and life on earth. The field of action is broad, and is founded on respect for common values. The management of river basins is a force of peace, security, development and harmony in its natural sphere of influence.

With 3% of the planet's freshwater reserves, Quebec holds in its hands a part of humanity's common heritage. It must manage this heritage responsibly. We hope that our report will make a useful contribution towards this goal.

As ecologist Pierre Dansereau said at the age of 89, “If we do not have optimistic plans, there is no hope. Dreamers and utopia are needed to pave the way for the future”.

For that, Quebec must be able to have a comprehensive water policy. We will not sit quietly by while the federal government attempts to erode our jurisdiction and impose a logic completely at odds with Quebec's objectives.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 3:50 p.m.
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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are vehemently and firmly opposed to Bill C-6.

Yet, we support the objective of preventing bulk removals or diversions, which would not be advisable. However, we say the bill will not achieve this objective. This is all the more serious because the federal government is taking advantage of an amendment to an international treaty implementation act to give itself more powers than those provided for in the treaty.

I will try to develop these last elements. The first one concerns water and its importance. The BAPE just reminded us in a great way by proposing an admirable policy for Quebec. The international joint commission, which was created under the boundary waters treaty, has produced a report containing recommendations, which both the environment minister and the foreign affairs minister said they drew on to propose the bill.

I will read an excerpt from Minister Anderson's speech concerning the bill—

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-6.

This bill to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act is only seven pages long and contains only 26 clauses. Yet it is a very important bill because the length of a bill is no indication of its significance.

Why is the bill so crucial for Quebec? For various reasons. First, it has to be recalled that in Quebec in the fall of 1997 a large symposium on water was held, bringing together several stakeholders, from the private sector as well as the community, institutional and municipal sectors, to develop a policy on water management not only at the international level but also within our borders.

At that symposium, the participants agreed to give the BAPE, the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement, a clear mandate. They came up with a fairly eloquent report which reflected their desire to have their own water policy within a reasonable timeframe. The report was published in May 2000 and included many recommendations.

Recommendation No. 4 essentially stated that:

The Quebec government should make the Water Resources Preservation Act, which bans bulk exports of groundwater and surface water, permanent legislation.

The Commission is of the opinion that bulk exports need to be forbidden by law and no chances taken, with the uncertainties of international trade agreements, such as NAFTA, WTO and the like.

I recall the BAPE recommendations because they establish the framework in which Quebecers wish this resource essential for Quebec be exploited.

On one side, well before May 2000, there was a symposium on water. On the other side, the BAPE report in May 2000, established the framework within which we wanted the Quebec government and the federal government to act.

Following the consensus reached by the BAPE, the government is now introducing a bill—the act is already in force in Quebec, it was passed on November 24, 1999—aimed at preserving water resources.

I mention this because that bill said very clearly that the transfer of Quebec ground and surface waters outside Quebec was prohibited. That bill was passed unanimously by the national asssembly in November 1999 and became law.

That new act said we did not want to see a natural resource such as water being transferred outside Quebec. It also said clearly that not only the Quebec government but also the national assembly—its institution—wanted to prohibit the export of water since the bill was passed unanimously.

If we look at the federal strategy, which has three elements, we see the government clearly wants a Canada-wide accord to prohibit bulkwater removal out of Canada's five major water basins.

We must remember that the provinces gave this agreement a rather chilly reception at the time. Why? Not because the provinces reacted on a whim but, quite the contrary, because there already was in some provinces, namely Alberta, British Columbia and even more in Quebec, a moratorium. Why? Because we had passed unanimously, on November 24, 1999, an act for the preservation of water, which is a natural resource. This is the reason why this bill got a chilly reception.

What was Quebec asking for? It was asking for two things, even before signing the agreement. First, we wished to wait for the report of the International Joint Commission on Canada's referral concerning water exports. Second, there is the water management policy issue, which is a current issue, since it is still being debated. I am deeply convinced that the government of Quebec will announce, in the months to come, a real water management policy.

We were asking that the joint commission be given the time to render a decision on the referral and that Quebec be given the time to develop a water management policy, table that policy and adopt it.

It has to be recognized that the bill does not take into account even one of Quebec's demands. Water management policy is not a trivial issue but a fundamental one since it inevitably interferes with Quebec's laws. With the bill, the federal government will not allow Quebec partners—not only the government, but also its partners—to establish this policy.

Another clear demand made by Quebec, and not only Quebec but also by BAPE partners, regarding the export of water was that the federal government take its responsibilities and have this issue excluded from trade agreements.

I recall the evidence and documents the group Au Secours gave to the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement. I also recall the evidence, documents and briefs the Centre du droit de l'environnement du Québec gave to that same agency. These people had only one wish, which is that the Quebec government would show leadership and call to task the federal government and the minister in charge of the negotiations to ensure that water export will not be included in international agreements.

In the aftermath of the summit of the Americas in Quebec city, we would have liked our government and the Minister for International Trade to show this kind of leadership.

The 35 states that took part in the negotiations met in Montreal two weeks before the summit of the Americas. The 35 environment ministers who met to discuss this issue did not indicate clearly the principles that should be included in the free trade area of the Americas agreement concerning this issue. The government should have taken its responsibilities.

Another important point is the whole concept of watershed. The bill does not give a definition. Regulations will take care of that. In Quebec, our great fear is that the federal government will once again use this new power to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

The environment ministers held a conference on Monday in Winnipeg. The federal minister and the ministers of all provinces and territories were present. The Quebec minister of the environment took that opportunity to express his concerns regarding the bill before us. It was not one of the main topics, but the environment ministers discussed it.

Again, the Quebec minister of the environment clearly stated that in his opinion Bill C-6 interfered with Quebec's jurisdiction over the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries and duplicated the Water Resources Preservation Act, which was passed unanimously by the Quebec national assembly on November 24, 1999.

The minister also indicated that the government of Quebec clearly responded to the wishes expressed by Quebecers. It has already banned bulk exports of groundwater and surface water from Quebec.

On Monday, the Quebec minister of the environment, who was at that meeting in Winnipeg, took that opportunity to reiterate the fact that through this bill the federal government clearly showed its will to interfere directly in areas under provincial jurisdiction.

Another aspect relates to section 13 in Bill C-6, which deals with water removal. It is rather clear that the provision prohibiting water removal could be interpreted as applying to waters other than boundary waters and to water basins within Quebec's territory.

We believe that such a disposition would go beyond the requirements of the 1909 treaty, to the point of encroaching upon Quebec's jurisdiction over water resource management within its territory.

I remind members that Minister Bégin wrote to the federal Minister of the Environment on November 29, 1999.

He indicated to his federal counterpart that he would never tolerate federal interference in these areas of jurisdiction through this bill.

The other aspect concerns the powers that the minister tries to give to himself through this bill, powers that we on our side of the House, at least we in the Bloc Quebecois, consider substantial.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the federal government both use Bill C-6 to blow their powers up like a big balloon. We will not accept that.

Need I recall that the minister is assuming all the powers. In the area of licensing, he assumes all the powers for the selection of the eligible projects.

I will remind the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Environment that, whether we pass Bill C-6 soon or not, the International Joint Commission already has these powers.

Even if we were not to adopt the bill, there is still a process or mechanism under the 1909 treaty and agreement providing that a country or a province cannot make a unilateral decision as far as the analysis is concerned.

The International Joint Commission is playing an important role. This bill will not change the mechanisms used by the International Joint Commission.

Section 14 deals with general provisions whereas sections 11 to 13 “are binding on Her Majesty in right of Canada or a province”, and the Canadian Constitution is clear on this. Section 109 of the Canadian constitution grants the provinces clear title.

Whether the government passes the bill in the House or expands its powers through the bill, it will not be able to override the constitution since section 109 grants the right of ownership to the provinces.

Sections 92.5, 92.13 and 92A of the constitution clearly grant the provinces broad powers in the areas of land use, land management and the development of natural resources. Moreover, jurisprudence has established that the term “lands”, as used in the bill and in section 92.5 of the constitution, extends to waters and mines. Section 92.5 of the constitution is clear: the term “lands” also covers waters and mines.

How can the minister, the government, have put before us today a bill which obviously encroaches on stated, recognized provincial jurisdictions?

