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Great Lakes Article:

Deal might drop Canada's veto over Great Lakes diversions, committee says
Canoe C-News
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 basin."

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 The permit was later withdrawn but caused alarm.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 Lakes Governors.

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 wording.



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