Won't sign Great Lakes water deal,
By Margaret Philp
The Globe and Mail
Published November 16th, 2004 - Page A9
The Ontario government has refused to sign draft agreements
that seek to preserve the Great Lakes, insisting the proposed
deals were not strong enough to protect water from being
As Canadian and U.S. negotiators were sitting down in
Chicago yesterday, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay
announced that the province would not sign the current
drafts of the Great Lakes Charter Annex after they met
with a cool reception with environmentalists and First
Nations groups during public consultations over the past
While the proposed agreements among Ontario, Quebec and
the eight U.S. states that border the Great Lakes basin
would regulate diversions of water from the lakes, the
minister said that Ontario will stick to current provincial
legislation that outlaws water diversions altogether.
The province would be willing to sign an agreement that
followed a proposal of the International Joint Commission
-- the bilateral body that monitors the cross-border flow
of water -- that 95 per cent of water removed be returned
in the same or better condition.
"That's the standard we'd like to see, and the Great
Lakes Charter Annex doesn't hold to that standard,"
Mr. Ramsay said. "And over time, it allows for small
diversions. But over time, the cumulative impact of that,
we think, would be a danger."
Still, Ontario plans to return to the table when talks
are scheduled to resume in January to make a deal that
would protect the water -- which meets the needs of 40
million people on both sides of the border -- through
Environmentalists -- who hardly dared hope the province
was listening during consultations when they criticized
the draft agreements for allowing diversions -- are elated.
"I'm very, very pleased because this could shift
things on the whole agreement across North America,"
said Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club
"To have your government actually listen to you
and say we're not prepared to sign off on this agreement,
we do not think there are adequate protections, and we
insist on no diversion, this is really very, very important.
Now we have a position with one jurisdiction solidly breaking
away, I'm hoping we can get to a fundamental rethink."
A preliminary version of the Great Lakes Charter Annex
was signed in 2001, after a public outcry over a permit
issued by the Harris government to a company proposing
to export up to 600 million litres of water a year from
Lake Superior to sell in Asian markets.
It is not clear whether the parties will return to the
talks, given Ontario's position, or if the states will
write an agreement of their own.
"The governors can still, technically speaking,
sign their own agreements, but it's not as good,"
said Adele Hurley, director of the Program on Water Issues
at the University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International