An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act

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

Sponsor

John Manley  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Water Preservation ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recent report by the panel stated:

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

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

Brian Anderson states:

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

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

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

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

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

Message from the SenateThe Royal Assent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

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

Call in the members.

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2001 / noon
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It indicated:

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

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

The final report includes these three conclusions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

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

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

--should not be a party to any international agreement that compels us to export freshwater against our will in order to assert Canada's sovereign right to protect, preserve and conserve our freshwater resources for future generations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Officials have indicated that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are three parts to the strategy: first, changes to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in order to give the federal government regulatory power over the bulk removal of boundary waters; second, a joint reference, with the United States and the IJC, to investigate the effects of consumption, diversion and removal of water, including for export purposes, in boundary waters; and third, a proposal to develop, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, a Canada-wide accord on bulk water removal so as to protect Canadian water basins.

On February 10, 1999, Canada and the United States appointed the IJC. After noting a growing number of proposals to export water from the Great Lakes and other areas of the United States and Canada, the two countries agreed to ask the commission to study the issue and make recommendations within the next year. A preliminary report was tabled on August 18, 1999 and the final report of the IJC was tabled on February 22, 2000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the issues involved in Bill C-6?

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

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

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

How much time do I have remaining, Madam Speaker?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

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

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2001 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the House on third reading of Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act. I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade for the careful consideration given to Bill C-6.

Over the past four decades every Canadian government, whatever its political stripe, has declared opposition to bulk water removal projects. This has responded to concerns expressed by Canadians that all levels of government should take action to assure the long term security and integrity of Canada's freshwater resources. However, there has never been any legislation to back up that policy. Today we have an opportunity to correct that situation.

I would like to describe briefly the main features of Bill C-6 and then address a few broad questions which have been raised during committee stage of the bill. The amendments have three elements: a prohibition provision; a licensing regime; and sanctions and penalties.

The prohibition provision imposes a prohibition on the bulk removal of boundary waters out of their water basins. While the scope is narrow because Canada's jurisdiction in this field is also narrow, the impact is significant. The prohibition covers the Great Lakes, the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. Many of the bulk water removal projects over the past few decades, up to and including the Nova project of May 1998, have included Great Lakes water.

During committee hearings, one witness urged members to reject completely Bill C-6 because it would prohibit a project still on the drawing board for redirecting freshwater in Northern Ontario to Lake Superior and from there to other parts of Canada and the United States. Stopping this type of project in boundary waters is exactly the objective of Bill C-6.

By adopting this bill, the House will send a clear and unequivocal signal to anyone thinking of developing these schemes; it is prohibited under federal law. It will also send a strong and welcome signal to Canadians that our water is not for sale.

A licensing regime will cover projects in Canada, such as dams or other obstructions, in boundary and transboundary waters. Under existing provisions of the treaty, these types of projects must have the approval of the Government of Canada and the international joint commission, the IJC.

Over the past 92 years there have been about 60 such projects approved without any problems. In essence, this process is not changing except that for the Government of Canada's approval it will be formalized in a licence. I would also like to stress that the licensing regime is entirely separate from the prohibition.

The question has been raised whether the licensing regime permits the approval of bulk water removal projects outside of water basins, in effect going around the prohibition. The answer is no.

The language of Bill C-6 is absolutely clear on this matter. Any proposal for diversion of boundary waters outside of the basin would be captured by the prohibition provision, not covered by the licensing regime. The prohibition in Bill C-6 excludes bulk removals out of water basins from the licensing regime expressly and imposes a prohibition on such projects binding on the government.

Finally, Bill C-6 provides for clear and strong sanctions and penalties. This will give teeth to the prohibition and ensure Canada is in a position to enforce it.

I would like to address three broad issues that have been raised regarding Bill C-6 and Canada's strategy on bulk water removal.

First, is the scope of Bill C-6. Second, is why not an export ban on water? Third, is working with the U.S. to protect the Great Lakes.

With regard to the scope of Bill C-6, we have never claimed that it is the single answer to cover all of Canada's waters. At the outset, we recognized that to completely protect our freshwater resources from bulk removals, all levels of government had to act within their jurisdictions. This recognizes the important role that provinces must play as the owners of natural resources.

In 1999 the Minister of the Environment proposed action by all levels of government in Canada to prohibit bulk water removal out of major Canadian water basins. We have made significant progress. In May 1998 only two of fourteen federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions in Canada had legislation to prohibit bulk water removal. Today all fourteen have put into place or are developing legislation and policies to prohibit bulk water removal.

I believe that the action of the provinces, complemented by our action today, will set up a strong legislative framework to protect Canada's freshwater resources. That is the goal we must all work toward.

Some people have advocated federal unilateral action through an export ban on water. Such an approach is wrong. It is unrealistic, especially in the federal-provincial context. It would be ineffective. Worse, it would actually undermine the goal we all share.

Unlike Canada's approach, which is focused on comprehensive environmental objectives in a manner that is trade consistent, an export ban does not address the environmental dimension. It also has possible constitutional limitations, and may be vulnerable to trade challenge. An export ban would only regulate the cross-border movement of water once it has become a good and would therefore be subject to international trade agreements. It would likely be contrary to Canada's international trade obligations.

Under Canada's environmental approach, water is protected and regulated in its natural state, before the issue of exporting arises and before it becomes a commercial good or a saleable commodity. This approach is consistent with Canada's international trade obligations.

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

Finally, it is self-evident that we must work closely with U.S. jurisdictions, both federal and state, to ensure that the regimes on both sides of the border are as consistent and restrictive as possible.

Canada and the U.S. agreed on a reference to the International Joint Commission to investigate and make recommendations on consumptive uses, diversions and removals in the Great Lakes. The IJC in its February 2000 final report made recommendations which provide the basis for developing a consistent approach to protecting the Great Lakes on both sides of the border.

The eight Great Lake states are opposed to large scale removals out of the water basin. Also, each governor of the Great Lakes states has a congressionally affirmed power to veto any new diversions.

Also, in the years ahead the boundary waters treaty will remain a critical instrument in protecting Canada's rights, as it has for more than 90 years.

By adopting Bill C-6, parliament will set down in law an unambiguous prohibition on bulk water removal in waters under federal jurisdiction, especially in the Great Lakes. This is a forward looking action which places the highest priority on ensuring the security of Canada's freshwater resources. It demonstrates leadership at the federal level. It affirms an approach which is comprehensive, environmentally sound, respectful of constitutional responsibilities and consistent with Canada's international trade obligations.

I urge all members to support Bill C-6.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2001 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Western Arctic Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, be read the third time and passed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

September 20th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue debate on Bill C-15, the criminal code amendments. Time permitting, I would like to start with Bill C-6, the water export bill. If there is agreement, which I intend to seek very shortly, a take note debate would follow after 8.30 p.m., pursuant to requests made in the House by some hon. members, on the Prime Minister's forthcoming visit to the United States of America to meet the president.

On Friday, we will commence second reading of Bill S-23, the Customs Act, and if necessary, Bill C-6, the water bill.

On Monday, we will deal with Bill C-30, the courts administration bill, followed by second reading of Bill C-27, regarding nuclear waste.

Next Tuesday shall be an allotted day, in the name of the Bloc Quebecois.

Next Wednesday we will deal with the Nunavut water and surface rights bills which was introduced earlier this day.

