By Dana Gabriel
The Montreal Economic Institute is calling on the Quebec province and the rest of Canada to start exporting water for financial gain. Many are not buying into the myth that Canada has an abundant supply of fresh water that it can sell. A recent Environment Canada report stated that supplies are declining, and this lays credence to water becoming like the new oil. Under NAFTA, water is not protected, and there is little doubt that the U.S. sees Canada's water as a solution to their own shortages. There are warnings of future provincial and even cross-border conflicts if water supplies become really low. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to acknowledge water as a human right. His Conservative government has done little to protect Canadian water and continues to deny that the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America poses any threat to it.
The Montreal Economic Institute is recommending water exports, and it is clear that possible environmental and water shortages will not stand in the way when there are huge profits to be made. The report, titled 'Fresh water exports for the development of Quebec's blue gold' was prepared by its vice president and chief economist Marcel Boyer. In the report, it is estimated that Quebec could generate as much as $6.5 billion in gross revenue a year. The report also states that, "Fresh water is a product whose relative economic value has risen substantially and will keep rising in the coming years." Canada's water belongs to its people, and it should not be privatized or sold to the highest bidder.
Canada does not have an effective national water policy in place as much of it is administrated by the provinces. There is increased pressure to begin exporting bulk water as well as a legitimate concern that through NAFTA and the SPP, corporate interests could supersede future domestic demand. NDP trade critic Peter Julian said, "Since fresh water was listed in NAFTA as a commercializable product, there's no going back once bulk water exports start. No matter how our communities' needs evolve." There are really no provisions in place to prevent a province from exporting bulk water. If Quebec were to begin, other provinces would soon follow its lead.
Jack Layton and the NDP oppose any measure to privatize water and turn it into a commodity on the open market. They have tabled a motion that calls for a, "comprehensive water policy based on public trust." They seek to restrict diversions, ban bulk water exports, and recognize water as a fundamental right. These proposals appeal to the NDP's traditional core base of support and could attract others who care about the environment. The fact that Canadian Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will be participating in the leader debates should also bring water issues to the forefront.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has accused Harper of taking the SPP in a different direction, but it was first initiated by the Liberals. In reality, they still very much support the SPP process. To his credit, Dion has recently come out strong, demanding that the Conservatives take immediate action to protect Canada's fresh water. Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia tabled a private members bill to prevent large-scale transfers of water within Canada and diversions to the United States. A Liberal government would create a water minister portfolio to work with the provinces on federal water legislation. Dion has been plagued by leadership questions, and as a result has appeared weak. If banning bulk water exports becomes a big election issue, it could help to propel his campaign.
NAFTA, the SPP, and deeper North American integration could become key election issues that might spell trouble for the Conservatives. Don't expect any help along the way from the corporate controlled Canadian press, who for the most part have ignored, censored, and suppressed any mention of plans to create a North American Union. A party that is able take on the mantle of protecting Canadian sovereignty and its resources and excludes the usual anti-Americanism, could boost their fortunes in the upcoming Canadian elections on October 14.
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