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Holding Water


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We could sell easily sell it to them, and increase our GDP by leaps and bounds without inconveniencing ourselves in the slightest. There may be a few ethical and environmental questions to answer, but it could become a good resource industry for Canada.

The only problem is that Prime Minister’s Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien committed Canada to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with a few provisions that could cost us public control and national sovereignty over our water supplies, and even resulted in our utility bills going up.

When NAFTA was being put together, opponents urged that water be exempted. The U.S. under George Bush said absolutely not, this will not stand; Mexico – a dry country in its own right – said "no Senor" and Mulroney agreed because he’s the same man who took the Progressive Conservative party from a majority government to political ruin of just four seats.

Although Chretien opposed free trade his entire political career, one of the first things he did when he assumed office was to sign the NAFTA accord.

No water was being traded commercially at the time, and therefore water in its natural state was considered to be safe. It was incredibly short-sighted – the nineties were one of the hottest decades in the past 10,000 years, and water supplies began to run dry south of the border. There have since been offers from the American companies for our water, and in every case the federal and provincial governments have put their feet down – the moment water becomes a commodity under NAFTA, the whole 20 per cent is up for grabs.

According to the Council of Canadians, there are three key provisions of NAFTA that place water at risk once it is traded:

The first is national treatment, whereby no country can discriminate in favour of its own private sector in the commercial use of its water resources – once a permit is granted to a domestic company to export water, the ‘investors’ (i.e. corporations) of the other NAFTA countries have the same ‘right of establishment’ as the domestic companies. This also applies to the provinces as well.

If B.C. allows the commercial export of bulk water – and a plan is currently in the works whereby the Greater Vancouver Regional District is planning to privatize a $200 million water treatment plant for the Seymour reservoir – all provinces will have to allow national treatment rights to the same foreign companies.