Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address Motion No. 249, introduced by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.
Many of us here, at least those of us on this side of the House, agree that sustainable water use and management are fundamental to Canada's and the world's social, economic and ecological health. That is why water is part of this government's environmental agenda and that is why we are here today to debate Motion No. 249.
Motion No. 249 calls on the federal government to “immediately develop, in consultation with the provinces, territories, Aboriginal groups, municipalities, local community organizations, and others, an integrated water resources management strategy”.
This motion focuses on advancing the concept of integrated water resource management to measure, monitor and protect freshwater.
Integrated water resources management is a water management approach that advocates decision making based on engaging stakeholders and incorporating ecological, social and economic considerations. It is an approach that this government is already on track with.
In fact, we are doing more than that. This government is making progress at advancing integrated water resources management. For example, our work on water is already bringing together provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal peoples, and stakeholders such as municipalities, industry, energy, agriculture, non-governmental organizations, community groups and research teams.
Our government is also working to ensure that our plan is effective. We are working through partnerships when making water management decisions.
This concept has been in place for more than 20 years. In fact, the Mulroney Conservative government passed the 1987 federal water policy. The federal water policy that was introduced then called for integrated water management planning.
It also called on the federal government to achieve this through its programs, policies and laws. This government has been working to make many of these principles a reality.
The federal, provincial and territorial governments all have responsibilities when it comes to water.
For example, the provincial governments are responsible for many aspects of land use planning and development that can impact water quality and availability. To fulfill these responsibilities, the provinces and territories have recently introduced a number of water policies that promote protection from source to tap as well as broader watershed management planning.
For the federal government, boundary and transboundary waters shared with the U.S. are areas where our federal jurisdiction is clear, so we have put in place programs to measure, monitor and protect freshwater in these areas.
These are areas where the jurisdictions are clear, but because we all recognize that many of these responsibilities are shared, there are also a number of integrated partnerships that already exist here in Canada.
For example, the Atlantic coastal action program and the Great Lakes 2000 program are two solid examples of integrated planning, leading edge water science and extensive partnerships. These initiatives are based on federal-provincial cooperation and extensive engagement of municipalities, NGOs, industry and citizens.
There is also the National Water Research Institute, which has led influential national assessments of current and emerging threats to water quality, water quantity, and aquatic ecosystem health for more than 30 years. As well, across our country there are many Canadian universities that are also involved in water research.
There is also a federal water research agenda that identifies several priority areas for integration of federal water science carried out by many departments.
That is not all. This government has taken a broad approach to the environment that covers a number of priorities such as conservation of species and spaces, clean air, climate change and, of course, water.
As well, this government has also made it a priority to help ensure that all first nations residents have access to safe drinking water.
We are working to address the needs of communities with high risk drinking water systems by building on the plan of action for drinking water in first nations communities. We will also be basing future efforts to improve water quality on reserves on the options raised by the report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations.
There are many examples of cooperation on water at the national level, but this cooperation happens most significantly at the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. We see this cooperation there because there is a formal mechanism for effective intergovernmental discussion and coordinated approaches to environmental issues, including water management, which is provided by the council.
However, it does not end there. That is because, for the most part, the federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions all recognize that there is a real need for both collaboration and an integrated approach to water management.
There are many examples of the integrated water resources management approach in practices. Federal, provincial and territorial governments regularly cooperate on the national collection of water quantity information through national agreements on water quality and quantity monitoring.
There is also a great deal of cooperation when it comes to integrated watershed management, so much so that collaborative water management has become a cornerstone of integrated watershed management requiring that stakeholders be activity involved in water management decisions.
At the watershed level, management generally involves the local advisory board with members from provincial, territorial and local municipal governments, aboriginal peoples, industry, educational institutions, local stewardship groups, development groups, wildlife groups, environmentalists, landowners and, of course, the concerned public.
There are many examples of this, such as the Fraser Basin Council, the Great Lakes action plan and the South Saskatchewan River basin. In my home province of Manitoba, the Red River Basin Coalition not only includes all of the stakeholders in Manitoba, but also stakeholders in the states of North Dakota and Minnesota, working cooperatively to address the issue of our common basin.
As well, my riding includes both Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, some of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Our Conservative government has taken a very proactive approach to protect these lakes and their basins by investing $7 million for the protection of the Lake Winnipeg basin and a further $450,000 to support the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium.
There are many examples that we can look to but there is not enough time today. Rather, I invite the members of the House to look at what the government is already doing in partnership with the provinces and territories.
The government is already acting on its commitment to collaborative, integrated management of water policies and programs through action. The government is already implementing much of the spirit and the substance of the motion. We will continue to work with our partners.
We are working together with the provinces and territories to find concrete and realistic solutions to Canada's environmental challenges, which is why we introduced our turning the corner action plan last month. We are continuing to make Canada's environment a priority, not only for this government but for all our governments and our people for today and in the future.