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Great Lakes Article:

Parliamentary committee to study Great Lakes deal
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 government."

Comartin added that First Nations communities have not weighed in on the agreement, which, if passed, could affect land claims.

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 points."

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," Churley said.

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.

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