Deal might drop Canada's veto over
Great Lakes diversions, committee says
By Dennis Bueckert
Published November 29th, 2004
OTTAWA (CP) - The federal government should demand changes
in a draft agreement by Great Lakes state governors that
could allow water diversions without Canada's consent,
says the Commons environment committee.
But a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department says
the issue is not on the agenda during U.S. President George
W. Bush's visit.
The draft scheme put forward by the Council of Great
Lakes Governors - which includes the premiers of Ontario
and Quebec in non-voting roles - has been been released
for public comment after months of negotiations by officials.
The committee says the draft agreement could undermine
the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, which bans any diversion
affecting the natural level of boundary waters without
the approval of Canada and the United States.
The new scheme could deprive Canada of a veto over new
diversions and weaken the International Joint Commission,
set up to manage boundary waters under the 1909 treaty,
says the committee report.
The Commons committee says population growth in the Great
Lakes basin, particularly in the United States, "is
creating unprecedented demand to export water from the
The Great Lakes governors undertook a review of rules
for Great Lakes diversions after the former Conservative
government of Ontario granted a permit to NOVA group to
export water from Lake Superior. The permit was later
withdrawn but caused alarm.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said the department
will reply to the committee's recommendations within days.
He said the issue of water diversions is not on the agenda
for the Bush visit.
The department has already voiced concerns about the
governors' scheme, but a more robust response is needed,
said Sara Ehrhardt of the Council of Canadians.
"We want to see them take a leadership role and
defend Canada's interests and negotiate bilaterally in
this," she said.
Ontario has already stated its opposition to the the
proposed new approach on diversions, but Ehrhardt said
the premiers have little influence in the Council of Great
The Commons committee wants a clear statement that the
1909 Boundary Waters Treaty still prevails.
The committee quotes testimony indicating that Ottawa
was "out of the loop" during negotiations, and
says it should have taken a "more active and advisory
role." Ehrhardt said she would have preferred strong