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NEWS: IJC says no to Winnipeg selling its water

The Winnipeg Free Press reports that the International Joint Commission (IJC) opposes the City’s plan to sell water to neighbouring municipalities. We first noted Winnipeg’s plan to sell water and sewer services to the Manitoba towns of West St. Paul and Rosser in December 2011 in this blog, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=12838.

The newspaper now reports, “The city turned off the tap (on this plan) after receiving a letter from the International Joint Commission, a Canada-U.S. body that prevents and resolves cross-border water disputes. A report to council said the IJC has undisclosed ‘issues’ with the city’s plan. Winnipeg chief operating officer Deepak Joshi said the IJC wants to know whether the city’s service-sharing plans comply with a 98-year-old agreement governing the watershed. …Ontario and Ottawa gave Winnipeg permission to draw water from Shoal Lake (in Ontario) in 1913, while the IJC followed suit in 1914.”

“Earlier this year, two Ontario First Nations situated along Shoal Lake, the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water, launched a court challenge against the city’s move. Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 First Nation and Shoal Lake No. 40 argue Winnipeg must but did not obtain their consent. Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky said the international body’s letter supports the First Nations’ position that Winnipeg does not have the legal authority to move ahead with plans to extend water pipes beyond its borders.”

Notably, “The city’s decision to hold off on extending water pipes into Rosser has complicated efforts to finalize a deal to extend water and sewer services to 405 hectares of industrial land set aside for CentrePort Canada, an international trade hub under development near Richardson International Airport. While some businesses that have purchased CentrePort land have dug wells to ensure they can fight fires, other companies have held off until the RM secures a deal with Winnipeg.”

In April 2011, the City of Winnipeg signed a 30-year public-private partnership (P3) with Veolia, a transnational water corporation. That deal involves four to fifteen Veolia staffpeople working at any given time over the next 30 years to help design, build, manage and obtain materials for sewage-treatment plants that will remain owned by the city and operated by city staff. It is not clear at this time if or how Winnipeg’s ‘service sharing agreements’ to sell water and sewer services to neighbouring municipalities is connected to this P3 agreement.

The Winnipeg Free Press article is at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/canada-us-group-turns-off-tap-182938171.html.