Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Lethbridge.
Canada has the extraordinary responsibility of having 9% of the freshwater in the world. This bill will go a long way in dealing with the important issue of regulating freshwater within Canada and excluding it from NAFTA, which the public wants to see happen.
It is easy to get misty eyed over water and to think of it as something akin to the Holy Grail, something beyond reproach and discussion. I am very glad we are having this discussion on whether or not we should export bulk water. This debate is in its infancy in Canada. It is important for us to deal with the facts.
The bill will prohibit the removal of water from the basins in which it is located, specifically in those areas that are in the boundary between the United States and Canada. It will require a licence from the Minister of Foreign Affairs for any activity of boundary or transboundary waters which would have the effect of altering the natural level or ebb and flow of freshwater.
As a party we are absolutely adamant that we ensure Canada has control over our important water resources. We support exempting water from NAFTA.
It is a renewable resource resting within science. Therefore, whatever decisions we make on this particular subject must be rooted not in emotion but in science and fact.
Interestingly, a Pandora's box has been opened. Right now six sites in our country are selling bulk water. One of those particular sites is called Waterbank. I encourage people to take a look at it. It demonstrates that the cat is out of the bag and that private landowners are selling water over the Internet.
We need to address this issue but it is not being addressed in this particular bill. Why do we have to address it? Because water flows through a hydrological cycle. That hydrological cycle is interconnected between private and public lands. There is no way to differentiate or separate that because water flows in that cycle regardless of what we do. It is also affected by what we do, such as the building of dams. At the end of the day, that hydrological cycle will let us know what will or will not be allowed in terms of bulk export of water.
We are going to support this bill. It is a very important first step, not only for public debate but also as to what we should do in the future. I certainly hope the minister responsible will find the best scientists in and outside our country and use the best scientific research when determining the pros and cons with respect to bulk water sales. On one hand, it can be an enormous renewable resource for Canadians who desperately require it. On the other hand, it can be a source of jobs and job creation, particularly in areas such as Newfoundland and my province of British Columbia.
In British Columbia, water actually evaporates from our oceans, falls onto the land as freshwater, runs through the cycle, through the rivers and then goes back into the ocean. It is possible that there is a resource there. However, if we extract anything, it must be done on the basis of good solid science.
There are other aspects with respect to water that are not touched on in this bill but should be. One is the issue of water quality. We saw the Walkerton tragedy. We know from our communities that many of them are suffering the ravages of water which has been abused. Pesticides and fertilizers in particular are acidifying our groundwater. Water tables are eroding. As a result of that communities are finding it very difficult to find the freshwater they require. I know that some communities in and around my area of Victoria have had some very difficult times with respect to access to water. We have been on water emergencies and water has been rationed as a result of that.
The extent of the pollution has being largely ignored. I know I mentioned examples in this House before of how badly our water tables are and how our water has been eroded with respect to poisons.
For example, if we were to test the flesh taken from a Beluga whale found in the St. Lawrence Seaway we would find it polluted with cancer causing and taratogenic agents. It would be considered a toxic substance. Imagine, we have large mammals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that are considered toxic waste. The only reason those mammals would be considered as such is we have poisoned our water. Those chemicals, which flow through our ecosystem, are being bioaccumulated in the mammals that live in our water systems.
As we go from smaller to larger species, the bioaccumulation of these carcinogenic and taratogenic substances are magnified. Therefore, in the top line predators there are considerable amounts of these toxic substances, to say the least. This should act as a bellwether for us, the ultimate predator within our ecosystems, because we eat some of these fish.
One of the great gaps in the government's analysis of these issues is environmental assessment. The government has been told time and again that environmental assessments are required not at the end of a project or after a project but at the beginning of a project.
The public would find it shocking that environment assessments on 40% of all development projects take place near the end or after the project is complete. It is an utterly useless exercise. If development is to be done with environmental protection in mind, those assessments must take place at the beginning. I encourage the relevant ministers to review this practice which simply must end.
Wars in the future will be fought over water. Access to potable water in other countries is often a serious problem. Here are a few facts. Chronic water scarcity now impacts 10% of the world's population. Eighty countries, imagine, 80 countries, with 40% of the world's population already experience critical water shortages.
I need only draw attention to the Middle East, to Jordan and Israel, and to what could become a Palestinian state. These areas have an absolutely critical water shortage. While people there are fighting over other issues, what may ultimately determine their actions and who can live in the area is not the gun but the amount of potable water.
One-quarter of the world's population is expected to face severe water shortages in the next 25 years. To show how bad it is, much of the world's population lives on eight litres of water a day. That may seem like a lot, but each person in Canada uses 325 litres of water per day. That is extraordinary. Canada possesses 9% of the world's freshwater, the lion's share.
Ultimately other countries will look at our water supply with a great deal of envy and some of them may at times need urgent access to it. It is up to us to protect the resource, be good stewards and implement solutions that will affect the resource in a positive way.
More than five million people die each year from illnesses related to unsafe drinking water. Thirty thousand children die each day from water related diseases. Having worked in Africa I know, as many people here know, that children are dying of dysentery. It is a very serious problem in many developing countries.
In closing, I encourage the Government of Canada to work with other parties here today to put forth a bill that will protect our resources. We must ultimately be stewards not only in what we do with our water but in how we protect it to ensure the potable water we have today will not be polluted.