In a letter dated November 29, 1999, the then Quebec environment minister, Paul Bégin, warned his federal counterpart, the Minister of the Environment, that Quebec would not accept this encroachment on its constitutional jurisdiction. In his January 18, 2000 reply, the minister was pretty clear when he said:

With regard to the prohibition clause, the use of the terms “water basin” in the proposed amendments in no way broadens the area of federal jurisdiction. The prohibition will apply to boundary waters.

That is what the Minister of the Environment of Canada said. That is what he wrote in a letter, and I quote:

...since they are defined in the International Boundary Waters Treaty, which prohibits bulk removal of boundary waters from the water basins in which they are located... it will not apply to the removal of other non-boundary waters inside the water basin over which the provinces have full responsibility.

Must I recall that, in spite of the minister's letters, all the documents from the federal Department of Foreign Affairs say exactly the opposite. It is hard to make any sense out of this. Between what the minister says, what his department believes and what for us is undeniable, which is that where there are projects the International Joint Commission is always involved. What we are asking is that the federal government recognize the consultation process put in place in Quebec following the symposium on water, through the Bureau d'audiences publiques en environnement, which made public its report in May 2000, and to respect the Quebec water preservation act.

This would ensure that the consensus reached in Quebec on the exportation of water is respected and that in future accords such as the FTAA, the government include the fundamental issue of water not being treated as a commodity.

Finally, we wish that the federal government would start respecting more generally Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. That is what we are asking today, that is what we will be asking tomorrow and that is the reason we oppose Bill C-6.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

May 3rd, 2001 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my opposition counterpart for this excellent question.

This afternoon we will continue with Bill C-6, the water export bill. If this business is finished earlier than the end of the day, which I understand it might be, I would then propose to call Bill C-15, the criminal code amendment. If that is the case, I would ask for the minister and the official opposition to speak. After that, I would adjourn the debate and we would not proceed further.

I want to take this opportunity to indicate that it had been my original intention to call this bill last Monday. However I was informed that the text I had and the text that was provided to other hon. members was not the same. I apologize for the differences that appeared in the texts. It is my intention to at least start Bill C-15 this afternoon. I will get back to the next time we will consider Bill C-15 in a moment.

Tomorrow there has been an all party agreement to consider Bill S-5, the legislation regarding the Blue Water Bridge, at all stages.

We would then deal with Bill S-2 respecting marine liability. That would probably be the end of the consideration of legislation for tomorrow. As a matter of fact I do not propose calling anything else given the progress today.

There has also been similar all party agreement to consider Bill S-4 regarding civil harmonization of civil law at all stages on Monday. We would do second reading stage and by unanimous consent the bill would go to committee of the whole and subsequently third reading all in the same day. This would be followed by Bill C-15, which we will start later this afternoon pursuant to the remarks I just made.

After question period on Monday, regardless of the progress, I would propose to call Bill S-17, the patent legislation. Tuesday shall be an opposition day.

Next Wednesday and Thursday we will be looking at cleaning up any leftover legislation that I have just described and also adding: Bill C-17, the innovation foundation bill; Bill S-11, the business corporation bill; Bill S-16, respecting money laundering; and Bill C-14, the shipping act amendments to the list of matters that may come up.

I will also be speaking to other House leaders about arranging early consideration, and hopefully we can do that now, about Bill C-7, the youth justice bill, given that the committee has now concluded its consideration of this bill.

This is the program I offer to the House for the upcoming week. I thank hon. members on all sides of the House for their usual co-operation.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
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Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the two minutes left before question period, which will be adequate for me to make my brief intervention, I would like to say that the bill before us has positive features and it has some negatives. I will briefly outline them for the House's consideration.

Beginning with the positive, this act dealing with transboundary waters offers an ecological approach. It deals with water as an important item that is dealt with as a basin. It is seen as an ecological asset wherever it is found and therefore it is dealt with in an approach that is new and, from an ecological and environmental point of view, I think, most desirable.

Having said that, I will say that the bill also has some shortcomings because it relies on the voluntary approach when it comes to non-boundary waters in preventing the export of bulk water. In other words, Bill C-6 is quite explicit. It says that the export of water in transboundary lakes and river systems and the like is not to be permitted, but when it comes to waters from Newfoundland to British Columbia that are not shared with our neighbours, it is left to the provinces to decide whether or not the export should take place. Therefore it covers only one aspect of our great ecological asset, namely, freshwater.

The legislation also leaves out bodies such as Lake Winnipeg, the island lakes from Newfoundland, and other lakes from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

The fact, therefore, that emerges from reading the bill is that while a good step is being undertaken in the bill in covering transboundary waters, it leaves out a substantial body of lakes and rivers that are not being shared with our neighbours to the south.

The bill also does not contain any reference to reciprocity on the part of the United States. It may be that this bill is not the appropriate place to have that kind of reference.

It may be that such an omission could be corrected by an appropriate amendment to the 1909 Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty in a manner that would bind the United States as well. I am not aware of initiatives south of the border that would be parallel to the one we are initiating in this parliament, and therefore I am raising this matter here this afternoon.

Moving on, the question of export of bulk water is one that has been of major concern to Canadians. We know that the vast majority of our population does not want to see Canadian water exported in bulk. Therefore maybe there is a solution to that problem by having the Government of Canada seek an interpretive statement under NAFTA whereby bulk water is to be defined as a non-tradable commodity.

Having obtained that interpretive statement, then we could use our constitutional powers given for international trade to the federal government and subsequently enact federal legislation banning export of bulk water, covering Canada as a whole and not having to rely on the vagaries of the voluntary agreements with the provinces, as we would by adopting this bill alone.

Finally, the approach I have just outlined of seeking an interpretive statement is not a new one. It has been followed already for health services, which are not subjected to trade agreements. It has been adopted in relation to education and it has been adopted in relation to certain natural resources.

What is desirable, then, in the near future would be an additional piece of legislation that would replace the voluntary accord proposed by Ottawa in the case of removal of bulk water. We need that kind of legislation that would make it illegal to export non-boundary bulk water because it is quite safe to predict that the voluntary approach would not work in the long term, as leadership in provincial governments changes from time to time.

In conclusion I would say that we need this type of legislation with a certain element of urgency, because in certain provinces there could be a threat very soon for the export of bulk water from non-boundary waters, which might be authorized by some provincial government, as we have learned from media reports emanating out of Newfoundland.

I will use the remaining minute just to refer to the fact that the government introduced in August 1998 a very good piece of legislation called Bill C-156. It was called the Canada water preservation act. It contained a number of legislative measures emanating from the Pearse water report, which was initiated in January 1984 and completed in 1985. It has been languishing since then, waiting for implementation. It is an important report that certainly deserves the attention of this parliament.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2001 / 4 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak as the official opposition critic for Canadian heritage on this bill, Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada, at second reading.

What we have before us today is the third attempt to pass this legislation. This bill was Bill C-48, then Bill C-8 in the last parliament, and now returns as Bill C-10 in this parliament. What does this tell us about the commitment of the government to this legislation? It tells us that the commitment is not very great and it is very evident why. Even after three tries this legislation remains seriously flawed.

First, let us not be fooled by the language that was originally used to introduce this legislation. I certainly would not disagree with a proposal that would require marine conservation areas to be established for the protection and conservation of “representative marine areas of Canadian significance” and would be “for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada and the world”.

However, upon closer inspection the bill does far more than the government is prepared to admit.

The first area of concern I wish to draw attention to is one involving the consultation process and where these 29 representative marine conservation areas are to be established. As with the first two bills, in this current bill the schedule is blank.

What is the government afraid of? The government is afraid that the same thing will happen as what occurred in the Bonavista and Notre Dame Bays area in Newfoundland, when political pressure from the local Liberal member, and I suspect from the current industry minister and former premier, stopped a marine conservation area from going forward.

I am not criticizing the former member for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception for representing his constituents and their well founded fears that unemployment and economic hardship would follow the good intentions of a federal bureaucrat over 2,000 kilometres away in a comfy office, drawing a salary of $100,000 a year.

What about those ridings that have upheld the democratic process and elected a member of the loyal opposition or, worse, have an elected or weak or too compliant member of the government?

