House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was border.


Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

A recorded division on the amendment stands deferred.

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5:35 p.m.

Western Arctic Northwest Territories


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.

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5:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


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.

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5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to join in this debate today on a subject very dear to myself and certainly to most Canadians because of recent events that have affected a great number of Canadians, that is, the matter of water and the protection of our water resources.

Certainly the bill is supportable and our party intends to support it, but it is really unfortunate that this is the best we could do. The bill comes forward to amend a law in Canada that has been on the books since 1909, I believe. It really does not address the real issues surrounding water that Canadians are so concerned about.

The bill comes forward as a result, I think, of a dismal failure on the part of the Mulroney government of some years ago to protect the sovereignty of Canadian water in the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. I remember that there was a lot of discussion at the time and a lot of concerns were expressed by Canadians. In fact, a part of the negotiations that was so important to Canada was the protection of water. There was a lot of rhetoric flying back and forth as to whether or not water in fact was included in the free trade agreement. It has certainly since been concluded that it is not exempted from the free trade agreement and that in fact Canada has a real problem with the protection of its sovereignty over water resources.

We all remember very clearly, during the federal election campaign of 1993, the current Prime Minister's pledge to open up the free trade agreement with the U.S. to include water in one of the articles as being exempted from the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. Of course that did not happen and I think most clear thinking Canadians knew it would not happen, that it was not possible to make it happen without opening up the agreement and addressing a number of issues that the U.S. government was willing to look at and wanted included. I think probably one of those issues that is very dear to Ontario and Quebec is the issue of supply managed industries that receive protection under the free trade agreement. As a result we really did not get any of the protection we were looking for.

Since 1993, of course, there has been a lot of attention paid to water and its protection, not only protection from export and interbasin transfer but certainly protection from pollution, as well as the safety of water for human consumption. More than ever Canadians and people all around the world now are beginning to recognize the value of their water resources. Water is a primary ingredient for life on this planet and while years ago we did not give a lot of thought to it in Canada because we had such an abundance of it and it was so pristine, we never gave a lot of thought to the need for protection of our water supply. The events in Walkerton that resulted in a number of people losing their lives and many more people being very ill because of a pollutant in a water supply, and then again events this last summer in North Battleford, have brought home in a real way how precious our water resources are and how we Canadians must move to protect them in any way possible.

As a youngster growing up in rural northern Alberta and northern Ontario, I found that it was not uncommon when we were camping or engaging in business in remote and wild parts of the country to simply access without any treatment whatsoever the water supply available to us for drinking, cooking and bathing. For thousands of years Canada's aboriginal people accessed the water supply in Canada on just such a basis, never giving much thought to whether that water was safe to drink or safe to cook with. That certainly is no longer the case.

It does not matter whether we are in the densely populated regions of Ontario or in the wilds of the Canadian Arctic, it can no longer be taken for granted that we can kneel down and drink the water that is before us. That water could make us sick or perhaps even kill us.

It has come to the forefront of everyone's thinking that we need to do something to protect our water. The bill, minimal as it is, certainly is at least an attempt to do something to protect at least waters under federal jurisdiction, the boundary waters over which we have shared jurisdiction with the U.S. government. It is a small step in the right direction but we need much more. We need to go much further. In essence we need to protect the sovereignty of Canada's water. I do not mean simply banning these grandiose schemes to export Canada's water to other countries or other basins.

In Canada we have a huge supply of fresh water. I believe we have something like 9% of the world supply of fresh water. We should have every right to use that water and those water resources for the benefit of Canadians. I firmly believe that those water resources will become even more valuable than the natural energy resources that Canada is currently and has for a long time been developing. This freshwater resource has the potential to be one of the most valuable resources in the world. I think we must have the right as a country to manage those resources, firstly for the benefit of Canadians. Under the free trade agreement with the United States, if we try to use those water resources for the benefit of Canadians immediately we are open to legal action for not allowing equal access to those water resources to Americans.

