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Great Lakes Article:

MP wants to ban water exports
NDP legislation is designed to protect the Great Lakes
By Mary Gordon
Ottawa Bureau, Toronto Star
Published October 20th, 2004

OTTAWA—An NDP MP has introduced a private member's bill to ban the export of Great Lakes water outside the Great Lakes basin.

Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) says piping water out of the Great Lakes would threaten Canada's water supply and damage the lakes' delicate ecosystems.

"The Americans have their eye on our water perhaps more than any other resource and they're perhaps getting fidgety and getting impatient about accessing this precious natural resource," he said.

"I think it's negligent for the Prime Minister to not stand up on his own hind legs on this issue."

The bill, introduced Monday, is timely given a proposed agreement between the Council of Great Lakes governors and the Ontario and Quebec governments that would allow large-scale water diversions outside the basin. Ontario and Quebec have not yet approved the two-part agreement, which is called the Great Lakes Annex 2001 Implementing Agreement.

Steven Shrybman, a lawyer who wrote a legal opinion of the agreement, said Canada and the provinces would be excluded from the right to approve or veto the diversion of Great Lakes waters if the second part of the agreement — the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact — were approved.

He said the deal sets no limits on the quantity, duration, purpose or geographic recipients of the diversions.

He also said the agreement would virtually nix the ability of the International Joint Commission to approve significant diversions of Great Lakes waters, as it was charged to do in the Boundary Waters Treaty. That treaty requires that Canada and the U.S. agree on anything that could hurt the health of the Great Lakes.

So far, the federal government has been largely silent on the issue, but Martin hopes his bill will help flag attention to what he says could be the most important foreign policy issue facing Canada. If the agreement is approved, Canada could lose control of its water because of trade agreements, he said.

"We may not be able to turn the tap off when we want to."

On Monday, the Sierra Club of Canada requested an extension for the 90-day public review period of the agreement, which ended Monday.

Executive director Elizabeth May said the federal government must deal with the issue, particularly once a new U.S. president is elected.

"We believe the council of Great Lakes governors and the current agreements as drafted are a very slippery slope that could lead to serious erosion of the Great Lakes."

May said she believes the governors set out to prevent diversion but wound up with an agreement that does the opposite due to "loopholes and flawed reasoning."

In his response to the Speech from the Throne, Environment Minister Stéphane Dion yesterday said the government will "intensify" work on the environmental jurisdictions it shares with the U.S., particularly with respect to the Great Lakes.

"The government will work with the United States and agencies like the International Joint Commission on issues such as air, water and invasive species," he said.

Both U.S. President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry have opposed diversion while campaigning in Great Lakes states.

In 1999, NDP MP Bill Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona) presented an opposition motion, which was supported by the House, to ban the bulk sale and inter-basin transfer of water.

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