We have real fears when we read the literature from the minister's department that talks about replacing the checks, balances and safeguards of parliament for, in the words of her department, the “simple, cost-effective procedure” of order in council to establish or enlarge marine conservation areas. Previous debates have pointed out this very serious flaw and yet here it is a third time and still this flaw remains.

I pay tribute to my colleague, the member for Dauphin—Swan River, for his input when this bill was Bill C-48. He very clearly pointed out the Henry VIII clauses in the bill. I encourage recently elected members of the House to read the hon. member's speech. Henry VIII believed in the divine right to rule and was always looking for ways to sidestep parliament and its ultimate authority as an elected body. It seems some things never change.

The current process, where the act has to be opened up and amended when a new national park is contemplated or changes to an existing park are considered, may not be as efficient as the government would like but it is consistent with our democratic heritage.

As the government is now beginning to realize, democracy can be messy. It is this style of legislation, the Bill C-10s, that will span more Quebec City types of demonstrations. As this government seeks new and creative ways to exclude people from the democratic process, unfortunately we will all pay the price with a fractured nation. Separatism feeds on these sorts of government dictates. If the minister were truly interested in freedom of speech, she would not be proposing government by order in council legislation.

The people of Canada have much to fear from the consultation process of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The process is so flawed that not only does it ignore the advice of the people, it will not follow the advice of its own studies. Nowhere is this more evident today than in the example of Parks Canada and its reaction to a health and safety issue regarding park wardens.

The minister should know that there have been three separate reports since 1993 that have identified unsafe working conditions for park wardens, particularly with the significant increase in fines for poaching in our national parks. Park wardens are being put at greater and greater risk in the performance of their duties.

It took a ruling from the HRDC labour program inspector to force the department to respond. Did the department and the minister do the right thing and accept the recommendations of three separate reports, recommendations, I might add, that are supported by the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Animal Alliance of Canada? No.

The minister chose to ignore the best advice given and is blundering forward with an ill conceived and costly measure that makes no sense at all. It is very clear that the minister has a very poor record when it comes to taking good advice.

The only reason we in the official opposition can see for the government to ignore its own advice would be because of some hidden agenda. The reported plan to replace park wardens with RCMP officers, with a detachment in every national park in Canada, is absolutely sinister. What better way for a federal government to enforce unpopular laws, laws that the provincial governments want no part of, than to do it with its own police force?

As the federal government enacts more unpopular laws on an unwilling rural population, how convenient that the federal police officers are there for the Liberal government to call upon.

This labour dispute that Parks Canada is having with its park wardens will impact upon this legislation in a very significant manner. Clauses 18 to 23 of Bill C-10, the enforcement section of the act, in the current labour dispute means the act would not be enforced. It is one thing to require RCMP officers on land to go after poachers. Has the minister, in her $37 million request to the treasury board for the money to replace park wardens with RCMP officers, also put in a request for boats?

This is beginning to sound like the gun registry boondoggle, where an $85 million cost has skyrocketed to $600 million and counting. The people of the city of Pembroke in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke are currently in the process of raising the money locally to buy a CAT scanner, thanks to the federal government's two tier health care policy. That $637 million would save a lot of lives in the community of Pembroke and a lot in other parts of rural Canada.

I and members of the official opposition are very concerned about the consultative process, based on the concerns expressed to our members over the bias of this government against rural Canadians.

While I understand that the letter from the Mayor of Kitimat was made available to the members on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage when this legislation was called Bill C-48, I would like to quote from his letter as I believe it to be a fair reflection of the thoughts and feelings of rural Canadians:

Sadly, urban Canadians and senior levels of government seldom grasp the values associated with rural life, whether it be fishing, farming or forestry. All too often, regulation and legislation occurs that impacts rural Canada and rural Canadians significantly, while having little or no impact on urban life and, therefore, is supported wholeheartedly by the non-rural vote. In the best case scenario governments end up conceding ignorance. At other times a blatant disregard for rural Canadians occurs and is only rectified once social or economic crisis occurs.

It continues:

As a misunderstood rural population, we often wish the same commitment and daily practice toward our environment would be evident in urban centres. Often it appears that those who push for environmental and conservation laws do not enact the same values with their own regions...We understand our rural and remote populations are small, however...we chose to live in rural locations. At best, it is our hope that Canada be governed based on assessed needs and values of all Canadians...Further, we hope that persistent inaccuracies and ignorance of rural and remote lifestyles can be overcome.

The letter is quite a bit longer. However, I hope the essence of what the mayor was trying to convey about the legislation is apparent. The majority of Canadians, especially those of us in rural Canada, do not trust the federal bureaucracy to represent our interests fairly.

Even when we get good people who as public servants are trying to do the best job possible, they are overruled by their political masters, as is the case with the park wardens. Too often our interests have been sacrificed to political expediency.

There are too many votes for the Liberals in the city of Toronto to require it to deal with its own garbage. It is so much easier to dump it in someone else's backyard, in this case the backyard of the people in the riding of Timiskaming—Cochrane, near the pretty town of Kirkland Lake. Better to lose one seat than to jeopardize that big urban vote, and this government wonders why rural people should fear Ottawa when cynical calculations such as this are made by a troika of political manipulators. Actions speak louder than words. Where was the Minister of the Environment? For a government that is constantly looking for ways to intrude into areas of provincial jurisdiction, it suddenly became remarkably silent on the issue of Toronto's garbage.

I am optimistic that maybe this time, the third time the legislation has come forward, the government might surprise Canadians and address some of these concerns. For this I look beyond the minister and her cabinet cohorts to her caucus colleagues, in particular those MPs who represent rural constituencies.

Those Ontario MPs whose ridings border the Great Lakes should be very concerned about how the legislation will adversely impact farmers, fishing enthusiasts, resort operators and other small business people who are the backbone of our nation. They should not be fooled by the soothing words of the minister and her bureaucrats when they tell them not to worry, be happy.

How about the farmer who sprays his or her crops with herbicide? Once the marine parks act is in place the regulators will move into the watersheds. The legislation will finish off those farmers who have not already been pushed out of business by foreign subsidies.

The people of Newfoundland got off lucky when the marine conservation area in their backyard was stopped. Will others be so lucky when the legislation is passed? It was lucky for them when they raised their objections that it was not yet law. Do rural constituents favour letting the bill drop the way it was the first two times?

It is ironic that the minister's own riding borders Lake Ontario. It has been pointed out previously that her own legislation could be used to shut down her constituents' largest employer. Cootes Paradise is certainly a unique waterfront, so unique in fact that several years ago the answer to the pollution in Hamilton harbour was to pave the bay. I am very surprised that the minister is proceeding with the legislation that has the real possibility of doing great harm to her constituents.

By the department of heritage's own admission there is already enough federal and provincial legislation in place to protect and conserve heritage resources. Federal-provincial agreements are in place for marine conservation areas in Ontario and British Columbia.

Currently federal legislation is in place for the Saguenay region of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. The federal legislation for St. Lawrence park was accompanied by complementary provincial legislation. Obviously the Quebec government saw the threat of federal intrusion and reacted accordingly. Why is there a need for the legislation other than the usual power grab by the Liberals?

It is no secret that the Liberal government is being pressured by NAFTA and the United States to allow bulk water sales. The trial balloon floated by the member for Toronto—Danforth before the summit of the Americas was no coincidence. Some Canadians are concerned that Bill C-10 is a Trojan horse for bulk water sales.

The legislation clearly impacts on provincial jurisdiction and would give the Liberal government the wedge it needs to start negotiations for bulk water export from the Great Lakes to the United States. These people are concerned that the government operates on the basis of multiple hidden agendas, except this agenda for water sales is being exposed for what it is.

What a coincidence that at the same time as Bill C-10 shows up on the parliamentary agenda a sister bill, Bill C-6, shows up. Surprise, surprise, it is all about licences for those people who want to engage in bulk water exports.

Perhaps it should be the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is identified as the sponsor of the bill. The legislation is a clear encroachment into an area of provincial jurisdiction. Once the bill is in place, the minister has arranged for any changes to be by order in council and thus avoid public debate in the House of Commons and in the media.

The province of Ontario is on record as opposing bulk water exports from the Great Lakes, and the federal government is currently unable to act without provincial agreement.