Because of the failure of the past two governments to address this issue, we already have hugely costly legal action filed against Canada under the free trade agreement resulting from a scheme to move glacier water from British Columbia to the United States. Those schemes will continue to come forward. The bill only addresses any such schemes that would take place within the boundary waters of shared jurisdiction, but there is a lot more water out there than those boundary waters and it does need that protection.

This summer I travelled through southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and across the northwest regions of the United States, all of which are suffering from a severe drought that has been happening in those regions over the past year or two. It becomes more and more evident how valuable that water resource is. Those parts of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan and the northwestern United States simply are turning into deserts. Very little is growing. These huge areas that once were such valuable food producing regions are severely restricted because of the lack of water to grow crops.

Certainly if one travels through those areas that have access to irrigation supplies and can actually put water on the land the difference is absolutely amazing. It is like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Those areas are producing huge crops with great economic benefits for the regions and the people involved.

I suspect this will continue to be the case or will even get worse, to the point where the United States will look northward with an eye to accessing our freshwater supplies to help produce the food the people of their country need. Before that happens I believe that we as a country and a government have a responsibility to be prepared and have in place regulations and laws that will in fact allow Canadians, first and foremost, to benefit from those water resources. Only afterward, if we as a country so decide, should we benefit from the wealth that we might obtain by sharing that resource with areas that need it to produce food.

That may not happen in my lifetime or for a long time, but at some point, if water continues to become scarcer in northern California and throughout the northwest and midwest U.S., it is inevitable that people will realize the potential to be gained from the use of our water resources, huge amounts of which flow every year into the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Hudson's Bay or the Atlantic Ocean. At some point, I believe, we will look at what benefit could be gained from the development of that flow of water and from directing that water resource to areas of the world that desperately need fresh water to feed their populations. Again, I certainly think we have to be prepared to do that.

Unfortunately, as I said, the bill amends a treaty signed between Canada and the United States back in 1909 and is simply a feeble attempt to address the concerns of Canadians about water and the NAFTA agreement and how it affects us. As long as we in Canada can prevent water from being traded, either interprovincially or internationally, then the concern over how it is treated under NAFTA is not an issue. However, the minute we allow water to become a commodity it becomes part of the NAFTA agreement and we then have no right under that agreement to restrict the use or the development of that water to Canadians only. We will have to open it up, certainly to the U.S. as well, but the provisions in the bill for licensing and the penalties that would be imposed for breaches of this particular law should be adequate and should do the job.

I have been in the House for some nine years now. Again, like almost every bill that has come through the House, the bill vests more authority in the governor in council, the Prime Minister and his cabinet to govern and to change laws through regulation rather than bring the issues back to the House to let Canada's parliament debate them and vote on the amendments. That is the wrong way to go. I believe that for the sake of spreading knowledge and gaining the support of Canadians these issues should be dealt with by parliament. That is what our job is and that is what we should be doing.

I am disappointed this is the best the government could do to address the concerns of Canadians about our water supply. It should have been done a long time ago. The government should be pressing much harder through the international trade minister, the foreign affairs minister and the natural resources minister to address issues not addressed in the bill such as water other than boundary water. However we in the Canadian Alliance will support the bill when it comes time for the vote. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-6, an Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time this day six months hence.

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6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Debate is on the amendment.

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


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—

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6:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Except if one weighs 300 pounds.

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6:05 p.m.


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?

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6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member still has a few seconds left, but when debate resumes next time, he will have 17 minutes.

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6:25 p.m.


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 ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, we had earlier consultations and we will not follow through on the issue during adjournment proceedings tonight. I informed the clerk's desk earlier.

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6:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today in the House to ask the Minister of Transport about the serious state of highway 7 which extends southwest from Ottawa and cuts through my riding of Lanark--Carleton.

Highway 7 is the most direct route between Ottawa and Toronto. As such it is an important commuting, trucking and bus route. It has the potential to be used more than it currently is although the highway is quite overloaded.

