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.