The legislation is conceived in such a way as to avoid that scrutiny. I challenge the federal government to accept amendments to the legislation that would expressly prohibit the bulk export of water from the Great Lakes and a clearer definition of sustainable use in national marine conservation areas.

The decision about whether Canada should or should not allow for the bulk export of water should be done in open and in public. The Toronto Star , as the in house organ of the Liberal Party, is opposed to bulk water sales. We know the government is deathly afraid of doing anything to disturb that Toronto vote and recriminations that would be heaped upon it by the Star in any debate regarding water.

The government is government by stealth. Unlike the Liberals we in the official opposition want open debate regarding any issue that impacts the public. Barring that and other changes we in the official opposition intend to propose, we are willing to tell the government to let the bill drop once again until, and only until, the concerns of all Canadians are met.

It is clear that the third time out the government is timid about Bill C-10 in public. I have had the privilege of meeting some parliamentarians on the government side who feel the same way the rest of us do who represent rural constituencies and must share the same fears I have expressed about this type of legislation.

The legislation, even if it were needed, is too flawed to go forth in its current form. We in the Canadian Alliance affirm the role of the federal government in the preservation of Canada's natural and historic heritage such as national parks.

We also affirm the right of Canada as a sovereign nation to govern itself in a way that benefits all its people. We do not recognize the inevitable loss of sovereignty every time the Prime Minister goes off and makes a commitment before an international body, in this case the IUCN World Conservation Congress in October 1996, without first consulting the people who will be most severely affected by such an agreement.

More important, we require the input of parliament before the people of Canada are put on the hook for something they may be very unwilling to support. The pretext for the legislation was that it was an international agreement. I do not believe the framers of that agreement at the UN intended the Government of Canada to use it in any other way to erode democracy in Canada.

This is not an issue for the Minister of Canadian Heritage. This is legislation, albeit in a greatly changed form, that more properly should be in the name of the Minister of the Environment. This point was made previously in debate on Bill C-48 and Bill C-8. The point needs to be emphasized here again: the issues before us and our international commitments concerning the environment should remain with that ministry.

On behalf of the Canadian Alliance I would like to be able to support legislation to create national marine conservation areas. However as the legislation is presented it is not justified in its current form.

I would now like to respond to those individuals who might be tempted to say that we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater because there are some worthwhile aspects of the bill that we surely can support. To those individuals I say there is nothing in the bill the government could not accomplish if it would just sit down and take the time to talk to the provinces, which in turn would require the federal government to talk to those communities that would be affected by the creation of a marine park. As proposed, the shortcut the bill is all about is not acceptable.

In conclusion, I call upon the minister to send the bill back to the drawing board. Maybe the fourth time out the government can get it right.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Absolutely, and I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. She will have 17 minutes left in her speech when debate resumes on Bill C-6.

It being 6.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10.00 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.30 p.m.)

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise to speak on the act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, Bill C-6. I welcome this opportunity because it gives me a chance to also address some of the concerns that have been raised and also perhaps address some myths that have been raised in the debate.

There is a very strong consensus in Canada that governments should act to ensure Canada's waters are protected from bulk water removal. Therefore, the issue before us then is not whether to protect the water but how best to accomplish that common goal.

In February of 1999 Canada announced a three part approach to prohibit the bulk removal of water out of all major Canadian drainage basins. The environmental approach would protect and regulate water in its natural state in the water basins and was comprehensive, environmentally sound, respectful of constitutional responsibilities and consistent with Canada's international trade obligations. Bill C-6 embodies all aspects of this approach.

Some people and groups advocated that the federal government should take unilateral action by bringing in an export ban on water. I would respectfully submit that such a trade based approach is wrong. It is unrealistic especially in a federal-provincial context. It would be ineffective, but worse it would actually undermine the goal we all share.

I will outline why Canada has pursued an environmental approach and why that approach is better than an export ban.

The International Joint Commission also known as IJC delivered a landmark report in February 2000 entitled “The Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes”. I will reflect briefly on the IJC's conclusions and recommendations. They are consistent with and supportive of the broad environmental approach adopted by Canada on the issue of bulk water removal.

The IJC concluded that water was a non-renewable resource. The vast volume of the Great Lakes was deceiving. Less than 1% of the water was renewed every year through the hydrological cycle. The other 99% was a gift of the glacial age. Furthermore, unlike a forest that could be replanted, taking water out of the water basin was like mining. When it was gone, it would never return.

The IJC report stated “If all the interest in the Great Lakes Basin were considered, there was never a surplus of water. Every drop of water had several potential uses”.

Forty million Canadians and Americans depend on the waters of the Great Lakes for every aspect of their lives: day to day living, industry, recreation, transportation and trade. On top of this, the ecosystem of the Great Lakes has its own equally important demands on the water. As we are dependent on the future health of the Great Lakes, the future health of the ecosystem is dependent on our action.

I see, Mr. Speaker, you are telling me that time is up. Perhaps when we continue the debate, I will be allowed to continue at that time?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on this very important subject. The aspect of the debate that peaks my interest is how fast the water issue has changed. For hundreds of years we have taken our water supply for granted. We have always just turned on the tap and had good, clean, clear water, although lately we are finding some of our water to be contaminated.

We have heard of Walkerton and the issues there. In my own riding there are two or three areas where, for the first time, water is contaminated and no longer drinkable. We are becoming greatly inconvenienced and facing real problems because of contaminated water.

A little community called Nappan in my area has water that is totally contaminated, perhaps by certain practices in the farming community. This will happen more and more.

The water issue is important and deserves far more attention than the government is giving it. As my colleague from St. John's West said in the last few minutes, we need to stop pussyfooting around and enact legislation with teeth. He is absolutely right.

This legislation is kind of interesting. It broaches the subject and starts to deal with it but does not go nearly far enough. In a very few years water will become the most priceless asset and important resource a country can have. We should be addressing the issue now that we know what is happening. We need legislation far stronger than the bill before us today.

The legislation is somewhat similar to Bill C-156 that the Conservative government tabled in 1988. However that was a different time and the bill was a prelude to other legislation. This legislation is final and we have an opportunity to do much more than we are doing with it.

I hope the government takes our comments seriously. We want better legislation that is more comprehensive and has teeth. We want the government to take a stand on all freshwater in Canada and not just border water supplies.

The hon. member for St. John's West recently raised the issue of the proposed exportation of Newfoundland water. He was told in the House of Commons by the minister that there was nothing to worry about because the government would deal with it in Bill C-6. Here is Bill C-6, and it does not even come close to addressing that important issue.

The last speaker mentioned rogue governments, which was rather interesting. I think he was referring to the Liberal government of Newfoundland which is proposing to export water. We have no protection against that. The government has no way to stop it, control it or deal with it. This could be the bill to do so but it is not. It deals only with boundary water systems and allows for the export of even those waters. It is not at all appropriate or what we need.

The government is sending mixed messages about its position on water exports, which is confusing. It says one thing in question period, another thing in the media and another thing provincially. Now it has this bill which dances around the issue but does not really address it.

The government is talking about setting up a committee next fall to study issues, such as the selling and exporting of freshwater. Why is that not part of the bill? Why are we not dealing with it now? Why are we passing a half-baked bill with no teeth, as the hon. member for St. John's West has said, that pussyfoots around the issue but does not really deal with it?

The bill will not even come close to dealing with the Newfoundland issue. After the Prime Minister's negotiations with the American president he suddenly changed his position. At one point he was adamant about water exports and then he shifted ground. He is now sending a message that we will change our position, and that is scary.

The government is sending another mixed message regarding the NDP's call for a moratorium on water exports. Everyone supported the motion, including all the Liberals. Where is the motion now in the bill? It is not there. It is completely invisible.

Then again, maybe we should be used to that because the government seems to always say one thing and do another. Need I mention the promises to cancel the GST, change the free trade deal and bring in an ethics commissioner answerable to parliament? Those things have never happened and no commitment on freshwater is being honoured here.

The PC Party has been very clear on this. We support the total prohibition of the selling of bulk freshwater. That is very clearly the way to go for the future, to guarantee protection for our water supply which we see changing very quickly.

I listened to a program on CBC Prince Edward Island the other day about how the province must revamp its agricultural processes. It must cut back on agricultural production and completely change the way it does business because of the poisoning of rivers and lakes. Obviously the agriculture industry does not want to be part of that.