As I mentioned earlier, I draw to the attention of House that there were some consultations earlier today. Given these consultations, I will propose a motion now to the House. However, for the benefit of House leaders, it will be slightly amended because I will have to remove some words in order to seek what I believe is the common ground. If the House leaders have the text of the motion, I will start in the second sentence, not the first. I move:

That, at 8.30 p.m. this day, the House shall continue to sit and shall resolve itself into a committee of the whole to consider a motion “That the committee take note of the planned meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States” provided that, during consideration thereof: (1) the Speaker may from time to time act as Chair of the committee; (2) the Chair of the committee shall not receive any quorum call or any motion except the motion “That the committee do now rise”; (3) when no Member rises to speak, or at 12 a.m., whichever is earlier, the committee shall rise; and (4) when the committee rises the House shall immediately adjourn to the next sitting day.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2001 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough for raising this matter.

I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider the argument that he made, particularly with respect to whether or not there is something in the nature of the way this standing order was used today that separates it out from the way it has been used in the past, the argument that the hon. member made for instance with respect to the use of this motion in respect of supply.

The government House leader argued that because it is only amendments to supply, it is not supply. However I think that was a very weak argument in itself. If it is amendments to supply, it has to do with supply, and therefore, Mr. Speaker, it merits your judgment as to whether or not the use of this standing order with respect to supply is in fact a new use of this particular standing order and one that is not in keeping either with practice or with your own understanding of that particular standing order.

Having said that, I would certainly want to indicate that I do not consider it consultation that somebody gets up to do something by unanimous consent, fails to do so and then some time later seeks to do it through this particular standing order. It may constitute some kind of notice but it does not constitute consultation.

I think it is clear that again we are meeting a Liberal deadline. There is some kind of cabinet retreat or something on Thursday and Friday, so we are faced with the use of this particular standing order.

The government has been willing to make its own sacrifices. It dropped Bill C-6. It does not want that any more. It also dropped Bill C-27. This has been one of the more unproductive sessions. Not only did we lose all the things that the government said it was going to do when it called the election, but it did not even get around to the things that were dropped, because now we are dropping them for some other Liberal deadline.

I know you want me to get to the point of order, Mr. Speaker, and I will. It seems to me that what is at stake here is the nature of this particular standing order itself. I remember when it was brought in, I believe in 1991. At that time I remember speaking to this particular change in the standing orders. If I remember correctly, I think I referred to it as a sort of parliamentary uber-menschen clause, and the way in which the government saw itself, as Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment , rising above the ordinary moral limits, as Raskolnikov did in Crime and Punishment , by killing the old lady just to show that he was not bound by ordinary morality.

Here we have the Liberals doing the same thing as the Tories did in 1991, showing that they are not bound by any kind of ordinary parliamentary morality or notion of what would be proper due process or procedure. They are quite prepared to just use whatever kind of authority they have at their disposal, which is what they did this morning.

You may say that 25 members could have stopped it. Certainly the parties that have 25 members will have to ask themselves why they did not. However this particular standing order was designed in a parliament where all parties had 25 members or more. Here again we see a kind of carryover from a previous parliament, that is to say, the parliament before 1993. I am sure when this was set up it was understood that all parties had at their disposal at least 25 members. The smallest party in the House was the NDP and we had 44 members. To say 25 members at that time was at least leaving open the possibility that if any one party objected, this would not happen.

Today we have a situation that is quite different, and certainly that standing order should have been changed by now. However, there are a number of other things in our standing orders that are still out of kilter because we have standing orders that were written to serve an entirely different parliament and entirely different political circumstances, that is to say, the political circumstances that existed prior to 1993.

I would ask you, to reflect on whether or not there is an opportunity here for you to rule, given the different nature of this parliament and of the previous parliament, that there is not something about this standing order that you might find unacceptable. Clearly it now has an effect on the rights of smaller parties which it did not have at its inception.

You, who are charged with the protection of the rights of minorities in this parliament and the rights of smaller parties, may want to consider whether you could make some ruling or give some advice to the House as to whether this particular standing order should be amended.

In doing so, Mr. Speaker, if your recommendation were to be followed, providing you make such a recommendation, we could remove from the standing orders something which is kind of a blight on our parliamentary life here: The fact that the government has this kind of power which it can use and has used on a number of occasions and which really makes a mockery of a lot of the so-called power that the opposition has.

Imagine a parliament in which no one party had 25 members except the government. Would it then be okay for the government to just deem everything to have been passed on division? I know this is a bit of a reductio ad absurdum argument but nevertheless that exists. That is a possibility within the standing orders if the Canadian public were to elect a parliament in which only the government had more than 25 members.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2001 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given the fact, I believe, that all parties support the bill, I would like to try again to move the motion I sought to move earlier. I understand there was one member who had asked for a slight wording change.

I would move that any divisions deferred to the conclusion of government orders today be taken at 6.30 p.m., and that after the said division the House would continue to sit to consider the third reading stages of Bill C-24 and Bill C-6, that divisions be deemed requested thereon and deferred to the conclusion of government orders on June 12, 2001, and that when Bill C-6 is disposed of the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day—and I have added the next few words—that during such extension of debate this evening the House shall not recognize any motions or requests for unanimous consent.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2001 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among House leaders to extend the hours this evening to complete consideration of two bills.

I would like to seek consent to propose a motion to the House which was negotiated with House leaders, that any divisions deferred to the conclusion of government orders today be taken at 6.30 p.m., that after the said divisions the House continue to sit to consider if necessary third reading stage of Bill C-24, as well as Bill C-6, that divisions be deemed requested thereon and deferred to the conclusion of government orders on June 12, and that when Bill C-6 is disposed of the House shall adjourn until the next sitting day.

I am asking to extend the hours to complete Bill C-24 and Bill C-6. There is a third bill but negotiations are not complete on it yet. I believe we now have consent regarding Bill C-24 and Bill C-6.

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 8th, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked by some members to clarify the business statement, given the time of year, and perhaps I could take a moment to give an updated business statement, particularly for the benefit of all House leaders.

Assuming that the debate on Bill C-25 is completed at third reading and Bill C-24 is completed at report stage later today, the business for Monday would be as follows: Bill S-11, respecting business corporations; Bill S-3, respecting motor vehicles; Bill S-16, respecting money laundering. I understand those three bills are perhaps briefer than others. We would follow this with the third reading stage of Bill C-24, regarding organized crime, which I know is of considerable interest to many members. If any time is left it would be taken up on Bill C-11, respecting immigration, and Bill C-6, respecting bulk water.

On Tuesday, of course, it will be a supply day. It is my intention at the present time to call any unfinished business for Wednesday and the debate on the modernization committee report.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

June 7th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, pursuant to an order made earlier, the House will conclude third reading of Bill C-28, the Parliament of Canada Act amendments. Tomorrow we will deal with third reading of Bill C-25, the Farm Credit Corporation amendments, as well as report stage of Bill C-24 with respect to organized crime. Those are the only bills I expect to deal with tomorrow.

On Monday we will then consider third reading of Bill C-24 regarding organized crime, then Bill S-16, the money laundering bill, followed by Bill C-11, the Immigration Act amendments, Bill S-11 respecting business corporations, Bill S-3 respecting motor vehicles and Bill C-6 respecting bulk water.

On Tuesday we shall deal with an allotted day for the consideration of main estimates at the end of the day. There has been consultations among political parties, and I would hope to take a few minutes on Tuesday to debate and hopefully receive the consent of everyone for a motion regarding Mr. Mandela.

