House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ports.


The House resumed from April 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, an act to amend the Criminal Code (high risk offenders), the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Criminal Records Act, the Prisons and Reformatories Act and the Department of the Solicitor General Act, be read the third time and passed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, you will find unanimous consent that the members who voted on the previous motion, and I would add the name of the hon. member for Brent, be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

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Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


René Laurin Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, since you did not mention it, I would ask you to confirm that we are indeed dealing with Bill C-55. Bloc Quebecois members will vote yes on this motion.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

April 16th, 1997 / 5:55 p.m.


Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members present will vote no, except for those who have been instructed otherwise by their constituents.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


John Solomon Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, NDP members in the House will vote no on this motion.

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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed.)

Canada Water Export Prohibition Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.


Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

moved that Bill C-232, an act to prohibit the export of water by interbasin transfers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate my appreciation to the hon. member for Regina-Lumsden for seconding Bill C-232. I appreciate this has been an issue of major concern of his for many years. We have worked on this initiative together for the last three years and we do hope that time will permit passage of this legislation in the House as well as the other place.

I also want to acknowledge my colleague from Peace River who also indicated an interest in seconding the legislation. I want to say how much I appreciate his support on this initiative, and also that he has been steadfast in his support over the last number of years on this very important issue.

I want to indicate what was behind the initiative to introduce the bill. In my previous life I was a professional geographer and today I am also a governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. I have studied the issue of water transfers and water sales for nigh on to 35 years. My interest and concern today is as much as it was at the time the infamous North American water and power alliance proposal, often referred to as NAWAPA, was receiving a great deal of public attention.

This was a major project initiated by the Ralph M. Parsons' Engineering Company of California to divert all the rivers of northwestern Canada, including parts of Alaska, into the Rocky Mountain trench and other river basins for eventual sale to the American southwest and northern Mexico.

That issue, interesting enough, has not gone away. I noted with some interest that Mr. Dale, who at one time was the United States ambassador to Canada, two years ago was providing interviews to Western Report magazine about the renewed interest by southern California in revitalizing the concept of the NAWAPA plan to divert large amounts of water from Canada to the greater Sacramento basin which consequently would be a great business proposal.

This has many of us very concerned. I was concerned in a professional way as a geographer and in my capacity as member of Parliament for Kamloops by a recent initiative taken by entrepreneurs in western Canada and the western United states to divert50 per cent of the flow of the North Thompson River during the freshet period for eventual sale in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. The preliminary drawings had been put together. It certainly was economically, environmentally and engineeringly feasible in the traditional approach of evaluating projects. It was receiving a great deal of attention until people of the North Thompson River realized what was up and decided to take some steps against diverting one of the major tributaries of the Fraser River for eventual sale in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas.

I have a personal involvement as the member of Parliament representing that area. I also think it fair to say we have seen a number of initiatives in the last while, beginning with the free trade agreement with the United States and ending with the North

American Free Trade Agreement and more recently with the multilateral agreement on investment.

These three agreements would facilitate the sale of fresh water from Canada to the United States and Mexico. In particular, the free trade agreement and the North America Free Trade Agreement have identified water as a good or commodity. Once water is identified as a good or commodity, it comes under the purview of the North America Free Trade Agreement which makes it virtually impossible for even a national government, let alone a provincial or any kind of local government, to take any serious steps to stop the eventual sale of that product or that good into the United States or into Mexico.

I suspect that people might wonder if that is the case. I suppose we should see these trade agreements and more recently the multilateral agreement on investment in some context.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world with no water policy stated in any formal way. There is no legislation that would indicate water policy. This is appalling considering that Canada is the second largest country geographically in the world. A tremendous amount of the world's fresh water exists within our national boundaries. Yet we have no water policy.

In the absence of water policy, the free trade agreement with the United States, NAFTA, and now eventually if we sign this the multilateral agreement on investment will take priority in terms of the rules and regulations that will govern the eventual sale of water to the United States and northern Mexico.

I want to reiterate that the North America Free Trade Agreement includes water as a good under the terms of the agreement for essentially the same reason, as I stated, than does the free trade agreement with the United States. The purpose of the free trade agreement as set forth in article 102 is to eliminate barriers to trade in goods and services between the territories of the parties, to facilitate conditions of fair competition within the free trade area, to liberalize significantly conditions for investment within the free trade area, to establish effective procedures for the joint administration of this agreement and a resolution of disputes and to lay the foundation for further bilateral or multilateral co-operation to expand and enhance the benefits of this agreement.