Prince Edward Island has a serious problem. We also have problems in Ontario and Nova Scotia. Newfoundland is talking about selling water. This is going on and on. There is no excuse for not dealing with the issue now but we still do not know the real position of the federal government.

Apart from the prohibition we would like to see, the amendments in the bill allow for a licensing regime for boundary projects such as dams and obstructions. Here we are talking about a licensing regime for exceptions. We are talking about passing a bill but are already including exceptions that would contravene the rules, go around the system and ruin whatever strength and teeth the bill has.

Of all the countries in the world we are the most vulnerable, although we have the biggest supply of freshwater. We have 300 lakes and rivers that share boundaries with the United States. Dividing them up in the future will be extremely controversial, yet the bill does not deal with the issue.

As I mentioned earlier, Canada has 40% of the freshwater in the world and we should be protecting it. Eventually it will be the most priceless commodity and valuable asset any country can have. At present, one billion people do not have access to safe water. We have it now and should do everything we can to protect it.

As far back as 1984 the Progressive Conservative Party was concerned about the issue of exporting water. We formed a committee to study the issue and ensure the right steps were taken.

Unfortunately when the Liberal government came to power it dropped all interest in preserving freshwater. It made deals, such as the free trade agreement which, prior to being in power, it opposed vehemently. It was entirely against the free trade agreement and then all of a sudden switched positions, became in favour of it and supported the enhancement of the delivery of water, which is what we are talking about here today.

In the late eighties and early nineties, the Progressive Conservative Party repeated that Canada's water was not for sale and that it would not be affected under the free trade agreement. Now we hear talk about loosening it up, being a little more flexible, bringing it to committee and finding out what is appropriate and what is not.

We are saying that there should be no sale of bulk water. We do not need to bring it to committee to discuss it. The sale of bulk water is prohibited and it should stay that way.

Again I bring up the changing environment with which we are all dealing. We have all taken freshwater for granted for years and years and all of a sudden it is no longer applicable. We cannot take our water for granted anymore. We have to take steps to protect it or we will no longer have it.

Our world population is expected to grow to eight billion people by the year 2025. By then it is estimated that half of the world's population will not have access to clean water. I hope that the changes we make in parliament will not mean that Canada will be part of the population that does not have access to clean water.

One statistic recently estimated that water consumption would increase by 40% and that 17% more water would be needed to grow food for our growing population. Water could become our most valuable asset.

Section 21 of the bill details areas that the governor in council, basically cabinet, could regulate. This is scary because cabinet, this cabinet or the next one, could change regulations without bringing them to parliament or to the public for discussion or debate. Regulations affecting our water could be changed with no consultation with parliament. No regulations referring to exports of water should be made without full consultation with parliament, and the opportunity to debate it and hear from the public.

I hope the legislation opens up the freshwater debate in a way that would allow everyone in Canada to speak. If Canadians are given that opportunity, the vast majority would say that we should not export our water. A few people who want to make big profits and take advantage of an opportunity would say that we should export water but I believe the vast majority of Canadians would oppose any move to make our water available to others.

I hope the government eventually states its position on the sale of Canada's freshwater and that it clarifies it in all respects. I hope the Liberal position supports the Progressive Conservative position that Canada's freshwater is simply not for sale.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2001 / 5:35 p.m.
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Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems that information needs to be shared with other members of the House. When I watched some of the early debate on this bill, I was taken a bit by surprise in that the debate by the government was led off by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, followed by the Minister of the Environment. I was taken aback because in my review of the proposed bill the debate should have been led off by the Minister for International Trade, because the bill is not about the preservation of our water system in Canada and the protection of the export of our freshwater resources but just the opposite.

It is supposed to be about protecting the ecosystem that our freshwater feeds into. It should be about protecting our freshwater from the travails we will have with it as climate warming moves ahead. It certainly should be about having available to all Canadians a safe freshwater system. That is not what it is about.

I would like to go back in history for a minute or two and draw to the attention of the House the resolution that was passed on February 9, 1999. That was a resolution introduced to the House by the NDP member for Winnipeg—Transcona. It was a motion that received support from all members of the House, including members of the Liberal government, and ultimately it passed unanimously. I will read the motion to the House. It 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 interbasin transfers and should introduce legislation to prohibit bulk freshwater exports and interbasin 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 resolution passed unanimously. I would like to make an additional note about that motion because an important part of it was an amendment which included the phrase I have already read:

—and should not be a party to any international agreement that compels us to export freshwater against our will—

That motion recognized, first of all, the need to pass legislation that would ensure bulk water could not be exported from any source in Canada. Second, it specifically and explicitly recognized that water needed to be exempted from any future trade deals because there is of course a serious issue under the existing trade deals as to whether we have that protection.

It is interesting to note that no one spoke against the motion. No one voted against it, as I already indicated. It passed unanimously. No one stood up and said he or she believed we were wrong and that we should export water. No one said that. No one said our freshwater supply should be included in the next trade deal. None of that was said at that time. Everyone was unanimously of the opinion that we needed to take action on the issue. I think it was obvious to every member of the House at that time that action would be forthcoming from the government and that our freshwater would be protected.

Here we are a little over two years later. What is the situation we are confronted with today? We are debating a bill that any objective observer would say does not realistically address the issue of exporting bulk water. It just does not do it. In fact, it opens the door to the export of water by providing for the licensing in certain circumstances, the licensing that would eventually lead to the export of bulk water.

We are also faced two years down the road, under the FTAA, with another trade deal. Of course we still have not seen the text of the deal. We do not really know what it contains and the government has been less than clear as to what its position is on the trade deal. We do know that the government has refused to make an absolute or unequivocal commitment that the FTAA will prohibit the export of bulk water. It has been adamant about refusing to make that commitment.

I found it interesting last week when the Minister of Foreign Affairs was speaking on the bill. I would like to quote him. He said:

All Canadians recognize that water is a natural resource unlike any other.

We have heard that from other members of the government. It makes sense and we all agree with that. I think all Canadians agree with that. The problem I have when I look at the bill is that the government is in fact not committed to that principle. It in fact does not recognize that water is a natural resource unto itself, unlike any other.

In his remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs went on to say this:

Canadians look to all levels of government to take action now to protect Canada's water. We must ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a Canada in which our freshwater resources are secure.

Again I ask: does he really understand what he is saying? Why will the government not give us that commitment, which was certainly contained in the motion passed over two years ago that was brought forward by my colleague from the NDP? It did not at that time place an immediate moratorium on the export of bulk freshwater and the legislation that has now been introduced in the form of Bill C-6 does not in fact prohibit bulk freshwater exports.

Let me draw the House's attention to proposed section 11 of the bill on licensing. To be fair, there is a separate provision which talks about prohibiting the export of water, never using the term of course. The government knows that if it uses that term it may invoke the trade deals. Again that is something it will not admit in public.

The first part of proposed section 11 states “except in accordance with a licence”. A licence in fact would permit this. The proposed section continues, and this is the important part “no person shall use obstruct or divert boundary waters”.

In reverse that says, and I guess I am wearing my lawyer's hat for a minute, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is responsible for this, and that it is interesting too that it is not the Minister of the Environment, could issue a licence that would allow “for the use, either temporarily or permanently” of boundary waters. It is permitted.

The history up to this point of this legislation and the treaty it flows into with the United States, is that nobody has done this. Canada and the United States have not done it. What we hear is the implicit understanding that we will not do it.

Given the more recent history in the last decade with the free trade agreement, NAFTA and now the proposed FTAA, it is obvious that we are very concerned that the water would be treated as a commodity and would be exposed under chapter 11 of the NAFTA.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that if we pass the bill, it becomes law and is incorporated into the treaty then all problems would be solved. Anybody reading the proposed section 11 would say that that is not what the bill does. It does just the opposite. It allows some subsequent minister of foreign affairs to licence the export of bulk water.

The other point about the bill is that it is primarily designed to deal with the water in the Great Lakes Basin and the St. Lawrence. It deals with boundary waters across the whole of the country. What it clearly does not do though is prohibit the export of water. It does not deal with the proposal we heard floated from the province of Newfoundland and the export of bulk freshwater from Gisborne Lake. That proposal has not been dealt with at all.