Later next week, we will deal with any bills listed that are not yet complete, as well as the report of the modernization committee. I will consult my colleagues, the House leaders of official parties regarding business for Wednesday and the days beyond, should there be such dates. This ends my report.

Water ExportsOral Question Period

June 7th, 2001 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. Could the minister clarify why an official of his department put out a tender asking for bulk water export valuation?

The valuation of water studies that includes bulk water studies contradicts House of Commons Bill C-6. Does this not create confusion as to what the government's real intention is on bulk water sales?

Water ResourcesOral Question Period

June 1st, 2001 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, in connection with Bill C-6, those who appeared before the committee expressed general concern. The government has just sent a completely contradictory message with this invitation to tender.

Is the government aware that, by asking that a price be put on water, it is giving in to the arguments of those wishing to buy our water, the Americans in particular, and is opening the door to all manner of abuses?

Water ResourcesOral Question Period

June 1st, 2001 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there has been no change in our policy. We are about to enact Bill C-6, which opposes bulk water sales. There has been no change, and that is perfectly clear.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 30th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Monday May 8, your committee has considered Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, and has agreed to report this important legislation protecting one of our greatest natural resources with one amendment.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), and on a motion from the member for Calgary East, the committee considered the situation in Afghanistan. It condemns the recent actions of religious intolerance in that country and recommends that the government work through the United Nations to promote and protect religious freedom in Afghanistan.

Bulk Water ExportsOral Question Period

May 15th, 2001 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to confuse the hon. member, but let me see if I can explain.

Bill C-6 creates a legal regime that will prevent the removal of bulk water from the drainage systems in Canada, thereby prohibiting the exportation of water in bulk, which we view is not a good that can be subject to exportation. It is not permitted under Bill C-6.

Bulk Water ExportsOral Question Period

May 15th, 2001 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-6 provides that the minister can license federally the sale of bulk water exports.

Canadians are concerned about bulk water sales. Why is the government intent on ignoring our abundant water heritage and sponsoring legislation that will allow bulk water exports?

Bulk Water ExportsOral Question Period

May 15th, 2001 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there is a bill before parliament now, in committee, Bill C-6, dealing specifically with the issue of bulk water removal from boundary waters in Canada.

The position of the federal government is, has been and continues to be clear. We are opposed to bulk water removal from the country.

We have jurisdiction over boundary waters. We have acted on that. The Minister of the Environment is developing a Canada accord with provincial governments so that they too can take the legislative action necessary to make it clear to every Canadian and to the world that we do not support bulk water removal from this country.

Natural ResourcesOral Question Period

May 9th, 2001 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

Bloc

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.
See context

Bloc

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.
See context

Bloc

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.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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.
See context

Liberal

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.
See context

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

Liberal

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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NDP

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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Bloc

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

Liberal

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.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
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Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to join with my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in speaking to Bill C-6. The protection of freshwater is a global as well as a major national responsibility. Canadians are deeply concerned about the long term security and quality of our freshwater resources.

There are concerns for Canada's freshwater on a number of fronts ranging from the safety of our drinking water, and I remind everyone of the problem of Walkerton, to pollution, to floods and droughts, and to the potential impact of climate change on the future availability on our freshwater resources. We are working with the provinces, the territories and internationally to ensure that these and other issues are addressed and that Canada's water is protected and conserved for future generations.

Last June my provincial and territorial counterparts and I agreed that we all share the common objective to ensure a clean, safe and secure water supply for our country. In meeting those objectives all orders of government, whether territorial, provincial or federal, and all Canadians have roles to play.

Among the issues of concern to Canadians is the possibility of removing and exporting large quantities of water from Canadian watersheds.

In February 1999, the government announced a three part strategy to prohibit the bulk removal of water from large Canadian watersheds.

When we talk about protecting wildlife, we also want to protect watersheds. The strategy recognizes that the safest and most effective way of protecting Canada's water resources is through an environmental approach enabling us to preserve our freshwater in its natural state, and not through an approach based on trade.

Our goal is to turn off the tap at the source, not at the border. The bulk removal and transfer of freshwater from lakes, rivers and aquifers can have profound environmental, social and economic effects.

We could witness the introduction of parasites, diseases and harmful non native species, the deterioration of ecosystems and the disruption of communities that rely on a natural water supply from a watershed.

The impact is the same whether the water is destined for foreign markets or other places in Canada.

Canadians are already informed of these matters based on experience with project effects of all kinds. To cite one instance, we continue to oppose the Garrison diversion in North Dakota on the basis that it would introduce non-native or invasive biota and pathogens from the Missouri system across the continent's divide to the Hudson Bay watershed.

Bill C-6 covers one of the three elements outlined in the government's strategy that I announced in February 1999. I therefore strongly support the bill introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs as one component of the federal strategy on bulk water removals, which is intended to cover all of Canada's water resources and at the same time respect the shared jurisdiction in Canada over water.

The amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would give the federal government the legislative authority needed to prohibit bulk removals from the boundary waters shared with the United States, principally in the Great Lakes, but also on the New Brunswick-Maine boundary.

However the issue of removing water in bulk from watersheds is a complex one and the consequences can be wide ranging. These amendments are a key tool for assisting us in working with our American partners to protect the ecosystems in and around the Great Lakes which we share.

Freshwater is the glue that sustains the health of the environment, and if we change conditions in the water we risk irreversible damage to our North American ecosystems.

This is why the federal government has chosen an environmental approach to deal with this issue. It has to be a cautious approach based on objective scientific principles and an integrated response, taking into account the fact that it is a shared resource.

With that in mind, we must ask ourselves some important questions regarding the long term effects of bulk water removal, particularly in light of the cumulative impact of such a practice and the potential changes in the distribution and abundance of water as a result of climate change.

The need for better quality information brings me to the second component of the Canadian strategy on bulk water removals.

We requested, with the United States, to have the International Joint Commission study how water consumption, removal and diversions could affect the Great Lakes. Our objective here is to provide a basis for ensuring a consistent management regime for water shared with our American friends.

In March 2000 the International Joint Commission presented its final report to the Canadian-U.S. governments entitled “Protection of the waters of the Great Lakes”. The report is entirely consistent with and reinforces the federal strategy to prohibit bulk water removals.

The International Joint Commission concluded that international trade law does not prevent Canada and the United States from taking measures to protect their water resources and preserve the integrity of the Great Lakes. To those watching or to those in Canada concerned about the issue of the exportation of water, I urge them to read the International Joint Commission report. They will find material there of great interest with respect to trade law and water exports.

This brings me to the third element of our strategy which is the development of an accord with the provinces and territories to prohibit the bulk removal of water from major drainage basins of our watershed.

Each and every province and territory supports our goal to prohibit bulk removals of surface water and groundwater. Most of the provinces and territories felt that the agreement was the best way to protect our resources and that is why they ratified it.

In fact, I am pleased to say that all of the provinces have passed or are about to pass legislation and regulations prohibiting bulk water removals.

Such a high level of commitment guarantees that no bulk water removal or export project will be carried out in the near future.

To sum up, Canada's environmental approach, which is to prohibit the bulk removal or transfer of water from its watersheds, is the best way to protect Canadian water resources.

Our approach aims at preserving the ecological integrity of our watersheds. Also, it ensures that Canadians, and not, I repeat, not international trade tribunals, will be able to decide how our waters should be managed.

Since my time is running out, I will not go on with the speech I have prepared, but I do want to emphasize that Bill C-6 must come into effect as soon as possible.