I want to go on to quote from article 102 under NAFTA. It sets forth the objectives which include to eliminate barriers to trade in and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services between the territories of the parties, to establish substantially investment opportunities in the territories of the parties, and to establish a framework for further trilateral, regional and multilateral co-operation to expand and enhance the benefits of this agreement.

When we consider that the point of these two trade agreements to which we are a signatory is to eliminate barriers in trade for goods, is water a good under these trade agreements? Article 201.1 of the FTA states that goods of a party mean the domestic products as these are understood in the general agreement on tariffs and trade.

Similarly, goods of a party are defined in article 201 of NAFTA as products, as these are understood by the general agreement on tariffs and trade. This means that any good covered by a GATT trade heading is subject to the provisions of the agreements themselves unless explicitly excluded in their respective text.

Raw logs were exempt, cultural industries were exempt, some beer was exempt and some fish products were exempt. What was noticeably absent from the exempt list was water.

Therefore to understand the basis for inclusion of water in the trade agreements one must first look to the relevant sections of the harmonized commodity coding system of GATT. I know most members are familiar with this coding system, and 22.01 states that waters, including natural or artificial mineral waters and aerated waters not containing added sugar or other sweetening matters, are included.

To provide further clarification in case there is any confusion at all, the GATT harmonized commodity description and coding system explanatory notes were adopted by the GATT signatories in 1986. The explanatory note for heading 22.01 which represents the only GATT sanctioned elaboration of the text is as follows: "This heading covers ordinary natural water of all kinds other than sea water. Such water remains in this heading whether or not it is clarified or purified".

I could go on in some detail but I think this is sufficient to indicate that however we look at this, however we interpret it, water is a good, and goods are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

I panic when I consider what our country is now involved in, the multilateral agreement on investment. My guess is that 99.99 per cent of Canadians do not know what I am speaking about at this point because the negotiations for the multilateral agreement on investment have been taking place in secret, behind closed doors. They are high level negotiations that no one has been informed about. Provincial governments have not been alerted to this. Most members of Parliament and senators have not been alerted to the fact that the negotiations are taking place let alone any of the items being discussed.

The MAI's definition of investment is very broad. In the MAI investment means "every kind of asset owned or controlled by an investor". It extends to "rights under contracts" and "rights conferred pursuant to law or contract such as concessions, licences,

authorizations and permits". By implication the definition even extends to real estate or other property, tangible or intangible, acquired in the expectation of or used for the purpose of economic benefit or other business purposes. It seems quite clear that this definition of investment would open the door to international investors mounting direct challenges against governments for water exports.

Some people sometimes define water as a special commodity, a special good or a special product, that it is technically owned by all the people, that the government owns those water resources or products until they are sold or licensed off and so on. I do not think we can take much comfort in this. When we consider that government is the owner, often no one takes serious claim of that ownership. I point out the gas and oil industry, how that too belonged to the people and how it has been essentially sold off to the highest bidder wherever and whenever it is found. This is to say nothing about my own province where the timber resources theoretically belonged to the people but have now been allocated to the last branch to one of the major forest companies for its exclusive use.

We are now being confronted with a most serious issue. The only product in Canada the United States does not have access to right now is water. Until recently there was some indication that parts of our cultural industry were protected from American inclusion. In the last number of days the Minister for International Trade has made it clear that will be impossible to protect in the future. Even culture, the one industry that was named in the free trade agreements to receive some protection, is now being abandoned and put on the sacred altar of the free market. We are now down to one item, water.

We have to ask ourselves why the Government of Canada is reluctant to introduce a clear water policy for Canada and why the House of Commons, through the government initiative, is not prepared to introduce legislation to prohibit the interbasin transfer of water for export.

Two jurisdictions have taken steps. British Columbia has recently taken some steps to prohibit the interbasin transfer of water for export and the province of Ontario under previous administration introduced strong legislation to prohibit the interbasin transfer of water for export sales. Saskatchewan has done this too. When we consider that some provincial governments have taken strong steps, why is the federal government silent on this issue? Why does it refuse to take any initiative at all? Why does it refuse to even discuss it? Why does it refuse to even have the most simplistic water policy concerning the importance of water in the second largest country in the world? These are questions that must be asked.

