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Great Lakes Article:

PQ unveils $3-billion water plan
No new mini-dams. Bottlers must pay up to $15 million in fees
Kevin Dougherty
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 years.

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 Paul Piché.

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.


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