This law is for Canadians a major indication of our commitment as a parliament and of the commitment of the government as the government of the country in the direction that we wish to go to protect our waters.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

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

All Canadians recognize that water is a natural resource unlike any other. It plays a key role in every aspect of our daily lives: at home, at work and many other places or occasions. A bountiful supply of fresh, clean water is the basis for much of Canada's economic and agricultural development, and the towns and cities of our nation. Last, but certainly not least, it plays an absolutely critical role in ensuring the continued health of Canada's ecosystems, and every living thing that depends on them.

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.

For decades Canadians and the Government of Canada have given a consistent response to extravagant schemes to redirect the waters of the North American continent: Canada's water is not for sale. Many such designs have involved the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the world's fresh water.

The government is taking action now. Bill C-6 would protect boundary waters, including the critical resource of the Great Lakes, from bulk removal under federal law.

The existing act implements the 1909 Canada-U.S. boundary waters treaty. It is one of our oldest treaties and a landmark in Canada-U.S. relations. With over 300 lakes and rivers along the Canada-U.S. border, the drafters of the treaty recognized the critical role played by water and the importance of providing a structure and mechanism to prevent and resolve disputes between the two countries. Ninety-two years later we are using the same mechanism to ensure these waters will be protected for future generations.

The amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in Bill C-6 are based first on Canada's treaty obligation to the U.S. not to take actions in Canada which affect levels and flows of boundary waters on the U.S. side of the border. I would note that the U.S. has the same obligation to Canada, that is, not to take actions in the U.S. which affect levels and flows of boundary waters on the Canadian side of the border.

The amendments also have a second objective, to protect the integrity of boundary water ecosystems. The amendments have three key elements: a prohibition provision; a licencing regime; and, sanctions and penalties.

The prohibition provision imposes a prohibition on the bulk removal of boundary waters from the water basins. Exceptions will be considered for ballast water, short term humanitarian purposes and water used in the production of food or beverages.

While many boundary waters along the Canada-U.S. border are affected by the prohibition, the main focus would be on the Great Lakes. This would enable Canada to stop future plans for bulk water removal from the Great Lakes.

There would be a licensing regime separate from the amendments dealing with prohibition. Licences would cover dams and other projects in Canada that obstruct boundary and transboundary waters if they affect the natural level and flow of water on the other side of the boundary. Under the treaty such projects must have the approval of the International Joint Commission and the Government of Canada.

The process of approving such projects has taken place under the general authority of the treaty for the past 92 years without any problems. In essence the process would not change except that it would now be formalized in a licensing system. The licensing regime would not cover bulk water removal projects. These, if proposed, would be covered by the act's prohibition provision.

Bill C-6 will also allow for clear and strong sanctions and penalties. This will give teeth to the prohibition and ensure Canada is in the position to enforce it.

I would also like to set Bill C-6 in the general context of Canada's strategy announced on February 10, 1999, to prohibit bulk removal of water out of all major Canadian water basins.

Why did the Government of Canada take this initiative? The removal and transfer of water in bulk out of a water basin may result in irreversible ecological, social and economic impacts. We want to ensure, for future generations of Canadians, the security of our freshwater resources and the integrity of our ecosystems.

However, any credible policy approach to the issue of bulk water removal must address two important elements. First, the management of Canadian waters involves multiple jurisdictions. Second, any approach should take into consideration the many factors, man-made and natural, which exert significant stresses on our water resources.

To pretend that one government can solve the issue with a wave of the 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 all share.

Flowing water does not respect political boundaries. In the case of the Great Lakes system, two federal governments, eight state governments, two provincial governments and a number of regional and binational organizations are involved in managing and protecting freshwater resources.

The question of bulk water removal involves the significant pressure and uncertainty of removals, diversions, consumption, population and economic growth, and the effects of climate change and variability. Finally, we must factor in the important influence of the cumulative effect of all these factors on our water resources.

All levels of government must act effectively and in concert with their respective jurisdictions, hence Canada's February 1999 initiative included three parts.

First, Canada would act within its jurisdiction. Bill C-6 fulfils this commitment.

Second is the recognition of the primary responsibility of provinces and territories for water management. The Minister of the Environment proposed a Canada-wide accord to prohibit bulk water removal out of major Canadian water basins. As of today all provinces have put into place or are developing legislation and policies to prohibit bulk water removal.

Third, Canada and the United States agreed on a reference to the International Joint Commission to investigate and make recommendations on consumptive uses, diversions and removals in the Great Lakes, the greatest of our shared waters.

The IJC in its February 2000 final report concluded that the Great Lakes require protection from bulk water removals and other factors. Bill C-6 is consistent with and supportive of the IJC's conclusions and recommendations.

It is self-evident that we must work closely with U.S. jurisdictions, both federal and state, to ensure that the regimes on both sides of the border are as consistent and restrictive as possible. In the years ahead, the Boundary Waters Treaty will remain a critical instrument in protecting Canada's rights on the Great Lakes and other boundary and transboundary waters.

Also, the eight Great Lakes states, and Ontario and Quebec, have been working for over a year on the development of common standards to manage bulk water removal on the Great Lakes. The draft plan, unveiled for public comment in December 2000 by the Council of Great Lakes Governors, attracted a good deal of criticism in both the U.S. and Canada as being too lax. The Government of Canada shared these concerns and made its views known.

Earlier this month Ontario and New York State announced that they could not support the proposed standard. In future discussions we will urge these governments to consider seriously the recommendations contained in the IJC report.

By adopting Bill C-6 parliament would set down in law an unambiguous prohibition on bulk water removal in waters under federal jurisdiction and especially in the Great Lakes. This is a forward looking action which places the highest priority on ensuring the security of Canada's fresh water resources. It demonstrates leadership at the federal level. It affirms an approach which is comprehensive, environmentally sound, respectful of constitutional responsibilities and consistent with Canada's international trade obligations. I urge all members to give their support to Bill C-6.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
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Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I begin by asking consent to divide my 40 minute time slot with my colleague the Minister of the Environment.

Computer HackersPrivate Members' Business

April 6th, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in this place on a Friday afternoon to speak to the motion. There is always such excitement in this place on Friday afternoons that it is a real pleasure to be able to share that with all my colleagues.

I congratulate the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt who in his wisdom saw the increase in the amount of Internet trade that takes place in Canada and around in the world. In trying to facilitate that sort of trade and growth he has introduced a private member's motion which would require the government to amend the criminal code to create a separate category of offences and punishment for persons found guilty of wilfully disrupting the conduct of electronic business.

The motive of the motion is definitely in good standing. There needs to be some concern when it comes to security and protection of information, protection of privacy and protection of very important documents as they travel across the Internet, particularly as Internet trade continues to increase. Yet as my colleague said earlier, the criminal code, law enforcement agencies and the courts are not properly equipped to lay criminal charges and prosecute matters that involve the Internet. Creating a separate category would facilitate the prosecution of such crimes in a consistent manner.

It gives us the chance to talk about the issue and at least evaluate it to see what can be done to improve the measures of security around Internet trade.

Most of my colleagues would remember from the last parliament a landmark bill that was passed. Bill C-6, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, dealt with electronic commerce and specifically private protection of information. I was fortunate enough to work on that bill because I was a member of the industry committee.

There was a lot of good work in that bill which laid a foundation, with help from all parties in the House to move it forward. However, the issue that still needs to be addressed is the one my hon. colleague from Saskatoon—Humboldt brings up today. That is the issue of security and the measures that are needed in order to be able to lay fraud charges against people who are abusing the Internet or abusing e-commerce or doing anything else that may arise from wilful wrongdoings.