As we speak there are all sorts of people who are quite anxious to sell our water to the Americans. Americans are anxious but many

Canadians are too. I refer first to the American Society of Civil Engineers which recently published a handbook that points out all the benefits of diverting water from Canada to the United States, of selling Canadian water to the United States. It points out that we already have 54 interbasin transfer systems within Canada. This is nothing new to our country. The export of course is.

Even if the federal government were to pass legislation, even if provincial governments were to pass legislation, we must us acknowledge that as a result of international law, trade agreements take priority over national, state or regional legislation.

We can imagine if the state of Montana passed legislation that went against the general trust of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It would be laughed right out of the international court. So too would provincial, national or state governments.

At the moment we are locked in. If we agree to eventually sign the multilateral agreement on investment, we will lock those decisions in for a 20-year period. For 20 years a decision under that agreement cannot be reversed once a trade or business initiative is taken.

We have serious problems. I reluctantly say that in my own province the Fraser Institute is an enthusiastic booster, a cheerleader for the whole idea of selling Canadian water to whomever. Whether it is the United States or Mexico it is anxious to see water designated as a commodity. Recently one of its publications articulated its position very clearly. Not only are Americans anxious to purchase Canadian water. Some Canadians are very anxious to sell it.

We do not have to look very far. The person who negotiated the trade agreement with the United States, NAFTA, was Simon Reisman. He was one of the main proponents of the interbasin transfers of water to the United States. The thesis topic of Manitoba's Gary Filmon when he was studying at the University of Manitoba was an investigation of the diversion of northern Manitoba waters into Lake Manitoba. The major objective of the study was an assessment of the possible future scope of water developed in western Canada and the feasibility of water exports to the United States.

Not only are entrepreneurs and industrial and business leaders often anxious to sell Canadian water to others, particularly the United States and Mexico, but some of our political leaders are on record as feeling similarly.

The lack of any initiative by the government, let alone the previous government which we assume would have sold us out to the United States, raises suspect whether the government is tacitly

approving the notion of selling Canadian fresh water to United States and Mexico.

Canada Water Export Prohibition Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

An hon. member

The Prime Minister and President Clinton were golfing and talking about giving away water.

Canada Water Export Prohibition Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

They were talking during their golf game about various matters. I could go on at some length but I want to hear what my colleagues have to say about this important initiative.

Maybe Canadians are wondering how significant the issue is. When someone goes into a store to buy a litre of water or a litre of oil, often the litre of water is actually more expensive than the litre of oil. We know to what extent the United States will go to ensure its secure oil supplies. We can all agree that water is even much more valuable than oil. We can imagine the extent to which Americans will go to eventually have access to our fresh water.

It is important that we take whatever steps we can as a country to indicate that Canadian water is not for sale. Canadian water is the lifeblood of our country and is not to be treated in the same spirit as we treat cod, copper or timber.

Canada Water Export Prohibition Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Don Valley West


John Godfrey Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, there is good reason to applaud the initiative of the hon. member for Kamloops in introducing the bill. The government supports the objective of sustaining Canada's water resources and Bill C-232 proposes one way in which we could do it.

I am concerned, however, that the prohibition of water export by interbasin transfers may be too narrow an approach to a complex issue. Access to adequate clean water supplies is critical to our health, to our quality of life and to Canada's competitive position. Much of our economy and jobs are tied directly or indirectly to our supplies in water from farming, forestry and industrial development to tourism and recreational sectors.

Growth in these areas will depend on sustaining the benefits of adequate and clean water resources.

To put it another way, water is an essential part of all ecosystems, from the functions and life support provided by lakes and streams to the role of the global hydrological cycle in sustaining water in all its forms.

Our drainage systems do not conform to political boundaries but continue to unite different parts of our country through travel and commerce and through co-operative efforts to conserve and protect these waterways and their ecosystems.

The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River connect most of eastern Canada, as the north and south Saskatchewan Rivers link the prairie provinces; the Fraser, most of British Columbia; and the Mackenzie River and its tributaries, much of the north.

Current initiatives such as the Great Lakes, Fraser River andSt. Lawrence action plans are excellent examples of all levels of government working together and with industry and non-government organizations to address health and sustainable development within these aquatic ecosystems.