We fall back as we so often do and say that that is the provincial responsibility. That is not good enough for Canadians. If we have what is called a Monroe government, which is prepared to expose the rest of Canada to chapter 11 under NAFTA by going along with the bulk export water scheme, we as a Canadian government have to tell it that it cannot do that, that water is a natural resource which is also a national resource. We have a responsibility to protect all Canadians.

If Gisborne Lake or some other type of hare-brained scheme like that was to go ahead, there would be no protection for the export of bulk water any place in Canada, none whatsoever.

We have a number of legal opinions in the country that accept the proposition I just made as the reality under the NAFTA. If Gisborne Lake or some other scheme like that goes ahead, water becomes a commodity in the whole of the country. We then lose our ability to protect that freshwater resource.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in his address to the House last week made this comment:

To pretend that one government can solve the issue with a wave of a legislative wand, or that the issue may be simply reduced to one aspect, such as `water export', in the words of some critics, is unrealistic, ineffective and undermines the goal we have.

That is the government's attitude. Obviously what it is trying to do is pass the buck and say that it is not its fault, that it is what the provinces did or did not do and that it did nothing about it.

Reality is that two years ago the government should have implemented a moratorium on the export of bulk water. It should have introduced meaningful legislation to the House that would have prohibited absolutely and unequivocally the bulk export of freshwater right across the country. It would have made a clear and unequivocal commitment that the FTAA would not include any provision that would expose our water to a claim under that treaty, if we ever did do it.

The government could have taken a leadership role but it did not. It needed to follow both the wording and the spirit of the motion that was passed two years ago in the House. What did we hear from the Minister of Foreign Affairs? He said that kind of export ban would undermine the goals we had. One has to question what the government goals are with regard to freshwater and the bulk export of it?

It was interesting to note in the minister's closing comments last week on Bill C-6 when he said that the bill was “consistent with Canada's international trade obligations”. That is so meaningful. Like just about everything else the government does, it is driven by those obligations, not driven by what is in the best interests of the country or its citizens but by these trade deals that the government has entered into.

Would it not have made more sense to have had the Minister for International Trade front this bill because that is really what it is about?

The Minister of the Environment when he spoke to the bill made this comment “the safest and most effective way of protecting Canada's water resources is through an environmental approach, through an approach based on trade”. I agree with that statement. That is the way the government should be conducting its business but it is not in fact the reality.

We still do not have the commitment that the FTAA will not compel us to bulk export. If water is not on the table under the FTAA, then we should be given a commitment. The government is not prepared to give a commitment.

The Minister of the Environment went on to quote from the international joint commission's final report on the issue of water in the Great Lakes Basin, specifically and more generally in transboundary water, which said “that international trade law does not prevent Canada and the United States from taking measures to protect their water resources”.

The Minister of the Environment is conceding that we in fact cannot pass legislation that protects our water resources. Again the question is obvious. Why do we not do that? Simple legislation is required to ban the export of bulk fresh water.

I would like to finish off by talking about the legal position we are in vis-à-vis the trade deals. I will quote from a legal opinion that was commissioned by the Council of Canadians in 1999 referring to the trade conflicts involving export controls on water.

The opinion stated:

—the potential for such conflicts should not delay action by the federal government to ban water exports. Indeed for the reasons noted, delay in doing so is likely to further limit Canada's options.

That was two years ago and we still do not have it.

I was going to quote again from the concern expressed in that legal opinion about the things that have happened under NAFTA and some of the WTO cases, but I see I am almost out of time.

We had promises from the government in the cultural area and in research and development programs that were not covered under NAFTA. In fact we found to our chagrin just the opposite. That is the position we are in today.

The bill is not going to resolve that problem. It does not go far enough. It does not deal with it adequately. It allows for licensing and does not deal with the export of water elsewhere in Canada.

Our position on this legislation will be to oppose it and to continue to press the government for more realistic and adequate legislation that will protect the interests of Canada.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.
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Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, first I will say that the Bloc Quebecois will not support Bill C-6 as introduced, not because we are opposed to the basic principle of the bill, which is to prohibit bulk water exports to other countries as well as bulk water transfers within the country, but for a very simple reason.

Natural resource management is the provinces' responsibility. Each province is responsible for managing its own water resources, which belong to its residents.

We can talk about a lot of things with regard to Bill C-6. For example, we can talk about groundwater. We already know that the drawing of water by certain companies in some regions of Canada creates problems for agriculture with soils and wells, as well as problems for residents of the area where underground water is being drawn.

In fact, we had problems in some regions in Quebec. People complained and some companies had to stop drawing water in certain areas.

The other major element for us in Quebec is that when we are talking about boundary waters we are obviously talking about the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. The St. Lawrence River flows across Quebec and its importance is well known. For the past several years, especially in certain areas such as Lake Champlain and the lakes around the St. Lawrence, water levels have dropped so dramatically that shipping may be at risk. Therefore it is extremely important for us to be able to conserve and manage as we see fit this resource which belongs to us.

There is another issue. When we talk about bulk water exports we should remember that it might involve not small quantities, but huge quantities of water. Currently there is no treaty to really protect us against bulk water exports.

A few years ago, in view of the problems that were occurring especially in the southern United States, there was already talk here in Canada about the possibility of exporting water in bulk through a pipeline carrying water from the north, namely Canada, to the United States.

This is a major point and I am not sure that as a country we would be better protected by Bill C-6. I am not sure that in the future Bill C-6 will make it impossible to export bulk water.

The vision this government should have for the future in agreement with the provinces and while staying out of their areas of jurisdiction should be to legislate a true ban supported by international treaties, which would provide us with a real protection.

The pressure to export water will increase in the future. The pressure will increase in view of the water shortage in some countries, especially the United States, our southern neighbours.

Currently the danger if water is misused or if we try to export it is that it will result in the desertification of certain areas and harm crops and agriculture in a big way. As we know, some western provinces are already experiencing problems with soil erosion and desertification.

Barely 15 or 20 years ago a Senate committee published a report on this. It dealt with desertification of soils in the western provinces, particularly due to a lack of water, a lack of rain and climate change.

Another very important element that has an impact on the quantity and quality of our water resources is the gradual disappearance of our forests. They play a role in terms of water retention, cleaning the rain so to speak, and they are essential to the health of our lakes and rivers.

There are also the dangers of shipping. In Canada we do not have any real protection with regard to shipping, including on the St. Lawrence River, and we should not pretend that we do. We could be the victims of a major disaster considering the number of ships that go up the St. Lawrence River every day and the type of products some of them carry. Once they have reached the Great Lakes these products are then delivered to major industrial centres in the United States such as Detroit and Chicago.

I would remind the House that Quebec has always been a leader in the area of water treatment. I remember that in 1978, Marcel Léger, then minister of the environment, proposed to the government of Quebec a water cleanup program in which the government invested some $12 billion over the years. We were very much ahead of our time; we were visionaries so to speak.

In the early 1980s, when I was mayor of my home town and we were looking at cleaning up our waters, we figured that it would cost us about $2.8 million. People thought we were crazy because we wanted to clean up our waters, protect our drinking water and clean the water before we would send it back into nature.

At the time we were concerned about the pollution of our municipal sources of drinking water and even private sources of drinking water in some areas. It was a serious problem and still is, as we have seen recently.

Our drinking water supply is still in danger. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that municipalities can provide quality drinking water to all Quebecers and Canadians. Consumer confidence is not what it used to be. That is quite obvious.

Also the bottled water industry is expanding and people no longer trust their own drinking water supply systems. They would rather drink bottled water.

This is an expanding market that some businesses would like to take over. We are talking about bottled water and not bulk water removal, but still bottled water export could set a precedent that would eventually open the door to bulk water exports.

When bulk water exports are involved consideration must also be given to the effects on our ecosystems, the economy and people's lives. Water, we will all agree, is vital to life and essential for humans, for all ecosystems, for animals, for nature and for our environment. It is an essential element. It is a resource that belongs to the community, and the community therefore needs assurance that we are protecting it.

It is absolutely vital that bulk water exports be banned, as the bill states. However agreement would first have to be reached on the principle of the bill, and we in the Bloc Quebecois are not in agreement with it. 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 onto provincial areas of jurisdiction while not providing any additional protection against major water exports.