The Ottawa area has experienced an economic boom in recent years. Businesses and commuters have started to spread beyond Kanata and into the towns of Carleton Place and Perth. This movement of people and capital has served to increase traffic and trucking volume on highway 7 which is becoming an increasingly important artery.

The mayor of Carleton Place, Brian Costello, has been very vocal in calling for a widening of the roadway into a four lane divided highway. MPP Norm Sterling, who is my counterpart at Queen's Park, has signalled that the highway is a top priority for the provincial government.

On behalf of all the residents in my riding I thank both those gentlemen for their hard work. However the people of Lanark--Carleton need to see results. There have yet to be any funds allocated or a completion date set.

I last stood in the House and spoke to the issue on two occasions in April and May of this year. I asked for a serious federal commitment to infrastructure spending so that long overdue projects like the widening of highway 7 could go forth.

When I addressed the issue in April I spoke of safety as a primary concern. I said at the time that highway 7 had seen 11 fatal accidents in Lanark--Carleton in the past few years. Since I made those remarks the same stretch of highway has seen three additional deaths over the summer as well as a series of serious injuries related to traffic accidents. This is not just a question of commuting and commerce. It is a question of life and death.

The province of Ontario has earmarked $70 million for infrastructure improvements in the Ottawa area. What has the federal government done?

The U.S. federal government collects $25 billion in gas tax revenues and spends $21 billion of it on roads and highways. Eighty-four per cent of the revenue is dedicated to road and highway improvement. What about Canada?

Canadian federal gasoline taxes have increased by more than 500% between 1985 and the present, from 1.5 cents per litre to 10 cents per litre. The tax was originally intended to be a direct source of revenue for highway improvements.

Over $4.7 billion was collected in federal taxes last year. Yet only 4% of the funds were returned to the provinces by way of provincial transfers for road and highway development. The dollar figure was in the area of a mere $190 million. As though that were not bad enough, 96% of this pittance was spent east of the Ontario-Quebec border. That means that Ontario, by far the largest source of highway improvement taxes, is getting virtually nothing for its highway needs.

Federal transfers for highways continue to drop in dollar value while gas tax revenues, ostensibly highway improvement revenues, go up by hundreds of millions of dollars.

I fully realize that the federal government has many competing demands on the treasury. However this is an issue of fundamental importance to economic expansion, prosperity and human safety.

Could the Minister of Transport tell us what is happening to the $4.7 billion in highway improvement taxes? How many more people must die before the federal government uses the money for the purpose for which it is being raised: to expand and improve the safety of our highways?

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec


André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, allow me to pay tribute to the member, who is interested in improving the highway system.

First of all, I wish to point out to him that, when it comes time to decide which projects to fund, the responsibility of provincial governments is definitely a key element in defining priorities.

There is no question that highway 7 is a major highway in the Province of Ontario, but it is unfortunately not part of the national highway system. National highways are defined as those which promote interprovincial economic development. This responsibility therefore falls to provincial governments.

In any future funding, Transport Canada will obviously give priority to highways which are part of the national highway system.

The Province of Ontario has itself decided that highways 416 and 401 would form the segment of the national highway system between Ottawa and Toronto. The program to improve the national highway system, which was announced a few months ago, will obviously encourage development of the regional highway system, including Highway 7, with respect to tourism and economic development.

By announcing its $600 million Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program, Transport Canada will certainly be able to help improve the main national highway system.

Ontario will receive $160 million. It must be understood that it is not Transport Canada's responsibility to define the provinces' priorities. Transport Canada will have to accept the priorities already identified by the provincial governments. I think that everyone will agree that these priorities must be respected by the federal government.

Official negotiations will soon begin and I hope that we will have an opportunity to help improve the national highway system which, in turn, will have an impact on regional highways.

International Boundary Waters Treaty ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.37 p.m.)