It is essential that our decisions reflect a comprehensive approach to sustaining water resources. On the question of water export, we must ask ourselves at what point water removal may result in damage to an ecosystem. It is clear that interbasin transfers have the potential to cause the most significant social, economic and environmental impacts.

What about other means of withdrawal of water for export purposes such as the use of supertankers taking water from coastal lakes and streams, the mining of groundwater reserves or the cumulative impacts of a series of small scale withdrawals from the same source?

Without doubt Bill C-232 is consistent with the federal water policy which explicitly opposes water export by interbasin transfer.

I have to take issue with the hon. member in his interpretation of the NAFTA when it talks about water as a good and refers to it as bottled beverages. It does not refer to the large scale exports of water to which he alluded.

Interest in water export has shifted away from proposals for the construction of megaprojects, despite the obvious vested interest of civil engineers, which would result in large scale interbasin transfers of water, the focus of Bill C-232. Large scale exports through massive engineering work such as the Grand Canal proposal are not considered viable under current market conditions. The costs associated with the delivery of water would greatly exceed the prices that users would be willing to pay for water. That is not to say that future water shortages could not result in prices that might meet the costs of such export proposals.

The current focus of water export proposals, however, is by tankership using water from coastal lakes and streams or by tanker trucks or pipelines carrying water from surface to groundwater sources.

Not only have the economics of water export clearly changed in terms of capital investment needs but our understanding of the scope and extent of potential environmental, social and long term economic impacts. Water is possibly the most basic and unifying element in ecosystems.

As I have already stated, water export must be viewed from an ecosystem approach. Concerns relating to all forms of water export which were not considered in the 1960s now must be factored in. These include the effects of climate change for which recent predictions suggest losses of water availability of about 20 per cent for some of the settled regions of the country; the potential biotic

transfer and contamination resulting from the discharges of ballast supertankers withdrawing water from coastal streams and lakes; the fragility of our ecosystems, particularly northern ecosystems, to disturbance; the concerns of First Nations whose ways of life are intimately tied to the cycles of abundance of water; the displacement of communities or depletion of water resources available to downstream communities; and the loss of recreational and commercial benefits.

The measures we propose to address the water export issue must reflect both the current and future focus of export proposals and the broad environmental, social and long term economic impact of such proposals. Bill C-32 fails to do.

This leads to a second concern. We should take action to address the broad range of concerns facing fresh water in a comprehensive way rather than limit ourselves to the one concern of water export. The need for such an approach is based on the growing recognition of the importance of water, the diverse and complex jurisdictional responsibilities associated with sustainably managing water, and the pressures on governments to continue to manage these responsibilities effectively in the current climate of financial restraint.

All Canadians have stewardship responsibilities for water. It is important that we consult with them in developing a comprehensive approach to water export and to the many other freshwater issues currently facing us.

Over the past 10 years the government has consulted Canadians on a wide variety of water issues, most recently through a series of workshops held across Canada to identify water priorities and directions for the next century. Contrary to the suggestion of the hon. member we are not silent. We are taking action. We are currently conducting a review of our programs and legislation relating to sustaining Canada's water resources. It is through this review that a comprehensive approach to water can be developed, including legislative measures to address water export.

I will conclude by reiterating that, first, it is imperative we address the full range of water export options to ensure the sustainability of Canada's water resources and the continued health of our ecosystems. We must adopt measures whether in legislation or by other means which provide a clear approach to resolving the issue and which reflect the concerns of all Canadians.

Second, we must not limit our actions to the single issue of water export in addressing the challenges facing fresh water. Taking a piecemeal approach to the broad range of fresh water issues reflects the ways of the past. We need an integrated and comprehensive solution to sustaining environmental, social and economic health, which depend on water.

Canada Water Export Prohibition Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise today to speak to the bill introduced by my colleague in the New Democratic Party, an act to prohibit the export of water by interbasin transfers.

Our colleague was undoubtedly motivated to introduce this bill because of the fear that one morning he would see Canadian water basins emptying into American ones. We would see these basins drained or greatly reduced without being able to do anything about it. In light of the present water shortages and climatic fluctuations caused by greenhouse gases, this fear seems entirely legitimate to me and certainly justifies our giving this whole issue serious consideration.

