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NEWS: Chretien, Clinton, Fox to discuss global water crisis in Quebec City

CBC Radio Canada reports that, “A little more than thirty former heads of state will be in Quebec City from May 29 to 31 to address the global crisis of drinking water. The meeting of the InterAction Council will be held in the capital of Quebec at the initiative of Vice-President of the organization, former Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien. The city will host among other former leaders of Germany, Mexico (Vicente Fox), Norway (Gro Brundtland), Japan, Brazil and Greece.” Le Journal de Quebec adds, “The Sun confirmed Saturday that Bill Clinton would be among the 33 distinguished guests (at the annual meeting) at the Chateau Frontenac. …Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume and Quebec Premier Jean Charest will speak at the opening of this meeting.” And Le Devoir notes that the meeting will also include, “former Prime Minister of Argentina Fernando De la Rua and the former leader of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo.”

In March, the Canadian Press reported, “Access to clean, potable water (is an ‘urgent security issue’ and) will become a growing source of international tension unless governments take steps to protect the world’s supply, experts are warning ahead of a water security conference in Toronto. …A panel moderated by Chretien and (Franz Vranitzky, the former chancellor of Austria, and Obasanjo) will draft recommendations to help governments counter those threats. …The panel’s findings will be presented to the InterAction Council at its annual meeting in Quebec City this May (29-31). The council includes 37 former heads of state and aims to advise current world leaders on emerging global issues.”

Also in March, the Globe and Mail reported, “Chrétien says it is time for Canadians to debate whether they should share their water with the rest of the world, noting the country exports other natural resources such as oil and gas. …Mr. Chrétien believes a new national discussion is needed. …Mr. Chrétien indicated he hasn’t made up his mind on whether the country should share its water, but believes Canadians should not be afraid to have the debate.” In the article Chretien is quoted saying, “We have to be able to debate any issue. We’re selling oil. It’s finite. We’re selling natural gas. It’s finite. Water, it’s raining and snowing in Canada every year. Water is something that is not finite.”

That article reported, “Chrétien’s comments drew swift rebuke from the Council of Canadians, a group that has long advocated for a national ban on bulk-water exports. The organization’s chairwoman, Maude Barlow, said it is disconcerting that the long-time federal leader is opening the door to a water-trade debate. She argues the country would lose control of the resource if it begins providing it to customers south of the border and beyond. ‘For him to say Canada should start thinking about sharing, he means selling,’ Ms. Barlow said. ‘This is a very bad signal and it will be taken seriously because of who he is.'” In a follow-up letter to the editor published in the Globe and Mail that week, Barlow wrote, “Chrétien talks about using Canada’s water to help those less fortunate. However, in a presentation Tuesday to the Munk Centre and in an interview, he made it clear he was talking about being open to commercial water exports as he compared water to energy and noted that Canada sells its oil and gas, so why not open up a debate on water as well. …If water is opened up for commercial export, it will not go to the billions of poor Mr. Chrétien references, but rather to the wealthy but dry cities and industries of the American Southwest.”

The agenda of the InterAction Council meeting in Quebec City this week is noted at http://www.interactioncouncil.org/29th-annual-plenary-meeting-0.