Mr. Speaker, the member for Kamloops deserves to be complimented for bringing the bill before us. It allows us to discuss the question of water policy.
Under a Liberal government in 1983 a study was commissioned on water which resulted in the Pearse report entitled "Currents of Change", an inquiry on federal water policy which saw the light of
day in 1986. Chapter 12 of the report contained a thorough analysis of water exports as one of the many components of water policy.
The Pearse report has been languishing since then. Its main recommendations are waiting either to be implemented in their original form or modified. In this sense Bill C-232 is extremely helpful because it reminds us that the whole question of water needs to be visited urgently.
The bill relates to the export of water. I concur with the main thrust of the private member's bill. However I cannot find, as he does, any reference in the NAFTA that would commit the Government of Canada to export water. My recollection is that there is only a reference to mineral water, as the parliamentary secretary indicated in his intervention. Nevertheless, if the member for Kamloops has a section of the NAFTA that specifically implies Canada's commitment to export water, I would be grateful if he were to bring it to our attention.
We are talking about the role of the International Joint Commission which needs to be revisited to determine whether it is timely and effective and, if not, whether it has to be recast in a new role.
We are also talking about whether our water research facilities, particularly with respect to fresh water, are adequate; whether we are using water in Canada in an efficient manner; whether the quality of water at the municipal level is adequate; and whether there are ways of improving it.
As the member for Laurentides indicated, we need to look at the trends in groundwater. If the trends are downward, as she and some hydrologists indicated, we need to look at the predictions for the long term so we can ensure the use of water is sustainable and future generations, the grandchildren of our grandchildren, will have access to groundwater in the same manner as we do despite the predicted increase in population.
The member for Kamloops said there was tacit approval for the sale of water to U.S. and Mexico. He seems to be stretching it a bit beyond belief. I do not see any evidence of that. The strong point of the bill is that it draws our attention to the fact that whenever there is an interbasin transfer of water there is an impact on the ecosystem. There is an impact on plants, animals and even sometimes on the micro climate.
Therefore interbasin transfers should be a thing of the past and ought never to be considered again, if at all possible, as was the case with the not lamented disappearance of the Grand Canal proposal. That proposal received under the Conservative regime of 1984 to 1994 a grant to facilitate its fulfilment. It was one of the greatest misuses of public money I can remember.
I welcomed the parliamentary secretary indicating that a review of water policy was currently taking place. That was the best kept secret in town. Nevertheless it is a good one We welcome that fact. We all look forward to the phase when the review will become open, which will then allow parliamentarians, the public, interested parties and so on to participate.
In discussing the management of water and how humans relate to it, one cannot help but make a brief reference to dam construction as the member for Thunder Bay did so eloquently in his intervention. We all hope the construction of dams remains a thing of the past. It has had its phase but we must learn to operate and function in relation to water within the means made available to us without interfering and damaging nature in the way we have done so far.
In this respect I can only thing of the horrendous damage to the native economy that has been caused by the construction of the Great Whale Dam in northern Quebec and the proposal which fortunately was suspended thereafter because of strong opposition to it.
The times of megaprojects are over. At least I hope they are over and we can manage our requirements for water in a more thoughtful and careful manner, being aware of the ecological impact.
We need to examine the pricing, quality and management of water; the international questions including the question of water export; and the role of the institutions we have established over time to manage better the waters we share with our neighbours.
In conclusion, I cannot stress too strongly the necessity of the Pearse report finally being made the object of a thorough review and a policy being announced that will implement the recommendations contained therein.
I would ask that the member for Oakville-Milton be allowed to speak for 10 minutes.