We have just experienced the Quebec city summit where negotiations were hidden, closed to the public, and civil society was denied access. This same type of negotiation could very easily take place in future on water exports, given the future needs that are going to develop, particularly with our neighbours to the south who as we know are far bigger and far stronger economically.

I have already mentioned the risks to navigation. This is very important to me. The federal government ought to address this matter since it is its responsibility, particularly in the St. Lawrence.

As I said, we are not disaster-proof. It is entirely possible that one day or other in the St. Lawrence catastrophes will occur such as we have seen in Europe, especially in northern Spain and northern Europe.

It would really be a major catastrophe and could affect an entire population, nearly 7 million people in Quebec, living in large part on the shores of the St. Lawrence.

Water represents an inestimable resource for humans. It is commonplace, as I said earlier, to want to protect its export. We have to remember that water has great potential in export terms and the demand will increase. It is vital to prevent its export.

The federal government announced in early 2000 that it intended to intervene more directly in the matter of water export and introduced a three pronged strategy.

This strategy follows from a motion passed in the House of Commons on water protection, which was introduced on February 9, 1999.

There are three parts to the strategy: changes to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in order to give the federal government regulatory powers over bulk removal of boundary waters; a joint 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; and 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 International Joint Commission. 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. An interim report was presented on August 18, 1999, and the commission presented its final report on February 22, 2000.

In it's interim report the International Joint Commission recommended that during the six months it would need to complete its study 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 was inadequate.

This point causes problems because, as I said earlier, 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 what the demand will be for water in the future. 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.

In its final report, released in February 2000 and entitled “Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes”, the commission concluded that we must protect the Great Lakes, particularly in light of the cumulative uncertainties, pressures and repercussions from water removal and use, demographic and economic growth, and climate change.

The report includes the following conclusions:

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 renewable, which says a lot.

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, 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 note, however, as I mentioned earlier, that no such agreement may override international treaties. It will therefore be possible to challenge such a measure, i.e. the one we have before us, under the treaties which have been signed, and these obviously include the FTAA, NAFTA and so forth. These are overriding treaties with respect to this sort of measure to protect drinking water.

In its final report the BAPE sums up its conclusions as follows. The overall diagnosis is relatively clear. The current approach to water and aquatic ecosystem management is sector based, poorly integrated and not concerned enough with protecting the resource.

The shift must be made to integrated management practices that are more harmonized at the government level, balanced protection and enhancement objectives, and be purposely implemented at the river basin level. Furthermore, action can and must be taken now along the lines of the coming policy.

The BAPE's recommendations indicate that the Quebec government should approve the proposed policies for protecting and conserving groundwater and pass the related regulations, provided that projects involving the removal of more than 75 cubic metres of groundwater a day are subject to the environmental impact assessment and review procedure.

Recommendation No. 4 explains in particular that the Quebec government should make the Water Resources Preservation Act, which bans bulk exports of groundwater and surface water, permanent legislation. The commission is of the opinion that bulk exports need to be forbidden by law and no chances taken, with the uncertainties of international trade agreements such as NAFTA, WTO and the like.

In chapter 1.1 of the BAPE report reference is made to the federal government's position that NAFTA does not apply to water and bulk exports, which is being strongly disputed by a number of environmental groups, as the commission points out in its report.

BAPE also explains its position because, before bowing to such a request which at first blush is certainly appealing, it feels it would be best to examine NAFTA as a whole to determine what Canada has to gain and what it has to lose by renegotiating it. This goes beyond the mandate of the present commission.

In short, what BAPE wants us to understand is that it is very risky at this time to undertake a procedure such as the one the federal government is embarking on, given the fact that international agreements may take precedence over a bill such as this one.

In conclusion, as I have already said, the Bloc Quebecois will not be in favour of Bill C-6 for a number of reasons, including one major one: the bill encroaches on provincial areas of jurisdiction.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to speak to Bill C-6, an act to amend the 80 year old International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

When the Minister of the Environment spoke on the bill this afternoon he came out very strongly and proudly, with his thumbs pounding, stating that his government has acted decisively to address the concerns of Canadians in reference to the export of water. He proudly said that the bill would stop the export of water and fulfill the commitment made to Canadians about the export of water. He went on to say that his government was putting a tremendous amount of priority on the bill.

I was a little surprised. I would like explain to those who are listening to my speech today what the bill amounts to and what the Liberal government has not done for our water. It is still hanging out in limbo because of the inability of the government to address the issue seriously.

The government said that it put a priority on the bill. I spoke to the bill in the 36th parliament. It was the last bill that was presented to parliament. I made a speech and thereafter the bill was off the table because the government had another agenda. It did not care about that agenda. It wanted to get re-elected.

Today, because the government has no vision for the next three or four years and needs to do some housekeeping, it brings back this bill because there is nothing else on its agenda. Now it is saying that it is committed to stopping the export of water and that it is committed to this bill. What a contradictory statement and action that has taken place.

Bill C-15, as the water bill was called in the 36th parliament, came up for debate during one of the final days leading up to the election, as I mentioned. The bill was debated only for one day and then disappeared. I think that shows the importance the government places on protecting Canada's waters.

As we know, water is an issue that touches the lives of all Canadians as it is part of our Canadian heritage. Canadians are very concerned by the thought of losing control of our freshwater resources. It is a legitimate concern because a thirsty world will sooner or later turn its attention to our lost freshwater resources.

In fact, water export was never supposed to be an issue in Canada. A number of federal politicians in the early 1990s claimed that Canada had a sovereign right to manage its own water and that water would never be challenged under any international agreement. Unfortunately, this has proven to be false and the water issue is back on the table.

The Liberal government is on the record as saying that NAFTA should be amended to prohibit bulk water exports. Had the Liberals kept their promise, Canadians would not have to worry about the issue of bulk water export and we would certainly not be discussing this matter today.

Regardless of its promise, this government signed the NAFTA deal without a side agreement on water. Raw logs and unprocessed fish were exempted from NAFTA but the best arrangement Canada could get on water was the following side deal signed on December 2, 1993, by Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico. It states:

The NAFTA creates no rights to the natural water resources of any party of the agreement.

Ultimately, this side deal is of little legal value because unless water in any form has entered into commerce and become a good or product it is not covered by the provisions of any trade agreement, including NAFTA.

Nothing in NAFTA obliges any NAFTA party to either exploit its water for commercial use or to begin exporting water in any form. Water in its natural state in lakes, reservoirs, water basins and the like is not a good or a product. It is not traded and therefore is not and never has been subject to the terms of any trade agreement.

This side agreement worked as long as Canada never allowed water to enter into commerce and become a good or a product. Let me repeat that: this side agreement worked as long as Canada never allowed water to enter into commerce and become a good or a product.

However, with the exception of international boundary waters, the vast majority of water in its natural state is owned and managed by the province. It is a provincial responsibility to manage the resource carefully, just as a province manages its forests and its oil and gas. If one of the provinces enters the business of tendering contracts to export bulk water, it must, according to chapter 11 of NAFTA, treat Canadian, American and Mexican companies in a similar fashion.

National treatment provisions give the right to all corporations of our NAFTA partners to help themselves to our water the moment any Canadian company is given an export permit. If any Canadian company is given an export permit by a province, because it is a provincial resource, then it falls under NAFTA where we have to treat the Americans and the Mexicans in the same manner. Now that we are going into FTAA agreements which will be coming up in the next five years, I hope that the government will have water exempted. Otherwise we will be facing the same difficulties.

In fact water is not exempt from NAFTA, as I said. Once water starts being shipped, either the government is powerless to stop it or, if it does, the government would have to compensate for the lost income under the investor state provisions.

The government did not have the foresight to think that some provinces might one day look into the possibility of licensing the export of water, but recent examples show us the opposite.

First, the province of Newfoundland granted an export permit to McCurdy Enterprises Ltd. to export water from Gisborne Lake. Second, in Ontario the Nova Group received a licence to extract water from Lake Superior. Finally, in British Columbia, Sun Belt, a Californian company that wanted to export water from B.C., is now demanding up to $10.5 billion in damages from the federal and B.C. governments alleging that its rights under NAFTA have been violated. Sun Belt is demanding restoration of a water export licence that the B.C. government cancelled in 1991 as well as compensation for lost business opportunities.