We must ask ourselves whether our water resources are in fact threatened in the short, medium and long term. It is clear to me that water will be an increasingly precious resource in the future and that people, industries and countries will therefore want to lay claim to it by any means possible.

In the era of free trade and globalization of markets, it should come as no surprise that fresh water is becoming a rare, not to say very rare, commodity. We in Quebec and in Canada are lucky enough to have large quantities of this precious commodity and could therefore export it.

The main question we must ask ourselves is this: Can we keep this resource, which is so abundant in this country, for ourselves while other people on the same continent as us are suffering shortages with very serious consequences? Can we not share this resource intelligently for the benefit of everyone?

Moreover, can we leave this resource unprotected, at the mercy of anyone who wants to appropriate it, which may have a disastrous impact on the resource?

The bill standing in the name of the hon. member for Kamloops is intended to deal with interbasin transfers, which means transfers of huge quantities of water. According to the hon. member, it is up to Canada to protect this natural resource, since NAFTA contains no measures to protect or prohibit the export of this resource. According to the hon. member, we need legislation to prohibit massive exports by interbasin transfers.

I agree there are a number of situations that must not be allowed to arise. For instance, the harnessing or diversion of rivers without a licence or without authorization from the appropriate authorities. We must of course prohibit anything that would have harmful consequences for our resource, but is a total ban really necessary?

Since the beginning of this century we have considerably modified our river systems. By using various technologies we have

substantially altered the natural course of our lakes, rivers and streams. Immense reservoirs like James Bay in Quebec, built to produce electricity, and the reservoirs created for the pulp and paper industry are good examples of the impact we have had on our waterways.

Today, few waterways are without a dam, a dike or at least some control mechanism. It is clear that all these changes have had are on a vast territory. Gradually, these changes will have consequences on a huge scale. I think we should consider the impact these changes have had and recognize our responsibility.

We must find out whether these artificial changes in our systems have not had a harmful impact outside Canada. And if so, should we not try to remedy the situation using intelligent strategies that respect the resource?

In fact, in addition to these artificial changes, we have actually changed quality of the water. Throughout the world we have been remiss in the way we treated surface water by polluting it. The consequences are reflected in the exorbitant costs of making water safe to drink, and, even worse, in the dwindling supply of fresh, potable water.

In fact, surface water that is potable without being treated is practically non existent. It is found exclusively below ground at varying depths, and we are now pumping this water in huge quantities to sell it as bottled water. This is another phenomenon which disturbs me and which we will have to look at seriously without delay.

The picture is pretty clear: in Canada we have a lot of water that we use exclusively for our own benefit. In recent years, we have contained and dammed it by various means. Should we today open the gates to the south, to the United States for instance, which sees us as a huge body of water that it may endlessly dip into? Our neighbour to the south feels that we are wasting water because we are not using the huge reserves in the north. But when it comes to waste, we certainly do not have anything to learn from our neighbours south of the border.

Another aspect of the bill introduced by my colleague from the New Democratic Party to which we should give our attention is once again the whole issue of jurisdiction. Even though the federal government has jurisdiction over international trade, is it desirable for it to legislate the export of water? Imagine the situation where Quebec decides to export water from its large reservoirs to the United States, without any significant impact on Quebec's system. Should the federal government block this export if it has no negative impact? The federal government again?

The federal government is certainly no guarantee that the environment will be protected these days. Its disengagement is obvious and very disturbing. I wonder therefore whether we can trust it when it comes to the management of water and the related analyses and evaluations.

Whether it be for personal consumption, irrigation or other purposes, I do not think we should systematically prohibit interbasin transfers. Of course we should conserve, protect and clean up our resource, but we can also share it.

I think there should be a broad public debate of this issue. I also think we must continue to keep water a public resource. It would be a much greater threat to water as a resource to leave it to the private sector. The prospect of making a large profit quickly could empty all of Canada's basins. The public nature of the resource therefore constitutes a good guarantee, a sort of safeguard against possible exploitation.

I think we should also look into this issue of export with an eye to all the possibilities for agreements with future foreign markets that would respect the resource itself and that would be based on complete and transparent impact studies. We must also develop policies with the long term in mind, based on sustainable management of the resource.

I cannot support the bill at this stage in the debate. However, I am considering it and I continue to weigh all the factors. This is a major issue that deserves an open-minded approach and greater study.

