Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to follow my colleague from Davenport. He has been a constant source of inspiration and guidance for all of us who have been working on the issue for the last number of years.
The bill is a good first step. It is not complete but it is a start. The challenge we will have in dealing with the whole issue of water security over the next 10 to 15 years is inextricably intertwined with the same challenges our neighbours to the south will face.
As the member for Davenport said near the end of his speech, if Bill C-6 is to be effective there must be a mirror of the bill in Washington. As legislators that is where our biggest challenge will be.
My riding is on Lake Ontario. I have a Great Lakes riding. It is no secret to everyone in the House that the Great Lakes governors of the United States signed a deal this summer with the Great Lakes premiers. If 10 years from now the midwest governors or legislators found themselves in desperate shape in terms of water, the geopolitical reality is that those legislators would outnumber our Great Lakes legislators and we would have a challenge. The leaders to the south would not sit there unable to function in terms of water requirements while we sat here pretending we were an independent operation. It would not work.
The words of my colleague from Davenport, who has been my environmental mentor for the 14 years I have been here, are important. He said we must have a mirror of the legislation in Washington.
There is another problem. At the foreign affairs committee in May we heard from witnesses who talked about the Great Lakes. Some of them said we must preserve the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes.
Who would argue with that? We all know that levels are down and that with climate change the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes is at risk. We share them with the United States, so what will we do? Will we look the other way? In my humble opinion we must examine every option within our water inventory to preserve the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes.
As much as I respect the bill and say it is a good first step, it is only the tip of the iceberg. It is for this reason that I have been trying for a long time to interest leaders of all parties in a committee that would look into the comprehensive nature of dealing with water security.
My first speech to the House of Commons in 1988 was about water and the free trade agreement. I gave the speech because I went to school in Houston, Texas, at the University of St. Thomas. Houston is the home of Clayton Yeutter, chief negotiator for the United States during the free trade agreement talks.
Clayton Yeutter did a doctoral thesis on North American water management at the University of Nebraska. His entire life has been devoted to water. He worked for Congressman Jim Wright as a young assistant. Congressman Wright, as we all know, wrote the book The Coming Water Famine . When a man who has spent his entire life dealing with water becomes the chief free trade negotiator I cannot believe his interest in water and the free trade agreement are separate. I have always held that view.
I appealed to then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to attach a one page protocol letter to the free trade agreement saying that water would be excluded. I never got the letter but Hansard will show that I asked for it.
I think most people would agree that I am not a person who scares easily. However I am deeply concerned because the issue of water security is complex and involves economic realities with our neighbours. The U.S. has incredible leverage over us in terms of our economy.
The bill before the House today should be used as a first step to lever our complex discussions, hearings, investigations and relationships with legislators in the United States in such a way that North American water policy will ensure sound water management and the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes. These issues will affect not only our citizens but ultimately all citizens of the United States.