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
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
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
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
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,"
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.