Canada Water Export Prohibition Act
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of fresh water export has troubled Canadians for at least three decades. There are new dimensions in the 1990s, however, which were not part of the debate in the 1960s.

Public concern has been heightened, for example, by aboriginal resistance to export proposals threatening their traditional areas and by recent predictions that global warming could result in losses of water availability of about 20 per cent for some of the settled regions of the country.

At the same time, we should be aware that there is, as of this date, no significant export of water resources from Canada, only a little trade in beverages and some small exchanges of treated supplies between neighbouring border communities. No lakes or rivers in Canada have been diverted out of their natural courses to flow south of the border. No supertankers have departed Canadian shores under contract to deliver bulk water supplies to overseas destinations. That is the reality of our present situation.

There have been, and there will continue to be, of course, proposals for water export which range from the use of pipelines and tanker trucks to draw on groundwater reserves, to marine transport from coastal streams, to the more grandiose schemes involving large scale diversions of rivers. All of these proposals

have the potential to affect the social, environmental and economic benefits Canadians derive from their water resources.

For this reason it is of paramount importance that the issue of water export be considered in its entirety, that we do not develop solutions to one problem at a time at the expense of a more comprehensive approach to this whole issue.

Over the last 30 years, concern about exports of Canada's water resources has risen primarily as a result of proposals to divert massive amounts of water to the United States to deal with water shortages or to allow for increased agricultural, industrial and urban development in areas in the United States with limited supplies. Concern has also focused on the possibility that once these taps are turned on, it would be very difficult to turn them off.

Several of these megaprojects are worth mentioning. One of the best known is the North American water and power alliance project of the 1960s. It involved the diversion of water from Alaska, northwestern Canada and watersheds surrounding Hudson Bay and James Bay to the dry, arid areas of the western United States, the prairie provinces and northern Mexico.

Another megaproject was the grand recycling and northern development grand canal project which would have transferred James Bay into a freshwater lake by building a dike at its northern end and impounding the rivers that empty into the bay. The flows of rivers would have been reversed to deliver water to the Great Lakes and from there to other destinations in North America.

These megaprojects, while having the potential to create jobs and investment in Canada in the short term, would not benefit Canadian society in the long term.

With 9 per cent of the world's renewable fresh water resources, it is easy for us to assume that Canada has an abundance of water and can support limited export of its water resources. This perception is not well founded. The idea that if we do not use all the water, it is somehow wasted fails to recognize that there is no surplus of water in an ecosystem. All the water serves a purpose in sustaining the dynamics and functions of that ecosystem.

Thus, although Canada would seem to possess substantial water resources there are regions in Canada in which scarcities exist or will exist. These areas include the river basins of the Okanagan, Milk, South Saskatchewan and the Red-Assiniboine Rivers, as well as nearly all of the smaller river basins of southern Ontario.

Within this context it is worth considering whether we would be better served by addressing all means of water export and not limiting discussion to interbasin transfers. Bill C-232 also mentions a need for policy, research and consultations among federal, provincial and territorial governments on the subject of interbasin water transfers within Canada. It provides no guidance, however, in this area.

That is unfortunate because Canadians have a great deal of experience with interbasin transfer projects. In fact, the volume of water transferred across drainage basin boundaries in Canada is several times greater than in any other country in the world. Virtually all of the larger existing interbasin diversion projects support hydroelectric power generation with smaller volumes used for irrigation, municipal supply and flood control.

Members of the House will be interested to know that the largest of these projects was constructed in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then construction and expansion of such megaprojects have been shelved in all regions of the country: the Kemano Alcan project in British Columbia; the Nelson River program in Manitoba, expansion of the James Bay hydro project in Quebec.

Energy demands have fallen and it is less costly to promote efficiencies on the part of the users of energy and water, rather than to continue to develop the new supplies.

The federal water policy addresses Canada's experience with interbasin transfer projects, but advocating caution in considering their needs, and by endorsing other less destructive alternatives such as demand management and water conservation.

There are no plans under consideration to proceed with any further interbasin transfers at this time anywhere in this country. That tells us two things of importance.

First, not only do Canadians oppose the large scale diversion of our lakes and rivers across the international boundary, they have learned from experience that interbasin diversions carry a high price for their own regional economies and environments.

Second, it would be shortsighted to pursue this issue in isolation of the larger context which considers changing public values, competing in complementary water use relationships and governmental priorities.

