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NEWS: Chretien’s comments on water exports draws rebuke from Barlow

The Globe and Mail reports, “Former prime minister Jean 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. Proposals to export large volumes of water have touched off explosive debates in the past, as was the case in British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland in the 1990s. Each time, intense public backlash nixed export bids. But Mr. Chrétien…believes a new national discussion is needed.” Chretien said, “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.”

“Mr. 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.’”

Chrétien is currently chairing an InterAction Council of Former Heads of State and Government panel on the issue of water security. The panel will draft recommendations on water for current national leaders around the world. The recommendations will be presented to the InterAction Council at its annual meeting in Quebec City on May 29-31.

“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. He recalled being taken aback by the emotional opposition that was sparked to a businessman’s proposal to ship water in ocean tankers from a lake in Newfoundland to customers overseas. Facing growing public anger to the bid, the provincial government killed the Gisborne Lake plan. The B.C. government’s decision to reject a commercial proposal to transport water via ocean tankers to a water utility in California triggered an unresolved arbitration claim under the North American free-trade agreement in 1999. That same year, widespread opposition erupted in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada and the United States after a company obtained a permit to export up to 600 million litres annually from Lake Superior to Asia. The permit was later revoked.”

The full Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/chrtiens-call-to-canada-dont-be-afraid-of-water-exporting-debate/article1952297/.