Bill C-6 initially created a legal and regulatory framework for electronic commerce by introducing measures to protect personal information in the private sector, creating an electronic alternative for doing business with the federal government, and clarifying how the courts assess the reliability of electronic records used as evidence.

The framework of the bill obviously was suited to putting a mandate on the future growth of electronic commerce in the country. However, again the area that I think was a bit weak, which we talked about—and I believe the government said it planned to work on that area—was the area of security.

What was supposed to be developed in that bill, which I think also touches on this private member's motion, was the idea of improving the security of electronic signatures through the use of encryption. That was going to be part of the bill. I know there is still an effort going on to develop that, but ultimately we would like to see it brought in sooner than later.

The private member's motion today at least addresses that to some extent. It opens up that debate, not only to look at the criminal aspects of what can be done to make sure we try to deter illegal activity within Internet commerce, but as well to look at ways within the framework of the legislation the House has already produced to increase security through forms of encryption or other forms of security currently on the Internet, perhaps without even looking at going down through the criminal side, as my colleague suggested. That at least gives us the opportunity to be able to debate it.

Bill C-6 also went beyond the scope of electronic commerce in that it created a legal and regulatory framework to be applied to the commercial use of sensitive and private information in all areas of business. During that debate there was much concern from people in health care, areas of commerce, small businesses and obviously consumers. Consumers are one of the most important aspects of Internet commerce. They want to make sure their information is protected if they are doing transactions over this new medium, the Internet. Their information, whether it be financial records, Visa numbers or whatever, is being submitted and can be accessed almost anywhere, especially, as my colleague mentioned, by hackers or by others trying to do wrong on the Internet.

There is no doubt about it. This is a concern to many Canadians and we need to address what we can do to deter criminal activity on this new medium, which increasingly the majority of Canadians will be using. We need to address how we can do it.

There is one thing I encourage my hon. colleague to consider, especially as we continue to deliberate on his motion. Hopefully the motion will continue on its way and maybe even get to committee so we can make amendments to it. We should look at ways to continue to work on the area of security through encryption. That is something that is within the mandate of the government and the House. We can look at ways to improve that legislation, as we talked about prior to it passing in the House and receiving royal assent earlier this year. Also, we can look at ways to see how that can be co-operatively strengthened on the criminal code aspects.

Based on my hon. colleague's comments when he made reference to the RCMP and a few other police organizations, there is no doubt that they are feeling left out in the cold in regard to doing their part in strengthening the security around Internet transactions. They need to be able to prosecute and lay criminal charges against people who disrupt e-commerce business in Canada.

There is obviously a reason to debate this. There is a reason to strengthen what we have done already in the House. Hopefully we will keep strengthening the ability of Canadian consumers to use the e-commerce medium and to be able to trust it. We need to work in a voluntary and co-operative way with industry, because there are a lot of great innovations happening out there that do increase security on the Internet. I believe there are many things we can do.

I will take a moment to once again congratulate the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, who I think brings a very important motion to the House to at least begin the debate on how we can continue to improve the medium of electronic commerce in the country.

Freshwater ExportsOral Question Period

April 5th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member clearly has not understood the importance of making sure that water is not considered an item of trade under NAFTA or other trade agreements.

We have to make sure that we do not get into a situation, through inadvertence or any other reason, whereby water then comes under NAFTA provisions. To do that we have an accord with the provinces and territories. To do that we have legislation in the House, Bill C-6, to deal with boundary waters.

It is clear that we must follow the procedures we have laid down and follow them to the letter.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

April 5th, 2001 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear on this. The Government of Canada will oppose the bulk removal of water from any of our major drainage systems, period, point final, c'est clair.

Control over boundary waters is covered in Bill C-6, which is currently before parliament. As for control over waters that are entirely within the jurisdiction of the provinces, each province has taken action with respect to that.

Our position is clear: There will be no removal of bulk water from drainage systems in Canada.

Freshwater ExportsStatements By Members

March 29th, 2001 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have a news flash. Tragically I have to announce that the Liberal Party is now in favour of encouraging bulk water exports, jeopardizing Canada's natural ecological heritage.

The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Premier Grimes are guilty of this crime by pushing forward with the plan to export freshwater from Gisbourne Lake, a scheme first envisioned by our current Ministry of Industry.

Equally guilty as an accessory to the crime is the Liberal Party of Canada for remaining silent and not condemning the actions of its Liberal cousins. Moreover, the Liberal government is guilty in failing to deliver a national strategy to ensure the prevention of interbasin transfers and bulk shipments of freshwater. Bill C-6 falls short of the mark and does nothing for non-transboundary water.

For eight years we have watched the Liberal government neglect the environment. I ask the ministers of the environment, heritage and international trade, as well as the Prime Minister, why they have flip-flopped and are now encouraging bulk water shipments through their silence and legislative inaction.

Canada Foundation For Sustainable Development Technology ActGovernment Orders

February 19th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is an excellent question. Today I make the assumption that since the House reconvened the federal government has been introducing environmental bills that intrude in provincial jurisdiction, for example Bill C-6 amending the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, the bill respecting species at risk, and this bill establishing a foundation to fund sustainable development.

Could the federal government not look after areas under federal jurisdiction rather than meddling in provincial areas of jurisdiction? Let it proceed with land decontamination in Shannon, at CFB Valcartier, or at the airport, in Sept-Îles. That is all we ask. The federal government has no say in provincial jurisdiction, particularly not as regards drinking water management. This side of the House does not need any lectures.

Canada Foundation For Sustainable Development Technology ActGovernment Orders

February 19th, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology.

One would think this is truly environment day here in the House, after considering the motion by my hon. colleague from Davenport, in which he specifically asks the government to conduct studies in order to get a clear idea of the impact on the environment of fish-farming and its industry.

Today, we are studying Bill C-4. We do not know when but perhaps in a few days we will study the bill on threatened species.

Quite honestly, when I read the bill, I rather supported it. The bill advocated a number of principles, which one cannot oppose.

In Quebec, it is often said that it is impossible to oppose virtue and apple pie. This is where we are at with this bill at first reading. In other words, it permits the creation of a foundation which has basic funding, which would permit the funding of research on sustainable development, but more specifically, in order to work on the development of energy to fight climactic change and atmospheric pollution.

When I read the bill, I said “Finally the government is doing something to respond properly, by allocating the necessary resources to meet international objectives on greenhouse gases”. I said “This is a way for the government to meet its international commitments, especially those pertaining to climatic change and the Kyoto conference”.

This foundation provides financial assistance for the development and demonstration of new technologies to promote sustainable development, including technologies to address climate change and air quality issues. It is a foundation which would operate like a non profit organization, with a chairperson, 14 directors and 15 members, all appointed by the government.

Quebecers remember what happened in the case of the millennium scholarship fund, an endowment fund or a foundation with a chairperson and a number of directors that was supposedly set up to achieve the laudable objective of helping students pursue their studies.

When we took a closer look, we discovered that this foundation was not necessarily there to meet the needs of students. The millennium scholarship fund was not established to meet the essential and critical needs of students and help them achieve their educational goals but, rather, to award scholarships based on merit. The fund had been set up so that the maple leaf could appear on the cheques.

Today, a similar foundation is proposed. Its members will be appointed by the government and, more often than not, for the government. Under the bill, the foundation would receive an initial endowment of $100 million per year. Is this a realistic figure to achieve the objectives agreed to before the public and before the heads of states at the Kyoto summit? One hundred million dollars per year to achieve the Kyoto objectives is not acceptable.

