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Great Lakes Article:

Level of protection in draft Great Lakes Charter Annex agreements not high enough
Changes Needed Before Ontario Will Sign
CNW Telbec
Published November 15th, 2004

TORONTO, Nov. 15 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government will not sign the
current drafts of the Great Lakes Charter Annex agreements unless changes to enhance the level of protection for the waters of the Great Lakes Basin are made, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced today.

"We have listened to feedback from stakeholders, First Nations and the general public," said Ramsay. "Ontario remains committed to its provincial law that bans diversions. For the purposes of the Annex agreements, Ontarians, and the McGuinty government, clearly want a 'no diversions' agreement, or the position of 'no net loss' as proposed by the International Joint Commission. In addition, we regard conservation measures as significant for the protection of Great Lakes waters. Ontario is not prepared to ratify the agreement in its
current form."

In 1998, the Harris government issued a permit to an Ontario company for the export of up to 600 million litres of water a year from Lake Superior for sale in Asian markets. Public outrage on both sides of the border led to the signing of the Great Lakes Charter Annex in 2001. Released for public comment in July 2004, the current agreements carry out commitments made in the Charter Annex. The agreements would strengthen the regulation of water uses in many states. However, the agreements are not as strong as Ontario's laws, which prohibit water transfers out of the province's three major water basins.

The Ontario government will share the feedback from its 90-day public consultation at a meeting with Quebec and the Great Lakes states today. Ramsay will also be consulting with his federal colleagues and Ontario's negotiating partners from Quebec. "We will be considering our position carefully before resuming negotiations in the new year," said Ramsay.

"We will continue to seek input on the Charter Annex agreements from stakeholders and First Nations before we consider ratifying any agreement."

Ramsay also addressed the question of who should lead negotiations on the Charter Annex agreements. He pointed out that if the federal government were to direct the negotiations, it would have to deal directly with the U.S. federal government, which would have to represent the interests of water users across the continental United States, not just the Great Lakes states.

"We believe the U.S. Great Lakes states share with us many common interests on the use and protection of this valued resource," said Ramsay. "We are concerned that other U.S. states may have an interest in accessing Great Lakes waters that will conflict with our desire to prevent diversions from the basin."

"This is a complex issue," said Ramsay. "Above all, the Ontario government is seeking the strongest possible protections for the waters of the Great Lakes Basin to ensure future generations can enjoy the Great Lakes."

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