Federal programs and legislation related to the sustainability of Canada's water resources are currently being reviewed and the issues of export and interbasin transfers should be addressed in that larger context.

Canada Water Export Prohibition Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on the bill introduced by my colleague from Kamloops. I know he has a very deep concern on this issue of water exports.

I share that concern, although I believe we are adequately protected. However, it is not as crystal clear as it could be. Therefore, it is important that we take whatever steps necessary to

make sure that Canada does not get into a situation where it is required to export water by any means such as interbasin transfer.

Water is a very important resource and will be even more important in the future. In my riding of Peace River we have a lot of oil and gas development. Oil and gas companies have consistently tried to use potable ground water for flooding their oil zones when salt water is available at a not much larger cost. I believe we should continue to resist this misuse of potable water because it is going to be a very serious problem in the future.

I support the bill introduced by the member for Kamloops and I will state my reasons for supporting it.

Reform policy dating back to 1993, prior to the last election and prior to the passage of NAFTA, makes a specific statement on water. It states that the exclusive and unrestricted control of water in all its forms should be maintained by and for Canada and that both free trade agreements should be amended to reflect this.

I admit it is a little late to be talking about amending NAFTA. Furthermore, there have been assurances from all sides that water in lakes, streams and basins can in no way be considered a commodity. Therefore, water in its raw format is not covered by NAFTA. Consequently, there is nothing in NAFTA that could force us to transfer water to the United States. Prior to signing the NAFTA the three governments issued a joint statement to this effect. It stated that the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico in order to correct false interpretations issued a joint public statement such as the parties in the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The NAFTA creates no rights to the natural water resources of any party to the agreement. Unless water in any form has entered into commerce and become a good or product, it is not covered in the provisions of the trade agreement under the NAFTA.

Nothing in the NAFTA would oblige the NAFTA partners to exploit water for commercial use or to begin to export water in any form. Water in its natural state in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, aquifers, water basins and the like is not a good or product. It is not traded and therefore is not and never has been subject to any terms of the agreement.

Just the fact that we are having to clarify it makes people wonder whether it was missed in the free trade agreement. I restate that we want to make sure we tie it down and not allow any possibility of it happening.

From this statement it would seem we are safe as long as water does not enter into commerce, but I do have that concern. Canada already has a policy of prohibiting interbasin water transfers, but policy is not law. New governments can bring in new policies. Why not take he advice of the member for Kamloops and back this policy with legislation? I agree that we should do it.

Back in 1988 similar legislation was introduced but it died on the Order Paper and was never resurrected. Off and on over the past decades the United States has faced significant water problems. Despite occasional droughts Americans have an extremely high water consumption rate per capita. This is partly due to irrigation practices of the agriculture industry and the fact that Americans persist in growing water intensive crops.

To deal with this recurring problem various American and Canadian interests dreamed up massive water diversion proposals in the mid-fifties and early sixties. There was the North American Water and Power Alliance, PRIME and the Grand Canal scheme. They used different methods like tunnels, canals, pipelines and dams to divert water from B.C., Alberta and Quebec south of the border. That was their dream.

Although the public uproar against such projects pretty much killed them, occasionally there is still talk about scaled down versions. Why have Canadians become so concerned? The fact is that Canadians have less clean fresh water than one would think. Many of southern lakes and rivers are polluted with industrial waste and sewage, and most of our rivers of course flow north away from our major centres. We cannot really afford to squander the fresh water that remains. Commercial interests that want to use fresh groundwater have put it under great pressure in some areas of the country. Water will be a very important issue in the future and we need to maintain it.

A further problem has to do with the environment. Sending our water south can have massive ecological repercussions. Interbasin transfers can introduce parasites and other organisms into new environments where they can have devastating effects. A recent example is the introduction of zebra mussels into the Great Lakes.

There could also be detrimental effects on fish and bird species where fresh water flows are introduced into estuaries affecting the salinity of the water. Massive water diversions can change climactic conditions and introduce mercury and other contaminants into the food change.

In conclusion, the House should support the bill. The Reform Party has always insisted that Canada maintain control of its natural water. It would have been preferable to include water rights under the NAFTA. We failed to do that. They should be included in legislation. We should have a policy that restricts interbasin transfer that might make water exports possible. We support our colleague from Kamloops.