If the government had really wanted to adequately meet these objectives, it would not have created a foundation which, in a way, is a bogus foundation.

Clauses 11 and 15 deal with the appointment and selection of directors and members. Clause 11 reads:

  1. The appointment of directors shall be made having regard to the following considerations: a ) the need to ensure, as far as possible—

Remember these words “as far as possible”. At any time, about half of the directors will represent persons engaged in research, while the other half will represent people involved in the business community and not for profit corporations.

In selecting the directors we must “as far as possible” ensure that half of the appointees are from the research sector. There is no obligation to ensure that these people have the required knowledge, expertise and experience to make a major contribution that would give Canada the means of production to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

Also, clauses 11 and 15 stipulate that the appointment of members shall be made having regard to the following considerations: a ) the need to ensure, as far as possible—

Therefore, at all times, the membership must be representative of persons engaged in the development and demonstration of technologies to promote sustainable development. There is a need to ensure “as far as possible” that the members of the foundation are experts.

If the government were truly honest and really wanted to make a serious commitment to the environment and renewable energies, would it have included in its bill clauses to ensure that experts would be appointed as far as possible? The answer is no.

If the government were truly sincere, it would have ensured that experts would be appointed to this foundation, not friends of the Liberal Party. What we want is more transparency. I am not sure the foundation will have all the transparency needed to ensure that its goals will be reached.

I want to come back to the $100 million initial funding for the foundation. Will it be enough? One could put that question to all the experts, not to the environmental groups, not to the so-called green organizations. One could ask the experts in the field of technology and renewable energies. They would say that $100 million, that is peanuts.

I want to remind the House of the Bloc Quebecois' commitment to sustainable development. The Bloc Quebecois suggests that the federal government invest a further $1.5 billion over five years to better meet sustainable development requirements. We are not opposed to a fund, we are in favour of a real fund with real resources to ensure that the real goals are met. On this side of the House we are not convinced that this fund will make it possible to meet these goals.

Why do we have reservations concerning the resources available to the fund? I will say honestly that I would rather be on this side of the House today, I would rather not be on the other side of the House and have to introduce a bill such as this one which is providing $100 million a year to deal with a fundamental issue requiring a major shift in terms of energy, namely renewable energy. We have doubts as to the government's goodwill when we look at the results concerning its international commitments.

I remind members that in 1992 the federal government signed the Rio framework convention on climate change and the ensuing Kyoto protocol containing more definite commitments, namely, for Canada, a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. Are we anywhere near achieving the Kyoto objectives? The answer is no. To meet these objectives we need real resources, not $100 million a year.

Far from dropping, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 13% in Canada. They have not dropped. We are not on our way to meeting the targets set by the federal government in Kyoto, far from it. In Canada, there has been a 13% increase in greenhouse gas emissions and, according to the figures put out by the federal government and the Royal Society, we are far from meeting our targets.

A report was tabled at the end of May by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, who was quite critical of the federal government. He faulted the government for its failure in the fight against smog. On a more global level, he underlined the importance of reducing air pollution, which causes disease and death. Even though the government and the Minister of the Environment announced, yesterday and last Friday, a policy to help us reach that goal, we must realize that we are still very far from it.

Even worse, in terms of the financial means available to us to meet our targets at the international level, the insignificant amounts included by the federal government in its 2000 budget show the Liberals' lack of vision with regard to the environment. Just for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government should be spending $1.5 billion over five years, not $100 million.

The urgency of the situation requires a $1.5 billion investment, but instead, the government is planning to spend a total $700 million over the next four years on all environmental issues.

A $100 million investment will not be enough to help us face these environmental changes, and neither will the $700 million included in the last budget. We need $1.5 billion. Here is the situation: in 1997, Canada's emissions were 13% higher than in 1990.

With regard to the issue of climate change, I reviewed Quebec's position, its performance and how we fare compared to the other provinces and to Canada itself. That review shows that Quebec is clearly performing better in that area than the federal government and the other provinces.

Why do we have a better performance? Because we made the green revolution several years ago. When we look at the energy policy of Canada, of western Canada, with due respect to my colleagues, we realize the energy policy is still based on fossil fuel energy sources. There are three fossil fuel industries: natural gas, coal and oil.

Western Canada is a major producer of greenhouse gas, an oil producer and an oil user, which mainly produces greenhouse gas. However, since the 1960s, Quebec has had a totally different energy policy.

We have been using an energy that is called renewable. Hydro-electricity has contributed concretely and totally to Quebec's economic growth. Besides, it has allowed to stop the production of greenhouse gas.

This is a practical application in a country, the country of Quebec, of the sustainable development concept. We do not put the sustainable development concept in a bill such as Bill C-6. It does not belong in a bill such as the one the minister has introduced today. Sustainable development calls for a practical application. This means economic growth and the use of our resources with consideration for environmental protection.

Mrs. Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway, had defined this sustainable development concept that we are now applying in practical terms in Quebec. We have given ourselves all the tools required to achieve these environmental objectives without necessarily neglecting economic growth. This is what is different.

Often, people think that a change in energy policy leads to reduced economic activity. Quebec is a prime example. A few years ago, how many homes used coal, natural gas or petroleum? How many businesses and industries used them in order to produce consumer goods? How many houses were heated with oil? A very heavy majority.

Yet today, we use another source of energy, what is termed renewable energy. In the case of Quebec, it is hydroelectric power, electricity. Yet the economic activity of Quebec has not been affected by this pro-ecology and pro-environmental move.

On the contrary, Quebec's government corporation has been able to export energy, to the U.S. for one. This goes to show that a change in energy use does not necessarily mean job losses, as some would have us believe.

How often we hear the comment “The petroleum industry is so important to Canada, and jobs connected to that industry must be preserved”. I say there is a way of making a logical and balanced change of direction toward Canada's use of a sustainable energy source.

I am referring to hydroelectric energy. It is not the only type of renewable energy there is; there are other kinds. Among other things, there is solar energy, which works fairly well in certain countries. Proper investments would ensure that this technology could be developed.

There is wind energy as well. This energy has been tried out in many countries, including Quebec and Canada. Wind energy is used in Europe, among other things, as a primary source of energy, and not just as a secondary energy.

I will conclude by talking about the principle underlying the bill. As I was saying, I agree with the principle of the bill. It is impossible to oppose investment in technology that will mean the achievement of the objectives of sustainable development.

However, I have some doubt as to the vehicle for achieving these objectives, namely a foundation appointed by the government, with, in my opinion, insufficient funding.

My final remark is to the effect that the foundation would not permit the achievement of the objectives and the environmental green shift. I fear instead that it will manage to sprinkle a few thousand or tens of thousands of dollars about without really achieving its target objective, that of producing while respecting and protecting the environment at the same time.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2001 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in the debate today. The member who just spoke talked about the need for seasonal workers to be covered. I note that in Bill C-2 there has been a longstanding problem where farmers, for example, who work off the farm have always had to pay into the employment insurance fund but have never been able to qualify. That is seasonal work too. It should be one way or the other. If they cannot qualify, they should not have to pay into it. That is a needed reform that has bugged me and a lot of people in agriculture for a long time.

I want to ask why it is so important today to rush the bill through the House by using time allocation. This is a leftover from the last parliament. In fact, it probably was created as a result of the Liberals losing a number of seats in the Atlantic provinces in 1997. I think the member who just spoke would agree with that. He is one who moved over to the Liberal Party as a result of those changes, so it was politically motivated I suspect.

