Tuesday, September 11, 2007

SPP : Water is "On the Table"

We need a national policy on water NOW.

"Both the 1989 Canada-U.S. Free-Trade Agreement and the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, which includes Mexico) were supposed to settle the water question. It didn't happen. As an afterthought, the Canadian, Mexican and U.S. governments issued a joint statement in 1993 saying NAFTA creates "no rights to the natural water resources" of any trading partner. To this day, the statement remains unsigned."
The above is from "On the Table", a research report released yesterday at a one-day panel on water sovereignty at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies.
One of the authors, Ralph Pentland, is a former director of water planning and management with the Canadian federal government, and he says Canada doesn't have a national water policy, leaving it up to the individual provinces to decide whether or not to begin the bulk water shipments to the US which would become impossible to stop, once started, due to NAFTA.
To date, Quebec, Ontario, and Newfoundland have made noises in that direction.

The good news is that the report is getting into the print media.

Edmonton Journal : Water exports to U.S. remain on table until we take them off
Ottawa must take clear stand against growing pressure
"Are Canadians ready for the next big trade issue -- a concerted effort by the United States to acquire Canada's fresh water, and a willingness by some influential Canadians to sell it?"

Ottawa Citizen : Down the river
"Despite claims to the contrary, water is on the table in trade negotiations -- we need to be clear with our neighbours that we intend to keep this precious resource"

Toronto Star : Canada's watershed moment: Let's take exports off the table
"National water policy should be based on stewardship, not commoditization"

This last was written by Tom Axworthy, notable for having been part of the Task Force on the Future of North America back in 2005 along with Michael Wilson, John Manley, and Wendy Dobson. They wrote that now infamous study sponsored by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the US Council on Foreign Relations - you know, the one which recommended one currency; one passport; one foreign policy; one set of environmental, health, and safety standards; one immigration policy; one security perimeter; and a North American brand name to be introduced in schools.

Odd how far along we are on all those now thanks to the SPP, huh?

To his credit, Axworthy appended a dissenting opinion on the security perimeter and the inclusion of water resources before he quit that committee. Interesting to read an insider's alarm on this issue.

Unlike say - John Baird, Peter MacKay, Jim Abbott and Int Trade Committee Chair Julian Benoit.
Prodded in June by NDP MP Peter Julian who rightly connects water rights with the SPP, all three opposition parties requested a note be sent to Mexico and the US asking for a clarification of their positions on the unsigned NAFTA afterthought statement. Baird, MacKay, Abbott and Benoit reacted as if an ugly family secret was being aired in public.

Baird said water was not a trade issue and thus didn't bear discussion and it was silly to even bring it up, while Abbott said it would be folly, even dangerous, to open the NAFTA can of worms and then try to close it up again.
OK, so the Con position is that it's both too insignificant and too explosive an issue.

And MacKay.....MacKay's response was interesting :

"On the issue of bulk water export, the government has no intention of entering into any negotiations behind closed doors, or otherwise, regarding the matter of bulk water exports."
Sounds pretty definitive, Pete.
How about provincial govs? We already have a Chapter 11 compensation court case going on since 1997 here in BC over the BC gov reneging on a water contract with Sunbelt in California. Does that count?
A US water bottling company has just bought the rights to a lake and its tributaries in Quebec. And what about US corpses with contracts to use massive amounts of water in Alberta tarsands operations? Does that count as opening the door to foreign ownership? Will we ultimately have to compete with US corpses on Canadian soil for our own water?

When the roguing of parliament is finally over, we have got to hold the GnuGovs hoofs to the fire on implementing a national water policy. And they are welcome to go on about '13 years of Lib misrule' as much as they like on this one as far as I'm concerned. We've already lost sovereignty over our oil and gas. Let's try and at least keep stewardship of our water.

Endnote : Like a family member you take entirely for granted, the Council of Canadians somehow never winds up being quoted or credited on this blog for their stellar work on bringing the vulnerability of our water into the public eye. Consider it done here - The Council of Canadians Water Page.
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