$3-billion water plan
No new mini-dams. Bottlers
must pay up to $15 million in fees
The Montreal Gazette
Premier Bernard Landry and his environment minister,
André Boisclair, announced a $3-billion something-for-everyone
plan to better manage Quebec's water yesterday, including
royalties from all water users, an ambitious cleanup program,
and a ban on new mini-power dams.
The Parti Québécois government's "National Water Policy,"
was quickly denounced by Liberal environment critic Robert
Benoît as an "act of contrition."
"They are saying, 'Bless me, Father, I lowered the budget
of the Environment Department by more than 50 per cent,
I cut the personnel by 43 per cent, I changed the minister
five times and did not fulfill my election programs for
1994 and 1998,' " Benoît deadpanned.
"But I promise you, Father, if you are nice to me, that
what I haven't done in the past seven years, I will be
very serious about in the years to come."
Boisclair said a law declaring all surface and ground
water to be in the public domain, and the levying of $10
million to $15 million a year in fees on companies that
bottle water, will start to be implemented within a year.
But the PQ must call an election within a year, and Benoît
noted the plan it is proposing would take more than five
The most concrete move was Landry's announcement that
no new mini-hydro projects would be built on Quebec's
rivers, as demanded by an ecological group headed by singer
Three dams at Matawin in the Lanaudière, Magpie near
Sept-Îles and Rivière-des-Quinze will go ahead, but the
ban has scuttled another 10 mini-power projects, including
a 3.5-megawatt dam on the Trois-Pistoles River.
Last week, 26-year-old Mikael Rioux refused a provincial
honour scroll and $500 cheque for saving four people from
drowning, in a protest against the dam.
Yesterday, Rioux said he was overcome when he saw Landry
make the announcement on TV.
"Sure I'll accept it now," he said. But he called it
a "half-victory," arguing the three exempt dams should
also be stopped.