It seems to me that if the bill was so important when it was introduced last year, why did the government not see it through at that time? The question of how important it was did not seemed to deter the Prime Minister when he called an early election after only three and a half years. It was left to die on the order paper along with a number of other bills that the government had as its priorities.

Why was parliament not continued on at that time and allowed to have the kind of debate we needed to properly debate this bill? No, we had to have time allocation again today. I have been in the House since 1993 and I think it is the 69th time that the Liberal government has used time allocation on these types of bills.

The part that bothers me more than anything is this: what is so heavy on the government's agenda that it would force us to move this quickly on Bill C-2? There is a total of eight bills that have been introduced so far, hardly a heavy legislative agenda from my point of view. It is the first bill that was introduced by the Liberals this session and they are using time allocation to ram it through parliament. What kind of signal are they sending to the Canadian public?

Why did they call an election so early? Why did they not have it as a priority to continue on and resolve this last fall, instead of having to go to an election which caused the House to be dissolved? In fact, they were not in that much of a hurry to come back in January. If it was that important why did they not call the House back in January to get right at it? No, they did not do that.

Now we have this ludicrous situation where the Liberals have now exceeded Brian Mulroney's terrible record in terms of time allocation on bills. I noticed that they managed to be very critical of that when they were on the other side of the House, They said it was an affront to democracy. The Liberals have passed Mr. Mulroney's record in roughly the same amount of time. They are going to continue to use that as a club in the House of Commons.

This is not the first time it has affected me, either. On October 20, 1999, I spoke about time allocation and how it affected my ability and other members' ability to speak on the one of the bills in the industry category, Bill C-6, the privacy bill. I had just been appointed the industry critic for our party. I have the Hansard here. It was another bill the Liberals seem to have been in trouble with. They had not consulted the provinces to any great length. The Senate had to bail them out in terms of a lot of amendments that came through to pick up the bill and make it better. I give the Senate credit for doing that.

Yesterday Senator Grafstein was very critical of the House of Commons for running bills through this place without proper debate and proper consideration, in a hurried manner, and therefore leaving the Senate to clean them up. I suggest that this is one of those kinds of bills. Why the hurry? Why can we not have the proper debate in the House? It does not make any sense. This is the place to debate. I know a lot of our members would like to speak on it and are not being allowed to.

This is an old tactic. I was restricted in October 1999. I said at the time that it was the 65th time they had used time allocation. We are now up to 69. The clock is ticking. I am not sure why the Liberals have to do this, but they seem like they want to poke the finger in the eye of those people who want proper debate in the House of Commons. It does not make any sense.

We have the Canada employment insurance program. The government seems to think that it can put in a program that can substitute for a job. That is wrong. Thirty years ago it was an insurance program and the government has moved it away from being that. We would like to make changes to that and have the employers and the employees administer this program. However, that is not the case. In fact, I read in my notes that in Bill C-2 the Liberals even want to change some of the aspect of consultation and advice provided by the Employment Insurance Commission. Its advisory capacity is being taken away. It seems like the Liberals want to control this.

The government had a $35 billion surplus in the EI fund. The people who watch this said that we probably need $10 billion to $15 billion to be prudent. The fund is roughly $20 billion over those amounts. What is the government doing with the fund? It goes into general revenue and gives the Liberals a chance to play with the hard-earned money which has been taken off the paycheques of employees. It also affects employers as well.

Canadians would be far better served if that amount were lowered to a prudent calculation, roughly $10 billion to $15 billion, stop the payroll taxes on hardworking Canadians. The finance minister said that in 1994. When he needed more money to play with, suddenly it was not a payroll tax anymore. That is really what it is.

Some people would argue that the government has balanced its books on the backs of employees and employers who contribute to the fund. There is some justification for that and it needs to be reviewed.

There is no substitute in Canada for real employment. The employment insurance program that the government has been tinkering with will not do it. It has to get the fundamentals right and get taxes down, including payroll taxes, personal taxes and corporate taxes. We see the United States moving in that direction. Canada has not caught up from the last round in terms of corporate and personal income tax. We are at a real disadvantage. Our employers and companies are at a real disadvantage if we compare them to those in the United States.

Twenty years ago the productivity of Canada and the United States was almost exactly the same. What has happened in twenty years? The United States is still number one in terms of productivity. Where is Canada today? Canada is ranked 13th in the industrial world.

It is no coincidence that these things have happened. They have happened because of thirty years of mismanagement by the government across the way, a big interventionist government and growing government programs, programs which were financed with deficit financing. Increasing deficits require payments to pay off the interest on the huge national debt.

Canada is faced with a 30 year decline in our dollar. We have a 30 year decline in direct foreign investment in Canada. Even Canadians are looking outside our country for a place to invest because they cannot get the kind of return on investments they need. The EI fund is one of the funds responsible for this.

Up until 30 years ago, when Canada made those changes, Canadian and American unemployment rates could be charted. They were basically the same year in and year out, in good times or bad. Canada had a divergence in that 30 year period and we are roughly 3% to 4% higher than the United States all the time.

There need to be reforms. There needs to be proper debate in the House. I am very concerned that the government is moving so early in this new parliament to cut off debate on such very important issues. It should be chastized for doing that and should not follow that course of action in the future. Members across the way should be ashamed to support that kind of government intervention.

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2001 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions.

This bill replaces Bill C-38, which as they say died on the Order Paper when parliament was dissolved last October, after the Prime Minister decided to call an early election, having not yet completed four years of his mandate.

To begin with, this is essentially the same bill. Bills C-38 and C-8 are twins. But they are not identical because, in addition to a few minor amendments to ensure a closer match between the English and French texts, there is a major change with respect to the demands made by the Bloc Quebecois and by Bernard Landry, Minister of State for the Economy and Finance and Deputy Premier of Quebec, a change which would ultimately make the bill more acceptable by adding amendments anyway.

I was saying that the federal government decided to respond in part to the demands and expectations expressed by minister Landry by incorporating in its bill four points the Government of Quebec felt were important. However, these points were incorporated not in the bill itself, but in the guidelines on the reclassification of the banks listed in schedule 1 whose equity capital is under $5 billion.

The guidelines that accompanied the release issued on the day the Minister of Finance introduced his bill, clearly stated that, and I quote:

Any transaction involving a recategorization will be considered on its own merits, and should demonstrate that it would foster opportunities for the bank to grow and better serve the customers of the bank.

In considering whether a proposed transaction involving a recategorization is in the public interest, the Minister shall take into account all matters that the Minister considers relevant, including:

safety and soundness of the bank;

direct and indirect employment;

the location of the mind and management of the bank;

needs of consumers;

businesses and operations of the bank;

and prospects for the bank in the context of the global marketplace.

However, since these elements were not included in the act, they could be changed by the minister who could, for example, yield to the pressures of powerful international lobbies.

That being said, I must say without any hesitation that Bill C-8 raises many questions in my mind. When I think about what I have seen and observed with this government over the past eight years, I am concerned. I am concerned by, among other things, the government's arrogance, its contempt for democracy, its inability to fulfil its own promises and by the ease with which it yields to the pressures of the well-to-do and crushes the poor. I could go on and on, because there are so many reasons to be concerned about this government.

Let us take a look at a few things that are scary in this bill.

Bill C-8 gives full power to the federal Minister of Finance to decide, alone, the future of Quebec banks.

