Parliamentary committee to study Great
NDP MPs fear it will allow bulk water diversions
Conservative accuses them of using scare tactics
By Mary Gordon
Toronto Star- Ottawa Bureau
Published October 22nd, 2004
OTTAWA—A parliamentary committee will examine a pending
agreement on the Great Lakes that would allow diversion
of water out of its basin.
A motion by rookie New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley
Valley) passed yesterday, suggesting the environment committee
study the deal between eight U.S. governors and the Ontario
and Quebec governments. On Tuesday, Cullen called the
matter "pressing" given that public submissions
on the deal closed Monday.
New Democrat MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh), who
has pursued the issue for several years, said a strong
message must be sent to the provinces that the Great Lakes
Annex 2001 Implementing Agreement treads on federal terrain.
"They are transgressing dramatically here,"
he said. "Control of that water and the diversion
out of that basin has to be a decision made at the federal
Comartin added that First Nations communities have not
weighed in on the agreement, which, if passed, could affect
In July, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, along
with the governments of Ontario and Quebec, published
a two-part agreement regarding the regulation of Great
Lakes basin water, including large diversions for use
outside the basin.
The second part would give the U.S. governors the right
to decide on diversions irrespective of the provinces'
or Canada's view, according to a legal opinion by lawyer
Steven Shrybman on behalf of the Council of Canadians.
Shrybman said the deal would render the International
Joint Commission, which is charged with approving significant
diversions under the Boundary Waters Treaty, virtually
powerless in such discussions.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew told the House
the proposed deal does not affect Canadian and U.S. obligations
under the Boundary Waters Treaty, nor does it affect the
level and flow of the Great Lakes.
"We are assisting in whether the proposed agreements
can be implemented in a manner consistent with the treaty,
in consultation with the U.S. government and Ontario and
Quebec. The Council of Great Lakes Governors has said
that it would welcome comments from the Government of
Canada after the Oct. 18 deadline."
Cullen's motion passed but with some resistance, particularly
from Conservative MP and committee vice-chair Lee Richardson
(Calgary Centre), who accused Comartin and Cullen of using
"scare tactics" and wanting to score "political
At Queen's Park, Ontario NDP environment critic Marilyn
Churley (Toronto-Danforth) said the agreement should raise
a red flag over the potential to open Canadian water to
American developers and urged Premier Dalton McGuinty
to refuse to sign the deal.
"The Premier should be protecting our water — not
handing it over to thirsty American developers who want
to build sprawling communities along the Great Lakes,"
In an interview, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay
(Timiskaming-Cochrane) said the Ontario government opposes
diversion and engaged in discussions with the governors
"to try and raise the bar with our American neighbours
on how to protect the Great Lakes waters."
The committee is to report to Parliament by Nov. 26.