Although the provinces eventually pulled out of these proposals, they renewed the fears about water export and the impact of our trade agreements.

The government, having failed to protect Canadian sovereignty over water during the NAFTA negotiations, is now proposing a backup solution. Bill C-6 proposes to prohibit bulk water removal out of the boundary waters between Canada and the U.S.A., which covers only 15% of Canada's water resources. The provinces manage the remaining 85%.

That is what I meant when I said I do not understand the Minister of the Environment when he talks about stopping bulk water export. His bill would cover only 15% of Canada's water resources. That is fine. I hope he will tell Canadians that it would cover only 15%. The government should not say that the bill would address the issue about water resources.

Clearly, 85% of the water resource is held by the provinces. They control it. It is their natural resource. It is not controlled by the federal government. If any province so desires to sell water from its basins, from its lakes, then suddenly we have a federal government that is powerless. It can run to the provinces but the provinces can tell the federal government no. They can say they want to sell it.

Canadians have a right. It is theirs. Canadians demand that right. However, the government failed to remove water from NAFTA as it had promised in the election platform, because it failed to renegotiate NAFTA and get water out of NAFTA and have it exempted. It was the right only of Canadians to say yes if they wanted to export water. Now we have this jurisdictional problem with the federal government practically unable to have any teeth to stop bulk water export for 85% of our water supply.

The government is trying to have a Canada wide accord to prohibit bulk water removal. It has recognized this problem so it is trying to get a Canada wide accord to prohibit the removal of bulk water. The problem is, as I have just mentioned, that five provinces have refused to endorse the accord, leaving the country's water vulnerable to exportation.

The federal strategy was designed in the belief that all provinces would agree on a national ban. It is quite obvious, after the two day debate in Kananaskis in Alberta in November 1999, that the government has failed to achieve this goal. The parties could not come to an agreement.

It is very important to note that the bill deliberately avoids the term export. With good reason, the Liberals fear that the term export will imply that water is a commercial good. What the absence of the term export really means is that water was in fact part of the negotiations during the NAFTA talks and nothing was done. That is one thing the government should admit.

As it stands now we can say yes or no, but we have lost the right for only Canadians to say yes. What I mean by that is what I just emphasized, that is, under NAFTA if water is exported because it is not exempted that gives the opportunity to allow opening up the doors to American and Mexican companies to come and export our water. This is the real fear.

Canadians have lost the right to say yes to this precious resource. Whether they want to export or do not want to export, this should be a right that should remain with Canadians. They can decide whether they wish to export water. They can decide whether they want or do not want to export water as a natural resource, or whether under certain conditions they want to or do not want to.

There are many options we can use. Some small communities may want to do it as part of an economic reason and we can do so if it does not damage the environment. However, this right should be the right of Canadians. We have lost that right because the government failed in its election promise to remove water from NAFTA.

In 1993 while the government was busy signing away our sovereignty over water, the Canadian Alliance made a specific statement on the protection of our freshwater. The Canadian Alliance stated that exclusive and unrestricted control of water in all its forms should be maintained by and for Canadians.

Canada possess about 9% of the world's renewable resources and 20% of the world's total freshwater resources. This includes water captured in glaciers and polar ice caps. Protection of our sovereignty over this valuable resource is critical to Canadians and to our national identity.

The Canadian Alliance believes that Canadians should retain control over our water resources and supports exempting water from our international agreements, including NAFTA. An outright ban on water exports could run contrary to our NAFTA commitment because water was not exempt from that agreement. Therefore, a side agreement would have to be negotiated which would exempt water from NAFTA before a ban on water exports could even be considered.

Until an exemption is achieved, we encourage the provinces to place a moratorium on commercial water licensing so that water in bulk form never becomes a good governed by NAFTA rules. Once an exemption from NAFTA is in place, the decision to export water in bulk should rest with the provinces who own the resources. That means once the decision is given to the provinces, which are elected governments, it is up to Canadians to decide what to do with water. They can decide.

I would like to emphasize again that we are heading into an FTAA agreement. The Quebec summit chose that path and the Alliance supports it. We think that if it is handled correctly, free trade will bring prosperity. However, there are always dangers when we sign blindly, as we have found out now with this water issue. No long term thought was given to this. When it was signed, no thought was given to what would happen if the provinces said no. No thought was given to the fact that the government was signing an international agreement on one of the most important resources we have, a resource controlled by the provinces. Its strategy, which was to have a total ban by convincing the provinces to do so, has failed.

As I mentioned, the 1999 Kananaskis meeting clearly showed that the provinces were not on board with the federal government on this issue. They wanted the right to do whatever they wanted to with a natural resource that they feel is their responsibility.

In the absence of exempting water from NAFTA, the Canadian Alliance will support the bill. We will support it because it represents the only viable approach the federal government can take and the only constitutionally valid NAFTA compatible ban on bulk water export that can be achieved.

The Canadian Alliance has indicated quite clearly that it favours a ban on water export. All export of water should be done by Canadians only. Since the ban is not there, the Canadian Alliance feels that the bill would in some degree ensure that water is not taken away from the international boundaries basins, and it is a NAFTA compatible ban on bulk water exports.

However, I would like to see the government propose real answers to this issue and show some leadership in exempting water from our trade agreements.

I was hoping today that the Minister of the Environment or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when they presented the bill and talked about the commitment of the government not to export water, would listen to Canadians. In reality they failed to say that the bill was only dealing with 15% of the issues.

I hope the government takes the initiative and try to get water exempted from other trade agreements. It would have been preferable to exempt water from NAFTA but, failing that, Bill C-6 will have to do as second best.

Canadians should realize that we no longer have sovereignty over our water. We have that threat over our heads because of our international trade agreement called NAFTA and the failure of the government to take water out of it.

Future generations would also lose sovereignty over water if something is not done to change this. That is why the government should do something. Bill C-6 or not, the bottom line is that Canada's water resources are vulnerable to exportation.

While I am a strong supporter of free trade, I believe it should not come at the expense of our sovereignty over water. Perhaps one day Canada will decide to export water if it is proven environmentally sound. If that ever happens, and I strongly stress if, the tap should belong to Canadians only.

The Canadian Alliance will be supporting Bill C-6. However I re-emphasize that the federal government should work with the provinces now to ensure that water does not become an export commodity. It should try to get water exempted from our international trade agreement.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

April 26th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating the opposition House leader on his appointment and to extend as well similar words of congratulation both to his seatmate, the new chief whip, and the other officials of his caucus.

This afternoon we will continue debate on the second reading of Bill C-6, the water export bill. I intend to seek adjournment of the debate after the speech from our colleague from the Bloc Quebecois on this matter.

If there is any time, we will commence the second reading of Bill C-25, the farm credit amendments bill. It would be my intention as well to adjourn the debate after the lead off speech from either the government minister or parliamentary secretary, as the case may be. We would then propose to move immediately to private members' business this afternoon.

Friday we will debate second reading of Bill C-26, the tobacco tax legislation.

On Monday we will return to Bill C-6, which will not be completed this afternoon. We will then continue with Bill C-25 for the same reason, and then, if necessary, to Bill C-26, the tobacco tax legislation, if we do not complete it tomorrow. If we have any time left, it will be spent on Bill C-10, the marine parks bill, as I previously indicated to my colleagues at the House leaders meeting earlier this week. In the afternoon we will debate Bill C-16, the charities bill. I wish to give notice pursuant to Standing Order 73(1) that the government will propose that this bill will be referred to committee before second reading. This should, in essence, take roughly the time between 3.00 p.m. and the adjournment later in the afternoon.

Tuesday shall be an allotted day. In the evening it is my intention to seek the usual co-operation to hold the second of the take note debates on the modernization of House rules. It would be pursuant to consultation with others. My intention is to see if we want to have this debate using the forum we used very successfully earlier this week, but, as I said, I intend to consult with other House leaders on that.

On Wednesday I would propose that we continue with any unfinished business from the previous days, adding thereto Bill S-16 which was introduced in the House earlier this day. Should we be ready to do so, and should time permit, I would then commence the report stage and third reading of Bill C-22, the income tax amendments bill.