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NEWS: BC Liberal MLA claims water exempt from CETA

Liberal MLA Joan McIntyre

Liberal MLA Joan McIntyre

The Whistler Question reports that, “The idea that Canada’s vast fresh water supply could end up being a product to bargain with during the ongoing Canadian European Trade Agreement (CETA) talks has sparked debate between residents who think the government is trying to fly under the radar and provincial politicians who deny it.”

In the article, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky Liberal MLA Joan McIntyre says, “I would like to dispel some of these myths and some of the fears and concerns surrounding the CETA talks. Water is exempt. It is not part of this at all.”

But the article highlights that, “Behind the push for more public awareness about the ongoing CETA discussions is Canada’s largest citizens’ organization, the Council of Canadians, which has members and chapters across the country. ‘For the first time ever, the provincial governments are involved, and foreign firms can bid on procurement contracts at the municipal level,’ said Pina Belperio, a local resident and member of the Whistler chapter of the Council of Canadians. ‘EU trade negotiators have asked that drinking water be included, opening the door to large EU multinational water companies, like Suez and Veolia, to stake a claim in Canada’s public water systems.’ She said the free trade agreement would interfere with local and municipal policies for the first time, and yet mayors and municipal councillors are not part of the negotiations.”

“Squamish resident Star Morris (contacted the MLA and) McIntyre (then) forwarded her concerns to Don White, the executive director of the Trade Initiatives Branch at the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Investment. McIntyre said ministry negotiators will represent B.C.’s interests at the next CETA meeting and White responded to Morris’s concerns. ‘It is Canada’s long-standing position that water in its natural state is not considered a ‘good’ or ‘product’ and therefore remains outside the scope of Canada’s trade agreements,’ he wrote in his response. ‘Federal safeguards prohibit the bulk removal of boundary waters from their basins for any reason, including export. Provinces also have measures in place to protect water within their jurisdictions.’ (Mr. White, however, does not address the question of privatization in his letter.)”

“In response to Morris’s concerns about the significance of B.C.’s proposed new Water Sustainability Act, White reassured her that ‘nothing in any of Canada’s trade agreements prevents governments from setting standards to ensure that Canadians have access to safe drinking water.'”

Council of Canadians chapter activist and Board member Pina Belperio’s recent letter on the impacts of CETA – published in several local newspapers – can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6142.

The Council of Canadians-CUPE paper on CETA and water privatization can be read at http://canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/water-report-1210.pdf.

The Whistler Question article is at http://www.whistlerquestion.com/article/20110216/WHISTLER01/302169963/-1/whistler/mla-tries-to-dispel-water-export-concerns.