With Bill C-8, the Minister of Finance will be able to decide alone, at his own discretion, the future of Quebec banks. I find it truly unacceptable that this discretionary power is as strong as if not stronger than the act itself.

The Bloc Quebecois is concerned that a single shareholder could, with the agreement of the Minister of Finance, own 65% of the shares of the National Bank, the number one bank in Quebec. There is no need for the Minister of Finance to authorize this excessive control to ensure the flexibility of the National Bank. How is it that a shareholder owning 65% of a bank will give it more flexibility than 65 shareholders owning 1% each?

We need legislative guarantees against any negative impact these new ownership rules might have on employment, for example, on consumer services, on small business services, on decision centres and, most of all, on Montreal's role as a hub in the area of international finance. The stakes are just too high for Quebec to rely on only one person, the federal Minister of Finance, especially since Bill C-8 offers no real legislative guarantees. As I said earlier, the bill does nothing more than list some elements to consider that do not go far enough and that are under the sole control of the Minister of Finance.

Even worse, it seems to me that the finance minister's bill is full of holes which should be cause for concern to any person of goodwill. Why must the government write such thick bills if it does not seek clarity? How will this government be able to judge the clarity of others if it is incapable of seeing its own lack of clarity? One factor which contributes to clarity is precision. See for yourselves. On page 55 of the bill, clause 385 sets out the public holding requirement for banks. However, we learn a little further on, in clause 388, and I quote:

On application by a bank, the Minister may, if the Minister considers it appropriate to do so, by order exempt the bank from the requirements of section 385, subject to any terms and conditions that the Minister considers appropriate.

As well we see that the provisions of the act cease to apply if the minister so decides. In other words, this is a bill with flexible parameters, one that will allow Ottawa and the Minister of Finance to decide unilaterally on the future of the National Bank.

It is not obvious that the federal Minister of Finance's bill as presented will ensure healthy competition in the national market. Yet this competition is more important to future economic development than striving to be bigger internationally.

But the Minister of Finance has decided to make legislation in favour of the big banks, even if by so doing he has to sell out the banks of Quebec, including the National Bank, the one known as the bank of small and medium size business in Quebec.

When I think of the way certain individuals, including the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and member for Saint-Laurent, want to see Quebec suffer, I tell myself this is a really powerful weapon in the hands of the federal Minister of Finance, if ever the federal government decides to act.

In this case I say to my fellow Quebecers, here is another really good reason, just one more, to create our own country, so that we can make our own decisions on what we want to do with our banks.

As regards consumer protection, the Minister of Finance remains vague and expresses more wish than real policy.

Bill C-8 will establish the financial consumer agency whose purpose, according to the finance minister, will be to protect consumers.

The Bloc Quebecois is and has always been a protector of human rights and citizens as evidenced by the debate held in this House on Bill C-54 that dealt with the protection of personal information and died on the order paper in 1997 to be reintroduced as Bill C-6 and given royal assent on April 13, 2000.

I want to remind the House that Quebec already has several laws protecting consumers. For instance, there are the consumer protection act, the privacy act, as well as all the legislation on insurance companies, trust companies, savings and credit unions and securities.

This new agency will only create duplication in regulations, given all the measures that have already been taken by the Government of Quebec in this area which, need I remind the House, is under provincial and not federal jurisdiction.

The finance minister takes the credit for including in Bill C-8 a measure, the low-fee retail deposit account, as described in section 448.2, that would provide low income people greater access to financial services.

With regard to this famous low-fee retail deposit account, nobody except the minister knows exactly what it is all about. Nobody knows what are the prescribed characteristics mentioned in this clause and which would entitle an individual to a low-fee retail deposit account. Nobody except the minister of course knows whether such an account will be available everywhere, in every bank in Canada and Quebec.

How is it that, as we are talking, the minister is the only one who knows the answer to all these questions? It is very simple. The minister is the only one who knows, because all these issues will be defined in the regulations. As we are having this debate in the House, we do not have a clue about what will be in the regulations.

True enough, if the regulations had been made an appendix to the bill, it would have increased the thickness of an already voluminous piece of legislation. For the time being, all we have to go by is the minister's word.

Once bitten, twice shy, however. Members of this government have made so many promises during three election campaigns, in 1993, 1997 and 2000, without keeping their promises or being true to their word, that I must say the fine words from the Canadian Minister of Finance are not enough to be able to categorically state that consumers will be better protected under this new law.

I also question what is in the bill regarding branch closure; I wonder what will happen with the reduction in services available to consumers. The only measure provided by Bill C-8 is that a bank must give a four month notice before closing a branch.

Before, people learned about the closure the very morning their branch was to close. With the finance minister's bill, they will know about it four months ahead of time.

With this bill, the government can do precious little to prevent, through legislation or coercion, the anticipated closure of a branch. With a clause that is so unrestrictive, how can one claim, like the finance minister does, that this bill will improve access to financial services? The minister is the only one who can have this kind conviction and optimism.

Bill C-8 does not provide any concrete measure to ensure greater access to financial services for the poor. That would have been a step in the right direction. The minister should know by now that there is a real problem there. He could have made use of the bill introduced by my colleague and friend, the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, in the second session of the 36th parliament. The bill was entitled an act to amend the Bank Act and the Statistics Act (equity in community reinvestment). Its main goal was to ensure that certain branches of banks take measures to facilitate access to credit for persons who have a residence or a place of business in a federal electoral district in which the branches are located.

Bill C-8 does not give any guarantee that the minister will take into consideration the specificity of the financial system in Quebec. Madam Speaker, if you and I could have a conversation on the subject, I am almost convinced that you would tell me “The hon. member is well aware of the fact that the minister is himself from Quebec, and he takes Quebecers' interests to heart”. I would regretfully have to tell you that the minister is indeed the member for Lasalle—Émard, but that he ignores or purports to ignore that Quebec is a people whose financial system has its own specificities, and that the minister in no way takes that into account in Bill C-8.

I might add that we would have this conversation if you did not hold your present position. I know that you now have to be of the utmost neutrality. But if you were a backbencher, as I am, we could have had this little chat.

My colleagues, the members for St. Hyacinthe—Bagot and Drummond, who are finance critic and assistant finance critic, respectively, will propose amendments to Bill C-8 on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to counter the inequity towards Quebec's major banks. I hope the extended Liberal caucus from Quebec will keep its promise of standing up in Ottawa for Quebecers. To this day, this caucus has given its support to the government each time it has introduced bills going against promises made during the recent campaign. Will I be forced, once more, to conclude that the population has been misled? I am waiting for proof and it is much too long coming.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

February 8th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the Alliance Party motion.

Tomorrow, we will complete the Address Debate. Votes from Thursday and Friday will be deferred to Tuesday evening, in accordance with an agreement between the parties.

On Monday, we will begin debate on the financial institutions bill. Later that day we will return to Bill C-2, the employment insurance bill.

On Tuesday, I hope to call Bill C-6 respecting boundary waters, and Bill S-2 on marine liability.

I should like to advise the House at this time that it is the Government's intention, continuing in the spirit of parliamentary reform, to propose that Bill C-6 be referred to committee before second reading, pursuant to Standing Order 73.

Next Wednesday, I expect to call Bill C-7, the youth justice bill. Next Thursday will be an Allotted Day.

In the area of parliamentary reform, I am pleased to inform the House that I have offered all House leaders full briefings on the international trade issues relevant to the Quebec City Summit of the Americas. I hope members will avail themselves of this opportunity.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActRoutine Proceedings

February 5th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)